There are many things in life that are beyond our control. However, it is possible to take responsibility for and to change one’s state of mind. According to Buddhism this is the most important thing we can do, and Buddhism teaches that it is the only real antidote to the anxiety, hatred, discontentedness, sleepiness, and confusion that beset the human condition.
Meditation is a means of transforming the mind. Buddhist meditation practices are techniques that encourage and develop concentration, clarity, and emotional positivity. By engaging with a particular meditation practice one learns the patterns and habits of the mind, and the practice offers a means to cultivate new, more positive ways of being. With discipline and patience these calm and focused states of mind can deepen into profoundly tranquil and energised states of mind. Such experiences can have a transformative effect and can lead to a new understanding of life.
Over the millennia countless meditation practices have been developed in the Buddhist tradition. All of them may be described as ‘mind-trainings’, but they take many different approaches. The foundation of all of them, however, is the cultivation of a calm and positive state of mind.
Why do yoga?
by John Tunney
The short answer is that yoga makes you feel better. Practicing the postures, breathing exercises and meditation makes you healthier in body, mind and spirit. Yoga lets you tune in, chill out, shape up — all at the same time.
For many people, that’s enough of an answer. But there’s more if you’re interested.
For starters, yoga is good for what ails you. Specifically, research shows that yoga helps manage or control anxiety, arthritis, asthma, back pain, blood pressure, carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic fatigue, depression, diabetes, epilepsy, headaches, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, stress and other conditions and diseases. What’s more, yoga:
- Improves muscle tone, flexibility, strength and stamina
- Reduces stress and tension
- Boosts self esteem
- Improves concentration and creativity
- Lowers fat
- Improves circulation
- Stimulates the immune system
- Creates sense of well being and calm.
Developed in India, yoga is a spiritual practice that has been evolving for the last 5,000 years or so. The original yogis were reacting, in part, to India’s ancient Vedic religion, which emphasized rituals. The yogis wanted a direct spiritual experience — one on one — not symbolic ritual. So they developed yoga.Yoga means “union” in Sanskrit, the classical language of India.
According to the yogis, true happiness, liberation and enlightenment comes from union with the divine consciousness known as Brahman, or with Atman, the transcendent Self. The various yoga practices are a methodology for reaching that goal.In hatha yoga, for example, postures and breathing exercises help purify the mind, body and spirit so the yogi can attain union.
Pranayama breathing exercises help clear the nadis, or channels, that carry prana the universal life force, allowing prana to flow freely. When the channels are clear and the last block at the base of the spine has been opened, Kundalini rises through the spine, through the central channel called the sushumna-nadi, and joins the crown chakra. According to the tradition, the release of Kundalini leads to enlightenment and union.