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Meditation or Mindfulness?

Yoga is often projected as complicated contortion requiring equal parts strength, hyper-flexibility and balance. In fact, in many ways, Yoga is a catch-all label commonly used to refer to shapes and postures expressed by the body through effort. Contrarily, Yoga is really SO MUCH MORE!

The shapes, what Patanjali called Asana comprises only one of Patanjali’s eight “limbs” and was originally limited to a handful of seated options. Rather, today there are shelves upon shelves of books containing thousands of asanas and variations of asanas and even some “friendly” sparring over names and who gets credit for these modern poses.

What is Yoga?

Patanjali prioritized meditation. Accordingly, he defined yoga as the practice of stilling the fluctuations of the mind. Asana and pranayam serve as the discipline or structure of the practice; yama & niyama (ethics & principles) provided the foundation. Further more, the second half of Patanajali’s 8-limb path offers four stages of meditation. Beginning with pratayahara, or turning the senses inward, and progressing toward Bliss (samadhi). Meditation was a series of mind states through focus (dharana) and flow (dhyana).

Whereas Patanjali used mediation to describe a mental state of being, today we use the term meditation to describe any number of habits, practices, and strategies to cope with living that relate to the mind stuff. Today, meditation is synonymous with mindfulness. As a mindfulness tool, meditation provides a practice, a way to harness energy as attention and focus effort on the tasks at hand.

It’s All Yoga!

Yoga is a practice to help us live better, to live well. Consequently, the three components of Yoga are intendedd to improve and enhance beathing, moving and resting. In schools, students learn mindfulness as a strategy to prepare for tests. In corporations, executives use meditation for creativity and innovation as well to manage stress. In health services, care providers are prescribing meditation as an all-purpose “cure” for anxiety, stress and even trauma, to cope with life’s challenges. Basically, yoga is showing up whereever theere are people strruggling to live well.

At Life’sWork, Yoga is practiced as a simplified expression of Patanjali’s Ashtanga, or 8-Limb Yoga path. The LWY “simplified” version of yoga’s three practices include breathing for energy management (pranayam), movement for the body’s mobility (asana), and rest for the mind’s ease (meditation). Breathe. Move. Rest. Consequently, each practice serves to enhance and enable the others. You can check out this simple practice on our YouTube channel, Life’sWork Yoga Yoga Therapy Studio.

What is your take? Is meditation and mindfulness the same thing?

I think Patanjali would argue that mindfulness is the beginning of the practice that leads one who practices consistently towards the state of meditation.