Yoga has an inner aspect and an outer aspect. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the classic text which sets out this system of the 8 limbs (similar to 8 stages or steps) of yoga, the outer aspects are the way we behave in the world towards ourselves and others, and our asana or the physical postures of yoga. In this system, progress in yoga is not seen as moving to “harder” asanas but rather moving inwards towards these “higher” steps. Of course we may not all feel that we want to do this or consider it is relevant to us in modern life when we come to a yoga class, but I would argue that if you are interested in practicing meditation we can use the stages of yoga practice to help this.
Two of the inner aspects are concentration, which leads in to meditation. The bridge that links these inner and outer aspects are the middle stages of yoga: pranayama (control of the breath) and pratyahara (control of the senses).

Pratyahara can translate as “mastery over external influences” and this is something that is helpful when we practice meditation so that we can try to cultivate a sense of quiet concentration no matter what is going on around us. This is even more important in the modern world – it is much easier to cultivate a sense of calm and peace in a retreat or ashram, much less so in a hectic city or busy family life, yet this is when we need it the most.

In my most recent workshop “Progress your practice – exploring concentration and meditation in yoga” we will be exploring how we can turn the senses inwards during a yin and yang asana practice to prepare the body and mind for meditation.

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