I have been meaning to write this post for a while now and I think it was actually more relevant when I first got back from my meditation course (purely because my meditation practice has really been slack as of late), but nonetheless here goes…
Yoga and meditation have a kind of ying/yang relationship. One is supposed to support the other. Despite what many think, yoga is as much a mental practice as it is a physical, and after enduring the physical pains associated with long sits, I see that the same applies to mediation. I have always really loved going to yoga classes when there are difficulties happening in my life. I find that since I need to concentrate so intently on the pose I am doing, my breathing, my balance, I really don’t have space in my brain to think about anything else. So although I could leave a class and right away go back to those annoying vicious thoughts about some issue, the reprieve I feel during the class, even if only for an hour, always comes as a real blessing.
The goal of meditation and mindfulness is to get to the same point, where unless we absolutely need to bring our attention elsewhere, we are completely focused on what is happening in the present moment. There were times during the meditation course that felt very much like yoga on a mental level. I would be practicing the meditation technique, then my mind would wander, and mentally I would collapse and have to start from the beginning. Much like what happens during my yoga practice when I let my mind slip away.
The first yoga class I attended after the Vipassana course was something incredibly special. Instead of this kind of forced concentration that I had often felt prior to the course, I found my mind was just…there. I did not have to keep chasing it and leashing it in, it stayed right with me, in the moment, like a faithful companion. I also found that much like yoga had when I first started it, meditation made me extremely aware of my physical body. The Vipassana technique is based on the observation of physical sensation so after sitting for hours at a time just observing how my various body parts felt, yoga was a really natural transition for my mind and body. Suddenly even the subtlest change in the smallest body part would produce very different sensations in every posture. The level of awareness I possessed, especially the first two or so weeks back from the course, was just amazing.
I have often read that yoga and meditation go hand in hand, but I think much like I was told during the Vipassana course, to comprehend something on the intellectual level is not the same as experiencing it at the physical. Although my meditation practice has really gone down hill (totally due to my own lack of self-discipline I will admit), my yoga practice seems to still be continually improving and the actual experience of that improvement has made me really understand the connection between the two practices. And I also have faith that since these two fields have such a strong and supportive connection with each other it is only a matter of time that I get back on the meditation cushion and rejoin that connection.