Who can say which comes first—a balanced body or a spacious mind? Science acknowledges that consciousness is not limited to the brain but is everywhere in the body. So the path to both steadiness and ease is consciously to unite body and mind. At the same time that yoga practice cultivates the physical stamina for meditation—that’s where we get the steadiness—the practice of meditative awareness brings about ease of mind and heart.
The notion of union is at the heart of both hatha yoga and meditation practice. Yoga, from the Sanskrit yuj, to yoke or bind, refers to the union of apparent opposites: masculine and feminine energies, small mind and big Mind, inner vision and outer awareness, steadiness and ease. We think of yoga as a balancing of mind and body. But where is the balance when your meditating body is so uncomfortable that instead of watching your thoughts arising and passing, your mind is totally focused on your aching back or knees?
As dharma practitioners, we know that everything changes, but sometimes emotional and physical disturbances—opinions, life experiences, digestive problems—lodge in the body, leading to blockages. Yoga practice consists of specific postures, or asanas—asana, in Sanskrit, means “seat” or “ground”—designed to ease the flow of breath, hormonal fluids, and blood, and to release toxic buildup resulting from bad diet, stress, and lack of movement. Asana practice is also a profound way to process feelings. As the body moves, so do emotions. Breathing in and breathing out, carving space with our arms and legs, turning ourselves upside down, letting go of thoughts and returning to the breath—yoga practice allows our entire body-mind to stay fluid.
The yoga program on these pages is specifically designed for meditators. These postures will strengthen your back and abdominal muscles, create flexibility in your shoulders and hips, and make space for your internal organs to function better, as well as improve cardiovascular function and expand your breathing capacity. The entire program takes just five minutes and can be done at both the beginning and end of your meditation. (In that way, it can serve as a bridge practice between sitting and moving mindfully through the world.) No warm-up or preparation is required. In fact, this is a warm-up. After a period of sitting, the program will get your prana—life force—moving again. Hold each pose for three to five breaths, except for the Cow and Cat poses.
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