By: Michael Taft
Does anything in the world feel as good as yoga class? Think about the slow, deliberate way you get worked into a posture, adjustment by adjustment, through a brand of practical magic—like cooking a meal or assembling a car engine—that is so deliciously irresistible. There is a kind of inevitability to the miracle, the way water molecules, heated sufficiently, suddenly let go of their liquid expression and rise into the air as steam. Step by step the mundane awareness—of the aching body, the rainy morning, the sniffles, the quotidian list of tasks—is heated, stretched, melted, transformed until, voilà!, it becomes the transcendent. Performing this transmutation together as a team with twenty or thirty other dedicated souls, each pursuing their own daily expression of physical excellence and mental peace, uplifts the experience even more. No matter how cynical and shabby you may feel on the way into class, you will always feel amazing walking out. One of the only things that typically and reliably does this as well, for me anyway, is my daily meditation.
The beautiful and surprising thing is that they don’t have to be practiced separately. Meditation and yoga are two great things that go great together. They might seem like opposites at first—yoga is about moving the body and meditation is about sitting stone still. But the truth is that there is a very direct and ancient connection between the two, which we can see in a text from India called theYoga Sutras (Yoga Verses). This compilation of almost 200 verses by the author Patanjali offers the reader an entire path to enlightenment consisting of eight steps…
4. Flow— is the feeling of what many people would call life energy or prana in the body, but when you meditate on it, you’re not trying to control or influence it in any way. Instead, you’re just trying to contact the dynamic sense of change and movement that is already present in the body. Practicing yoga—moving your body, stretching, breathing deeply, taking various postures—induces a sense of Flow in the body that is quite noticeable. The longer or harder your practice session is, or the deeper you go into breathing and posture, the more intense the sense of Flow you will detect. Several traditions (like Kundalini yoga or traditional Chinese medicine) believe that there are energy channels in the body, which lead like streams to the main energy channel or river in the spine. Whether these are physically real or not, it’s very easy to detect the subjective feeling these energy channels when meditating on Flow.
The main benefit of meditating on Flow during yoga is to feel the sense of the body changing from a solid, stiff, rigid mass into a gooey, supple, energetic, fluid wave. The sense of turning into a wave of moving energy is delicious, relaxing (even in power poses), and tends to open up the body to a level you may have never before experienced. It transforms a simple session of yoga into an ecstatic experience of being massaged by an inner fountain of energy that opens, cleanses, rejuvenates, relaxes, and enlivens your body and mind. If you’ve never experienced this before, you’re in for a real treat that you will not soon forget, and that you will want to come back to day after day in your yoga practice. It will make you feel awesome, which is part of what yoga is all about, and can help you take further steps on your spiritual path.
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