free the mindBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

How can Yoga free the mind? Yoga and meditation are two helpful practices that complement each other; and, when practiced together, deepen the practitioner’s experience. If you have been practicing Yoga without meditation, consider adding to your practice, by learning meditation techniques. Yoga as a physical exercise emphasizes the interconnectedness of the practitioner and the universe; meditation allows one to actually experience the connection.

The word Yoga means “union,” a state which occurs when the body and mind are in harmony. For this to happen, the mind must be still. Like a radio set to “seek,” the untrained mind scrolls from station to station, picking up bits and pieces and rolling with white noise. With training and practice, the radio can be turned off, while perfect silence and clarity enjoyed. Only with this skill, can the mind be “free.”

Often, people envision a monk in a cave, when they think about meditation. While isolation and quiet are useful in starting to meditate, there is no need to become a spelunker. You need to strike a balance between being comfortable and being alert. You also need a space that will not distract you. Try any comfortable room in your house. Start with a session of five minutes and work up to ten minutes or longer.  For those unused to stillness, meditation is hard work.

There are several kinds of meditation, but meditation (concentration), on a function, is a good place to start to free the mind. Concentration can be thought of as the ability to put the mind on one thing and leave it there. The point of focus is the “function.”

To begin concentration meditation, watch the breath go in and out at one point in the body, and count to ten breaths. Many thoughts will come into your mind and disturb you, but if you can get to ten, you are doing well. If a thought is noticed, but you have not lost count, note briefly in your mind what the thought is. Label it, using a term like “planning,” “memory,” or “fantasy.” Labeling will remove the thought’s power to distract – so practice it often.

Counting keeps you in the current moment, by providing instant feedback of each moment.  In turn, you track thoughts which are not mindful, which occurs when you forget the number you are counting. It also keeps the practitioner focused on one “function” – the breath. Once you have mastered counting to ten, work backwards back down to one. This concentration practice, done several times a day, will help you learn to free the mind for further work.

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