Yoga is a rich, broad, beautiful fabric that weaves through every aspect of existence: our physical bodies, our environment, our mind, intellect, ego, emotional being, our daily interactions, and our spiritual Self—our soul. Yoga connects them all through the practice of the eight limbs outlined by the yogic sage Patanjali 2000 years ago. Most yogis think of yoga in terms of the physical practice of asana. Yet even in this most physical realm, we can harness that dynamic interplay between stillness and activity where Asana becomes a magnificent expression of consciousness in motion.
We have 60,000- 80,000 thoughts a day – that’s one thought every 1.2 seconds. In fact, the thought that you have so many thoughts is probably the most profound thought that a yogi could ever have!
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali writes Yoga citta vritti narodha, meaning “yoga is the progressive quieting of the fluctuations of the mind.” Yoga means union. Therefore, yoga is meditation. And meditation is yoga. Any practice that brings about a state of present-moment awareness or a quieting of the mind is a form of meditation: that moment during running or cycling or swimming or dancing or writing or having an orgasm, or making a big sale, or riding a roller coaster, or practicing all of the eight limbs of yoga. That moment when you are totally present--in which there is no past or future, in which time has no meaning, where there is no thought, when you are totally in the zone--that moment when you are in total sync with your body, your mind, the moment, the universe. In that blink of an eye, there is only a state of pure present-moment awareness. It is this one-ness that is the true definition of yoga—pure being, pure unity.
Three out of the eight limbs of yoga are immersions into the quieting of the fluctuations of the mind. The sixth limb, Dharana (concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness) is the very first step in the process of meditating: attention. Dharana is the evolutionary expression of attention and intention – the active practice of refining one’s ability to maintain a single point of focus, such as using a dristi or practicing pranyama.
The seventh limb, Dhyana (meditation) is the second step in the process of quieting the fluctuations once attention has been mastered. Patanjali referred to dhyana this way: when the act of concentrating becomes perfected and there is no longer the need to try or do in order to connect to one-ness. This is the junction point between the personal and the universal aspects of our being. Simply following our breath, on or off the mat takes us here.
The eighth limb, Samadhi (union with the divine) is the third piece of the meditative experience once dharana (refined attention) and dhyana (meditation) have been mastered. Once your attention and meditation skills have been cultivated, samadhi is the merging of our personal and universal aspects - the progressive expansion of the Self.
In each day, whether we are on the mat or off, we get to quiet the fluctuations of our mind so we can hear the true whispers of our heart – and merge with the divine.
davidji is a certified Vedic Master, a teacher of Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, and the author of “Secrets of Meditation: A Practical Guide to Inner Peace & Personal Transformation.”