Yoga has now become an integral part of exercise routines for many a people. Yoga classes are ubiquitous! The physical benefits of regular yoga practice are many but the real purpose of hatha yoga- the form of yoga most commonly practiced in the west- is to prepare the body for meditation. Meditation may be described as the “highest” form of yoga and its ultimate purpose is to pave the way for “union” with the universal spirit. And if that is too lofty a purpose, then we need only look at a growing body of research that points to various other- more physical- benefits of meditation. Meditation not only induces a state of perceived well being, but as stated in the Fall 2012 Self Realization Magazine, it reduces blood pressure, boosts immunity, and can improve mental performance better than sleep. Meditation is one of the best approaches for pain management, and now there is new research that strongly suggests that meditation can help delay or combat the aging process by its protective action on the telomere caps of human chromosomes. Degeneration of chromosome end caps or telomeres is thought to play a significant role in the aging process.
Is there any reason NOT to meditate? As some one who has practiced some form of meditation for more than twelve years, I can say without reservation, that meditation reduces stress, worry and anxiety from this process we call life. When practiced regularly, it gradually gives one a way of looking at the world and its inevitable chaos with a sense of calm detachment, even as we are busy attending to all that a day brings. Meditation cultivates an internal sense of calmness. One intuitively begins to know: all is well, even as things are how they are!
So sit straight, take a few deep breaths, close the eyes, and just watch the passage of breath. Be an observer and observe the coming and going of thoughts- without getting too entangled in any particular thought- for meditation is not what you think! Just by doing this for five or ten minutes every day you are beginning to meditate. As this becomes a natural part of your day add more specific techniques to your meditation.