Is Yoga a form of Meditation?

Only a handful of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras directly reference Yoga Asana (yoga postures) and when they do, the intention of asana as meditation is clear.  

2.46 Sthira Sukham Asanam

Sthira: steady, stable, motionless

Sukham: comfortable, ease filled

Asanam: meditation posture

Many Yoga traditions of our time focus heavily on the physical practice of Yoga as means to better health and wellbeing. Some traditions prefer gentle flowing Asana, encouraging subtle pranic flow (energetic flow) through the body. Other traditions value the discipline of a more demanding practice, traditionally intended as a means of preparation for the spiritual path. Rather than judging Yoga purely on a physical level, understanding the intention of the physical practice can give us a deeper insight into the true purpose of Yoga, Patanjali reminds us, beginning with quietening the mind to the present moment in the pose. 

The word Asana means meditation posture (from the root –as, to sit). The idea of meditation usually brings to mind taking time to sit quietly and commune with the greater rhythm of the universe as a means to spiritual enlightenment. By joining the word Asana to the names of all the Yoga poses as done in Sanskrit, eg Salamba Savangasana (supported shoulder stand), Patanjali is reminding us that within each Yoga pose lies the potential for meditation.  

Thinking about Yoga Asana practice in this way can potentially transform your experience of Yoga. The inference is that working with the challenge of Yoga Asana consistently through regular practice can gradually take us closer to our true nature, the true self. Beginner’s Mind, as they say in Zen, aims to remind even seasoned students to explore practice with a fresh eye and not be fooled by the familiarity of personal practice. Sometimes applying Beginner’s Mind to Yoga can guide the Yoga student to a meditative state in Yoga Asana, once Patanjali’s sutra on the potential of Yoga Asana as meditation is acknowledged.  

Exploring the meaning of Yoga is important as a means to examining and understanding the Self.  THere’s an old saying regarding Yoga, “99% practice, 1% theory”.  Perhaps the key is to practice consciously without over thinking it and to practice regularly.  Then your Yoga practice will look after itself as well as looking after you.

Learn Yoga in Newport with usUnderstand what Iyengar Yoga is and how it influences our teaching methodology