Posted by kyoga on May 21, 2013
Whatever your situation, spending an hour doing any of these classes will leave you stronger and better prepared, to make decisions, to fight infection and to be naturally drawn towards a higher life frequency. Because this is a continuing practice with a new class offered each week, Kundalini Live is really a life support system that energetically defends us from the exact energy challenges we face living on earth right now.
Posted by admin on August 7, 2013
Called by practitioners "the yoga of awareness", it focuses on "the expansion of sensory awareness and intuition in order to raise individual consciousness" and aims "to cultivate the creative spiritual potential of a human to uphold values, speak truth, and focus on the compassion and consciousness needed to serve and heal others." "Kundalini Yoga consists of active and passive asana-based kriyas, pranayama, and meditations which target the whole body system (nervous system, glands, mental faculties, chakras) to develop awareness, consciousness and spiritual strength." —Yogi Bhajan
What has become known as "Kundalini yoga" in the 20th century, after a technical term peculiar to this tradition, has otherwise been known as laya yoga (लय योग), from the Sanskrit term laya "dissolution, extinction". The Sanskrit adjective kuṇḍalin means "circular, annular". It does occur as a noun for "a snake" (in the sense "coiled", as in "forming ringlets") in the 12th-century Rajatarangini chronicle (I.2). Kuṇḍa, a noun with the meaning "bowl, water-pot" is found as the name of a Naga in Mahabharata 1.4828. The feminine kuṇḍalī has the meaning of "ring, bracelet, coil (of a rope)" in Classical Sanskrit, and is used as the name of a "serpent-like" Shakti in Tantrism as early as c. the 11th century, in the Śaradatilaka. This concept is adopted as kuṇḍalniī as a technical term into Hatha yoga in the 15th century and becomes widely used in the Yoga Upanishads by the 16th century.
The Yoga-Kundalini Upanishad is listed in the Muktika canon of 108 Upanishads. Since this canon was fixed in the year 1656, it is known that the Yoga-Kundalini Upanishad was compiled in the first half of the 17th century at the latest. The Upanishad more likely dates to the 16th century, as do other Sanskrit texts which treat kundalini as a technical term in tantric yoga, such as the Ṣaṭ-cakra-nirūpana and the Pādukā-pañcaka. These latter texts were translated in 1919 by John Woodroffe as The Serpent Power: The Secrets of Tantric and Shaktic Yoga In this book, he was the first to indentify "Kundalini yoga" as a particular form of Tantrik Yoga, also known as Laya Yoga. The Yoga-Kundalini and the Yogatattva are closely related texts from the school of Hatha yoga. They both draw heavily on the Yoga Yajnavalkya (c. 13th century), as does the foundational Hatha Yoga Pradipika. They are part of a tendency of syncretism combining the tradition of yoga with other schools of Hindu philosophy during the 15th and 16th centuries. The Yoga-Kundalini Upanishad itself consists of three short chapters; it begins by stating that Chitta (consciousness) is controlled by Vayu (Prana), and Prana is controlled by moderate food, postures and Shakti-Chala (I.1-2). Verses I.3-6 explain the concepts of moderate food and concept, and verse I.7 introduces Kundalini as the name of the Shakti under discussion:
I.7. The Sakti (mentioned above) is only Kundalini. A wise man should take it up from its place (Viz., the navel, upwards) to the middle of the eyebrows. This is called Sakti-Chala. I.8. In practising it, two things are necessary, Sarasvati-Chalana and the restraint of Prana (breath). Then through practice, Kundalini (which is spiral) becomes straightened." Modern reception
Swami Nigamananda (d. 1935) taught a form of laya yoga which he insisted was not part of Hatha yoga, paving the way of the emergence of "Kundalini yoga" as a distinct school of yoga. "Kundalini Yoga" as it is taught today is based on the treatise Kundalini Yoga by Sivananda Saraswati, published in 1935. Swami Sivananda (1935) introduced "Kundalini yoga" as a part of Laya yoga. Together with other currents of Hindu revivalism and Neo-Hinduism, Kundalini Yoga became popular in 1960s to 1980s western counterculture. It was popularized by Harbhajan Singh Yogi who founded the "Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization" (3HO) in 1969. Singh launched a pilot program with two longtime heroin addicts in Washington, D.C. in 1972, and opened a drug-treatment center under the name of "3HO SuperHealth" was launched in Tucson, Arizona in 1973. The Kundalini Research Institute (KRI) was established by Singh in 1972 and continues to govern the certification of Kundalini yoga teachers. KRI publishes The Aquarian Teacher in two volumes as required for "instructor" level necessary to teach beginners' classes. According to 3HO, a total of 5,000 people (the vast majority being women) have attained "instructor" certification between 1972 and 2010. Principles and methodology
Kundalini is the term for "a spiritual energy or life force located at the base of the spine", conceptualized as a coiled-up serpent. The practice of Kundalini yoga is supposed to arouse the sleeping Kundalini Shakti from its coiled base through the 6 chakras, and penetrate the 7th chakra, or crown. This energy is said to travel along the ida (left), pingala (right) and central, or sushumna nadi - the main channels of pranic energy in the body. Kundalini energy is technically explained as being sparked during yogic breathing when prana and apana blends at the 3rd chakra (naval center) at which point it initially drops down to the 1st and 2nd chakras before traveling up to the spine to the higher centers of the brain to activate the golden cord - the connection between the pituitary and pineal glands - and penetrate the 7 chakras. Borrowing and integrating the highest forms from many different approaches, Kundalini Yoga can be understood as a tri-fold approach of Bhakti yoga for devotion, Shakti yoga for power, and Raja yoga for mental power and control. Its purpose through the daily practice of kriyas and meditation in sadhana are described a practical technology of human consciousness for humans to achieve their total creative potential.
The practice of kriyas and meditations in Kundalini Yoga are designed to raise complete body awareness to prepare the body, nervous system, and mind to handle the energy of Kundalini rising. The majority of the physical postures focus on navel activity, activity of the spine, and selective pressurization of body points and meridians. Breath work and the application of bhandas (3 yogic locks) aid to release, direct and control the flow of Kundalini energy from the lower centers to the higher energetic centers. Along with the many kriyas, meditations and practices of Kundalini Yoga, a simple breathing technique of alternate nostril breathing (left nostril, right nostril) is taught as a method to cleanse the nadis, or subtle channels and pathways, to help awaken Kundalini energy. Sovatsky (1998) adapts a developmental and evolutionary perspective in his interpretation of Kundalini Yoga. That is, he interprets Kundalini Yoga as a catalyst for psycho-spiritual growth and bodily maturation. According to this interpretation of yoga, the body bows itself into greater maturation [...], none of which should be considered mere stretching exercises.
Psychiatric literature notes that "Since the influx of eastern spiritual practices and the rising popularity of meditation starting in 1960s, many people have experienced a variety of psychological difficulties, either while engaged in intensive spiritual practice or spontaneously". Some of the psychological difficulties associated with intensive spiritual practice are claimed to be "kundalini awakening", "a complex physio-psychospiritual transformative process described in the yogic tradition". Writers in the fields of near-death studies and of "transpersonal psychology" have described a "kundalini syndrome". Venkatesh et al. (1997) studied twelve kundalini (chakra) meditators, using the Phenomenology of Consciousness Inventory. They found that the practice of meditation "appears to produce structural as well as intensity changes in phenomenological experiences of consciousness". Lazar et al. (2000) observed the brains of subjects performing, "a simple form of Kundalini Yoga meditation in which they passively observed their breathing and silently repeated the phrase 'sat nam' during inhalations and 'wahe guru' during exhalations," and found that multiple regions of brain were involved especially those involved in relaxation and maintaining attention.
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Posted by admin on September 11, 2013
As a repertoire of postures were promoted to exercise the body-mind over the centuries, to the present day when yoga is sought as a primarily physical exercise form, modern usage has come to include variations from lying on the back and standing on the head, to a variety of other positions. However, in the Yoga sutras, Patanjali mentions the execution of sitting with a steadfast mind for extended periods as the third of the eight limbs of Classical or Raja yoga, but does not reference standing postures or kriyās. Yoga practitioners (even those who are adepts at various complex postures) who seek the "simple" practice of chair-less sitting generally find it impossible or surprisingly grueling to sit still for the traditional minimum of one hour (as still practiced in eastern Vipassana), some of them then dedicating their practice to sitting asana and the sensations and mind-states that arise and evaporate in extended sits.
Asana later became a term for various postures useful for restoring and maintaining a practitioner's well-being and improving the body's flexibility and vitality, with the goal of cultivating the ability to remain in seated meditation for extended periods. Asanas are widely known as "Yoga postures" or "Yoga positions". Yoga in the West is commonly practised as physical exercise or alternative medicine, rather than as the spiritual self-mastery meditation skill it is more associated with in the East.
Terminology The word asana in Sanskrit does appear in many contexts denoting a static physical position, although traditional usage is specific to the practice of yoga. Traditional usage defines asana as both singular and plural. In English, plural for asana is defined as asanas. In addition, English usage within the context of yoga practice sometimes specifies yogasana or yoga asana, particularly with regard to the system of the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. That said, yogasana is also the name of a particular posture that is not specifically associated with the Vinyasa system, and that while "ashtanga" (small 'a') refers to the eight limbs of Yoga delineated below, Ashtanga (capital 'A') refers to the specific system of Yoga developed by Sri Krishnamacharya at the Mysore Palace.
Yoga first originated in India. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali describes asana as the third of the eight limbs of classical, or Raja Yoga. Asanas are the physical movements of yoga practice and, in combination with pranayama or breathing techniques constitute the style of yoga referred to as Hatha Yoga. In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali describes asana as a "firm, comfortable posture", referring specifically to the seated posture, most basic of all the asanas. He further suggests that meditation is the path to samādhi; transpersonal self-realization. The eight limbs are, in order, the yamas (restrictions), niyamas (observances), asanas (postures), pranayama (breath work), pratyahara (sense withdrawal or non-attachment), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (realization of the true Self or Atman, and unity with Brahman (The Hindu Concept of God)).
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali suggests that the only requirement for practicing asanas is that it be "steady and comfortable". The body is held poised with the practitioner experiencing no discomfort. When control of the body is mastered, practitioners are believed to free themselves from the duality of heat/cold, hunger/satiety, joy/grief, which is the first step toward the unattachment that relieves suffering. This non-dualistic perspective comes from the Sankya school of the Himalayan Masters.
Listed below are traditional practices for performing asanas: The stomach should be empty. Force or pressure should not be used, and the body should not tremble. Lower the head and other parts of the body slowly; in particular, raised heels should be lowered slowly. The breathing should be controlled. The benefits of asanas increase if the specific pranayama to the yoga type is performed. If the body is stressed, perform Corpse Pose or Child Pose Such asanas as Sukhasana or Shavasana help to reduce headaches.
Pranayama Main article: Pranayama Pranayama, or breath control, is the Fourth Limb of ashtanga, as set out by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra. The practice is an integral part of both Hatha Yoga and Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in the execution of asanas. Patanjali discusses his specific approach to pranayama in verses 2.49 through 2.51, and devotes verses 2.52 and 2.53 of the Sutra, explaining there the benefits of the practice. Patanjali describes pranayama as the control of the enhanced "life force" that is a result of practicing the various breathing techniques, rather than the exercises themselves. The entirety of breathing practices includes those classified as pranayama, as well as others called svarodaya, or the "science of breath". It is a vast practice that goes far beyond the limits of pranayama as applied to asana. Surya Namaskara
Adho Mukha Svanasana is the 5th and 8th asana in Sun Salutation. Main article: Surya Namaskara Surya Namaskara, or the Salutation of the Sun, which is very commonly practiced in most forms of yoga, originally evolved as a type of worship of Surya, the Vedic solar deity. Surya, the Hindu solar deity by concentrating on the Sun, for vitalization. The physical aspect of the practice 'links together' twelve asanas in a dynamically expressed series. A full round of Surya namaskara is considered to be two sets of the twelve asanas, with a change in the second set where the opposing leg is moved first. The asanas included in the sun salutation differ from tradition to tradition. Benefits
The physical aspect of what is called yoga in recent years, the asanas, has been much popularized in the West. Physically, the practice of asanas is considered to: improve flexibility improve strength improve balance reduce stress and anxiety reduce symptoms of lower back pain be beneficial for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) increase energy and decrease fatigue shorten labor and improve birth outcomes improve physical health and quality of life measures in the elderly improve diabetes management reduce sleep disturbances reduce hypertension The emphasis on the physical benefits of yoga, attributed to practice of the asanas, has de-emphasized the other traditional purposes of yoga which are to facilitate the flow of prana (vital energy) and to aid in balancing the koshas (sheaths) of the physical and metaphysical body. Number of positions
In 1959, Swami Vishnu-devananda published a compilation of 66 basic postures and 136 variations of those postures. In 1975, Sri Dharma Mittra suggested that "there are an infinite number of asanas.", when he first began to catalogue the number of asanas in the Master Yoga Chart of 908 Postures, as an offering of devotion to his guru Swami Kailashananda Maharaj. He eventually compiled a list of 1300 variations, derived from contemporary gurus, yogis, and ancient and contemporary texts. This work is considered one of the primary references for asanas in the field of yoga today. His work is often mentioned in contemporary references for Iyengar Yoga, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, Sivananda Yoga, and other classical and contemporary texts. The 84 classic yoga asanas
A group of 84 classic yoga asanas taught by Lord Shiva is mentioned in several classic texts on yoga. Some of these asanas are considered highly important in the yogic canon: texts that do mention the 84 frequently single out the first four as necessary or vital to attain yogic perfection. However, a complete list of Shiva's asanas remains as yet unverified, with only one text attempting a complete corpus. Commentary on this group of 84 asanas in the classic yoga texts is as follows: Patanjali's Yoga Sutra (4-2nd century BC) does not mention a single asana by name, merely specifying the characteristics of a good asana. Later yoga texts however, do mention the 84 Classic Asanas and associate them with Shiva. The Goraksha Samhita (10-11th century CE), or Goraksha Paddhathi, an early hatha yogic text, describes the origin of the 84 classic asanas. Observing that there are as many postures as there are beings, and asserting that there are 8,400,000  species in all, the text states that Lord Shiva fashioned an asana for each 100,000, thus giving 84 in all, although it mentions and describes only two in detail: the siddhasana and the padmasana. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika (15th century CE) specifies that of these 84, the first four are important, namely the siddhasana, padmasana, bhadrasana and simhasana. The Hatha Ratnavali (17th century CE) is one of the few texts to attempt a listing of all the 84, although 4 out of its list do not have meaningful translations from the Sanskrit, and 21 are merely mentioned without any description.[verification needed] In all, 52 asanas of the Hatha Ratnavali are confirmed and described by the text itself, or other asana corpora. The Gheranda Samhita (late 17th century CE) asserts that Shiva taught 8,400,000 asanas, out of which 84 are preeminent, and "32 are useful in the world of mortals." These 32 are: siddhasana, padmasana, bhadrasana, muktasana, vajrasana, svastikasana, simhasana, gomukhasana, virasana, dhanurasana, mritasana, guptasana, matsyasana, matsyendrasana, gorakshana, paschimottanasana, utkatasana, sankatasana, mayurasana, kukkutasana, kurmasana, uttanakurmakasana, uttanamandukasana, vrikshasana, mandukasana, garudasana, vrishasana, shalabhasana, makarasana, ushtrasana, bhujangasana, and yogasana. In Shiva Samhita (17-18th century CE) the poses ugrasana and svastikasana replace the latter two of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Patenting of yoga asanas
In 2007, public awareness of increasing attempts to patent traditional yoga postures in the US, including 130 yoga-related patents in the US documented that year, prompted the government of India to seek clarification on the guidelines for patenting asanas from the US Patent Office. To clearly show that all asanas are public knowledge and therefore not patentable, in 2008, the government of India formed a team of yoga gurus, government officials, and 200 scientists from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to register all known asanas in a public database. The team collected asanas from 35 ancient texts including the Hindu epics, the Mahabharata, the Bhagwad Gita, and Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and as of 2010, has identified 900 asanas for the database which was named the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library and made available to patent examiners.
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The term meditation refers to a broad variety of practices (much like the term sports) that includes techniques designed to promote relaxation, build internal energy or life force (qi, ki, prana, etc.) and develop compassion, love, patience, generosity and forgiveness. A particularly ambitious form of meditation aims at effortlessly sustained single-pointed concentration single-pointed analysis, meant to enable its practitioner to enjoy an indestructible sense of well-being while engaging in any life activity.
The word meditation carries different meanings in different contexts. Meditation has been practiced since antiquity as a component of numerous religious traditions and beliefs. Meditation often involves an internal effort to self-regulate the mind in some way. Meditation is often used to clear the mind and ease many health issues, such as high blood pressure, depression, and anxiety. It may be done sitting, or in an active way - for instance, Buddhist monks involve awareness in their day-to-day activities as a form of mind-training. Prayer beads or other ritual objects are commonly used during meditation in order to keep track of or remind the practitioner about some aspect of the training.
Meditation may involve generating an emotional state for the purpose of analyzing that state — such as anger, hatred, etc. — or cultivating particular mental response to various phenomena, such as compassion. The term "meditation" can refer to the state itself, as well as to practices or techniques employed to cultivate the state. Meditation may also involve repeating a mantra and closing the eyes. The mantra is chosen based on its suitability to the individual meditator. Meditation has a calming effect and directs awareness inward until pure awareness is achieved, described as "being awake inside without being aware of anything except awareness itself." In brief, there are dozens of specific styles of meditation practice, and many different types of activity commonly referred to as meditative practices.
The English meditation is derived from the Latin meditatio, from a verb meditari, meaning "to think, contemplate, devise, ponder".
In the Old Testament, hāgâ (Hebrew: הגה) means to sigh or murmur, and also, to meditate. When the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek, hāgâ became the Greek melete. The Latin Bible then translated hāgâ/melete into meditatio. The use of the term meditatio as part of a formal, stepwise process of meditation goes back to the 12th-century monk Guigo II.
The Tibetan word for meditation "Gom" means "to become familiar with one's Self" and has the strong implication of training the mind to be familiar with states that are beneficial: concentration, compassion, correct understanding, patience, humility, perseverance, etc.
Apart from its historical usage, the term meditation was introduced as a translation for Eastern spiritual practices, referred to as dhyāna in Buddhism and in Hinduism, which comes from the Sanskrit root dhyai, meaning to contemplate or meditate. The term "meditation" in English may also refer to practices from Islamic Sufism, or other traditions such as Jewish Kabbalah and Christian Hesychasm. An edited book about "meditation" published in 2003, for example, included chapter contributions by authors describing Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions. Scholars have noted that "the term 'meditation' as it has entered contemporary usage" is parallel to the term "contemplation" in Christianity.
According to Ariel, David S. says that meditation was not something practiced without deliberation and prior commitment to the Jewish faith. from the fraternities of Merkava meditation to the whole Hasidic communities engaging in meditative act, Jews were expected to follow Jewish laws and customs at the very least moreover, as seen in cases of the Prophets and later meditation techniques, a certain level of purification was needed.(4) History
Main article: History of meditation
Man Meditating in a Garden Setting The history of meditation is intimately bound up with the religious context within which it was practiced. Even in prehistoric times civilizations used repetitive, rhythmic chants and offerings to appease the gods. Some authors have even suggested the hypothesis that the emergence of the capacity for focused attention, an element of many methods of meditation, may have contributed to the final phases of human biological evolution. Some of the earliest references to meditation are found in the Hindu Vedas. Wilson translates the most famous Vedic mantra 'Gayatri' thus : "We meditate on that desirable light of the divine Savitri, who influences our piuous rites" (Rgveda : Mandala-3, Sukta-62, Rcha-10). Around the 6th to 5th centuries BCE, other forms of meditation developed in Taoist China and Buddhist India. In the west, by 20 BCE Philo of Alexandria had written on some form of "spiritual exercises" involving attention (prosoche) and concentration and by the 3rd century Plotinus had developed meditative techniques. The Pāli Canon, which dates to 1st century BCE considers Indian Buddhist meditation as a step towards salvation. By the time Buddhism was spreading in China, the Vimalakirti Sutra which dates to 100 CE included a number of passages on meditation, clearly pointing to Zen. The Silk Road transmission of Buddhism introduced meditation to other Asian countries, and in 653 the first meditation hall was opened in Singapore. Returning from China around 1227, Dōgen wrote the instructions for Zazen. The Islamic practice of Dhikr had involved the repetition of the 99 Names of God since the 8th or 9th century. By the 12th century, the practice of Sufism included specific meditative techniques, and its followers practiced breathing controls and the repetition of holy words. Interactions with Indians or the Sufis may have influenced the Eastern Christian meditation approach to hesychasm, but this can not be proved. Between the 10th and 14th centuries, hesychasm was developed, particularly on Mount Athos in Greece, and involves the repetition of the Jesus prayer.
Buddhist monk Meditating in a Waterfall Setting Western Christian meditation contrasts with most other approaches in that it does not involve the repetition of any phrase or action and requires no specific posture. Western Christian meditation progressed from the 6th century practice of Bible reading among Benedictine monks called Lectio Divina, i.e. divine reading. Its four formal steps as a "ladder" were defined by the monk Guigo II in the 12th century with the Latin terms lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio (i.e. read, ponder, pray, contemplate). Western Christian meditation was further developed by saints such as Ignatius of Loyola and Teresa of Avila in the 16th century. By the 18th century, the study of Buddhism in the West was a topic for intellectuals. The philosopher Schopenhauer discussed it, and Voltaire asked for toleration towards Buddhists. The first English translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead was published in 1927. Secular forms of meditation were introduced in India in the 1950s as a Westernized form of Hindu meditative techniques and arrived in the United States and Europe in the 1960s. Rather than focusing on spiritual growth, secular meditation emphasizes stress reduction, relaxation and self-improvement. Both spiritual and secular forms of meditation have been subjects of scientific analyses. Research on meditation began in 1931, with scientific research increasing dramatically during the 1970s and 1980s. Since the beginning of the '70s more than a thousand studies of meditation in English-language have been reported. However, after 60 years of scientific study, the exact mechanism at work in meditation remains unclear.
Modern definitions and Western models
Definitions and scope Definitions or Characterizations of Meditation: Examples from Prominent Reviews* Definition / Characterization Review •"[M]editation refers to a family of self-regulation practices that focus on training attention and awareness in order to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control and thereby foster general mental well-being and development and/or specific capacities such as calm, clarity, and concentration":228-9 Walsh & Shapiro (2006) •"[M]editation is used to describe practices that self-regulate the body and mind, thereby affecting mental events by engaging a specific attentional set.... regulation of attention is the central commonality across the many divergent methods":180 Cahn & Polich (2006) •"We define meditation... as a stylized mental technique... repetitively practiced for the purpose of attaining a subjective experience that is frequently described as very restful, silent, and of heightened alertness, often characterized as blissful":415 Jevning et al. (1992) •"the need for the meditator to retrain his attention, whether through concentration or mindfulness, is the single invariant ingredient in... every meditation system":107 Goleman (1988) *Influential reviews (cited >50 times in PsycINFO), encompassing multiple methods of meditation.
As early as 1971, Claudio Naranjo noted that "The word 'meditation' has been used to designate a variety of practices that differ enough from one another so that we may find trouble in defining what meditation is.":6 There remains no definition of necessary and sufficient criteria for meditation that has achieved universal or widespread acceptance within the modern scientific community, as one study recently noted a "persistent lack of consensus in the literature" and a "seeming intractability of defining meditation".:135 In popular usage, the word "meditation" and the phrase "meditative practice" are often used imprecisely to designate broadly similar practices, or sets of practices, that are found across many cultures and traditions. Some of the difficulty in precisely defining meditation has been the need to recognize the particularities of the many various traditions. There may be differences between the theories of one tradition of meditation as to what it means to practice meditation. The differences between the various traditions themselves, which have grown up a great distance apart from each other, may be even starker. The defining of what 'meditation' is has caused difficulties for modern scientists. Scientific reviews have proposed that researchers attempt to more clearly define the type of meditation being practiced in order that the results of their studies be made clearer.:499 Taylor noted that to refer only to meditation from a particular faith (e.g., "Hindu" or "Buddhist") is not enough, since the cultural traditions from which a particular kind of meditation comes are quite different and even within a single tradition differ in complex ways. The specific name of a school of thought or a teacher or the title of a specific text is often quite important for identifying a particular type of meditation.:2
Patañjali Statue (traditional form indicating Kundalini or incarnation of Shesha) The table shows several definitions of meditation that have been used by influential modern reviews of research on meditation across multiple traditions. Within a specific context, more precise meanings are not uncommonly given the word "meditation." For example, 'meditation', is sometimes the translation of meditatio in Latin, which is the third of four steps of Lectio Divina, an ancient form of Christian prayer. 'Meditation' may also refer to the second of the three steps of Yoga in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, a step called dhyāna in Sanskrit. Meditation may refer to a mental or spiritual state that may be attained by such practices, and may also refer to the practice of that state.
This article mainly focuses on meditation in the broad sense of a type of discipline, found in various forms in many cultures, by which the practitioner attempts to get beyond the reflexive, "thinking" mind (sometimes called "discursive thinking" or "logic") into a deeper, more devout, or more relaxed state. The terms "meditative practice" and "meditation" are mostly used here in this broad sense. However, usage may vary somewhat by context — readers should be aware that in quotations, or in discussions of particular traditions, more specialized meanings of "meditation" may sometimes be used (with meanings made clear by context whenever possible).
Ornstein noted that "most techniques of meditation do not exist as solitary practices but are only artificially separable from an entire system of practice and belief".:143 This means that, for instance, while monks engage in meditation as a part of their everyday lives, they also engage the codified rules and live together in monasteries in specific cultural settings that go along with their meditative practices. These meditative practices sometimes have similarities (often noticed by Westerners), for instance concentration on the breath is practiced in Zen, Tibetan and Theravadan contexts, and these similarities or 'typologies' are noted here.
Bodhidharma practicing zazen.
Progress on the "intractable" problem of defining meditation was attempted by a recent study of views common to seven experts trained in diverse but empirically highly studied (clinical or Eastern-derived) forms of meditation. The study identified "three main criteria... as essential to any meditation practice: the use of a defined technique, logic relaxation, and a self-induced state/mode. Other criteria deemed important [but not essential] involve a state of psychophysical relaxation, the use of a self-focus skill or anchor, the presence of a state of suspension of logical thought processes, a religious/spiritual/philosophical context, or a state of mental silence".:135 However, the study cautioned that "It is plausible that meditation is best thought of as a natural category of techniques best captured by 'family resemblances'... or by the related prototype model of concepts".:135
In modern psychological research, meditation has been defined and characterized in a variety of ways; many of these emphasize the role of attention.
In the West, meditation is sometimes thought of in two broad categories: concentrative meditation and mindfulness meditation. These two categories are discussed in the following two paragraphs, with concentrative meditation being used interchangeably with focused attention and mindfulness meditation being used interchangeably with open monitoring, direction of mental attention... A practitioner can focus intensively on one particular object (so-called concentrative meditation), on all mental events that enter the field of awareness (so-called mindfulness meditation), or both specific focal points and the field of awareness.:130
"One style, Focused Attention (FA) meditation, entails the voluntary focusing of attention on a chosen object. The other style, Open Monitoring (OM) meditation, involves non-reactive monitoring of the content of experience from moment to moment."
Other typologies have also been proposed,[additional citations useful] and some techniques shift among major categories.
Evidence from neuroimaging studies suggests that the categories of meditation, defined by how they direct attention, appear to generate different brainwave patterns.[additional citations useful] Evidence also suggests that using different focus objects during meditation may generate different brainwave patterns.
Religious and spiritual meditation
Bahá'í Faith In the teachings of the Bahá'í Faith meditation, along with prayer, is one of the primary tools for spiritual development, and it mainly refers to one's reflection on the words of God. While prayer and meditation are linked where meditation happens generally in a prayerful attitude, prayer is seen specifically as turning toward God, and meditation is seen as a communion with one's self where one focuses on the divine.
The Bahá'í teachings note that the purpose of meditation is to strengthen one's understanding of the words of God, and to make one's soul more susceptible to their potentially transformative power, and that both prayer and meditation are needed to bring about and to maintain a spiritual communion with God.
Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the religion, never specified any particular form of meditation, and thus each person is free to choose their own form. However, he specifically did state that Bahá'ís should read a passage of the Bahá'í writings twice a day, once in the morning, and once in the evening, and meditate on it. He also encouraged people to reflect on one's actions and worth at the end of each day. The Nineteen Day Fast, a nineteen-day period of the year, during which Bahá'ís adhere to a sunrise-to-sunset fast, is also seen as meditative, where Bahá'ís must meditate and pray to reinvigorate their spiritual forces.
Buddhism Main article: Buddhist meditation Dynamic tranquility: the Buddha in contemplation.
Buddhist meditation refers to the meditative practices associated with the religion and philosophy of Buddhism. Core meditation techniques have been preserved in ancient Buddhist texts and have proliferated and diversified through teacher-student transmissions. Buddhists pursue meditation as part of the path toward Enlightenment and Nirvana. The closest words for meditation in the classical languages of Buddhism are bhāvanā, jhāna/dhyāna, and vipassana. According to Manmatha Nath Dutt, there is hardly any difference between mainstream Hinduism's Dhyana, Dharana and Samadhi with the Buddhist Dhyana, Bhavana, Samadhi, especially as both require following the precepts (nayas and niyamas.)
Buddhist meditation techniques have become increasingly popular in the wider world, with many non-Buddhists taking them up for a variety of reasons. There is considerable homogeneity across meditative practices — such as breath meditation and various recollections (anussati) — that are used across Buddhist schools, as well as significant diversity. In the Theravāda tradition alone, there are over fifty methods for developing mindfulness and forty for developing concentration, while in the Tibetan tradition there are thousands of visualization meditations. Most classical and contemporary Buddhist meditation guides are school-specific.
The Buddha is said to have identified two paramount mental qualities that arise from wholesome meditative practice: "serenity" or "tranquillity" (Pali: samatha) which steadies, composes, unifies and concentrates the mind; "insight" (Pali: vipassana) which enables one to see, explore and discern "formations" (conditioned phenomena based on the five aggregates).
Through the meditative development of serenity, one is able to release obscuring hindrances; and it is, with the release of the hindrances, through the meditative development of insight that one gains liberating wisdom.
Christianity A strong believer in Christian meditation, Saint Padre Pio stated: "Through the study of books one seeks God; by meditation one finds him".
Main articles: Christian meditation, Aspects of Christian meditation, Contemplative prayer, Hesychasm, and Theoria Christian Meditation is a term for form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to get in touch with and deliberately reflect upon the revelations of God. The word meditation comes from the Latin word meditari, which means to concentrate. Christian meditation is the process of deliberately focusing on specific thoughts (e.g. a biblical scene involving Jesus and the Virgin Mary) and reflecting on their meaning in the context of the love of God. Christian meditation contrasts with cosmic styles of eastern meditation as radically as the portrayal of God the Father in the Bible contrasts with discussions of Krishna or Brahman in Indian teachings. Unlike eastern meditations, most styles of Christian meditations do not rely on the repeated use of mantras, but are intended to stimulate thought and deepen meaning. Christian meditation aims to heighten the personal relationship based on the love of God that marks Christian communion.
In Aspects of Christian meditation, the Catholic Church warned of potential incompatibilities in mixing Christian and eastern styles of meditation. In 2003, in A Christian reflection on the New Age the Vatican announced that the "Church avoids any concept that is close to those of the New Age".
Christian meditation is sometimes taken to mean the middle level in a broad three stage characterization of prayer: it then involves more reflection than first level vocal prayer, but is more structured than the multiple layers of contemplation in Christianity. Hinduism
See also: Dhyana in Hinduism and Yoga A large statue in Bangalore depicting Lord Shiva meditating
There are many schools and styles of meditation within Hinduism. Yoga is generally done to prepare one for meditation, and meditation is done to realize union of one's self, one's atman, with the omnipresent and non-dual Brahman. This experience is referred to as moksha by Hindus, and is similar to the concept of Nirvana in Buddhism. The earliest clear references to meditation in Hindu literature are in the middle Upanishads and the Mahabharata, which includes the Bhagavad Gita. According to Gavin Flood, the earlier Brihadaranyaka Upanishad refers to meditation when it states that "having becoming calm and concentrated, one perceives the self (ātman) within oneself".
Within Patañjali's ashtanga yoga practice there are eight limbs leading to kaivalya "aloneness." These are ethical discipline (yamas), rules (niyamas), physical postures (āsanas), breath control (prāṇāyama), withdrawal from the senses (pratyāhāra), one-pointedness of mind (dhāraṇā), meditation (dhyāna), and finally samādhi, which is often described as the realization of the identity of the Self (ātman) with the omnipresent (Brahman), and is the ultimate aim of all Hindu yogis. Meditation in Hinduism is practiced in different forms by different schools and sects and has expanded beyond Hinduism to the West.
The influential modern proponent of Hinduism who first introduced Eastern philosophy to the West in the late 19th century, Swami Vivekananda, describes meditation as follows:
Meditation has been laid stress upon by all religions. The meditative state of mind is declared by the Yogis to be the highest state in which the mind exists. When the mind is studying the external object, it gets identified with it, loses itself. To use the simile of the old Indian philosopher: the soul of man is like a piece of crystal, but it takes the colour of whatever is near it. Whatever the soul touches ... it has to take its colour. That is the difficulty. That constitutes the bondage.
Islam Main articles: Sufi, Muraqaba, Sema, and Dhikr#Sufi_view Dhikr
Remembrance of God in Islam, which is known by the concept Dhikr is interpreted in different meditative techniques in Sufism or Islamic mysticism. This became one of the essential elements of Sufism as it was systematized traditionally. It is juxtaposed with fikr (thinking) which leads to knowledge. By the 12th century, the practice of Sufism included specific meditative techniques, and its followers practiced breathing controls and the repetition of holy words.
Numerous Sufi traditions place emphasis upon a meditative procedure which comes from the cognitive aspect to one of the two principal approaches to be found in the Buddhist traditions: that of the concentration technique, involving high-intensity and sharply focused introspection. In the Oveyssi-Shahmaghsoudi Sufi order, for example, this is particularly evident, where muraqaba takes the form of tamarkoz, the latter being a Persian term that means concentration. Meditative quiescence is said to have a quality of healing, and—in contemporary terminology—enhancing creativity.
Tafakkur or tadabbur in Sufism literally means reflection upon the universe: this is considered to permit access to a form of cognitive and emotional development that can emanate only from the higher level, i.e. from God. The sensation of receiving divine inspiration awakens and liberates both heart and intellect, permitting such inner growth that the apparently mundane actually takes on the quality of the infinite. Muslim teachings embrace life as a test of one's submission to God.
Meditation in the Sufi traditions is largely based on a spectrum of mystical exercises, varying from one lineage to another. Such techniques, particularly the more audacious, can be, and often have been down the ages, a source of controversy among scholars. One broad group of ulema, followers of the great Al-Ghazzali, for example, have in general been open to such techniques and forms of devotion.
In recent years, meditation or Muraqaba has been popularized in various parts of the world by Silisila Naqshbandia Mujaddadia under Nazim Al-Haqqani and Silsila Azeemia under Khwaja Shamsuddin Azeemi.
Jainism Main article: Jain meditation
Mahavira in meditative posture
In Jainism, meditation has been a core spiritual practice, one that Jains believe people have undertaken since the teaching of the Tirthankara, Rishabha. All the twenty-four Tirthankaras practiced deep meditation and attained enlightenment. They are all shown in meditative postures in the images or idols. Mahavira practiced deep meditation for twelve years and attained enlightenment. The Acaranga Sutra dating to 500 BCE, addresses the meditation system of Jainism in detail. Acharya Bhadrabahu of the 4th century BCE practiced deep Mahaprana meditation for twelve years. Kundakunda of 1st century BCE, opened new dimensions of meditation in Jain tradition through his books Samayasāra, Pravachansar and others.
Jain meditation and spiritual practices system were referred to as salvation-path. It has three important parts called the Ratnatraya "Three Jewels": right perception and faith, right knowledge and right conduct. Meditation in Jainism aims at realizing the self, attaining salvation, take the soul to complete freedom. It aims to reach and to remain in the pure state of soul which is believed to be pure consciousness, beyond any attachment or aversion. The practitioner strives to be just a knower-seer (Gyata-Drashta). Jain meditation can be broadly categorized to Dharmya Dhyana and Shukla Dhyana. There exists a number of meditation techniques such as pindāstha-dhyāna, padāstha-dhyāna, rūpāstha-dhyāna, rūpātita-dhyāna, savīrya-dhyāna, etc. In padāstha dhyāna one focuses on Mantra. A Mantra could be either a combination of core letters or words on deity or themes. There is a rich tradition of Mantra in Jainism. All Jain followers irrespective of their sect, whether Digambara or Svetambara, practice mantra. Mantra chanting is an important part of daily lives of Jain monks and followers. Mantra chanting can be done either loudly or silently in mind. Yogasana and Pranayama has been an important practice undertaken since ages. Pranayama – breathing exercises – are performed to strengthen the five Pranas or vital energy. Yogasana and Pranayama balances the functioning of neuro-endocrine system of body and helps in achieving good physical, mental and emotional health.
Contemplation is a very old and important meditation technique. The practitioner meditates deeply on subtle facts. In agnya vichāya, one contemplates on seven facts — life and non-life, the inflow, bondage, stoppage and removal of karmas, and the final accomplishment of liberation. In apaya vichāya, one contemplates on the incorrect insights one indulges, which eventually develops right insight. In vipaka vichāya, one reflects on the eight causes or basic types of karma. In sansathan vichāya, one thinks about the vastness of the universe and the loneliness of the soul.
Acharya Mahapragya formulated Preksha meditation in the 1970s and presented a well-organised system of meditation. Asana and Pranayama, meditation, contemplation, mantra and therapy are its integral parts. Numerous Preksha meditation centers came into existence around the world and numerous meditations camps are being organized to impart training in it. Judaism
Main article: Jewish meditation
There is evidence that Judaism has had meditative practices that go back thousands of years. For instance, in the Torah, the patriarch Isaac is described as going "לשוח" (lasuach) in the field—a term understood by all commentators as some type of meditative practice (Genesis 24:63).
Similarly, there are indications throughout the Tanach (the Hebrew Bible) that meditation was used by the prophets. In the Old Testament, there are two Hebrew words for meditation: hāgâ (Hebrew: הגה), which means to sigh or murmur, but also to meditate, and sîḥâ (Hebrew: שיחה), which means to muse, or rehearse in one's mind.
The Jewish mystical tradition, Kabbalah, is inherently a meditative field of study. Traditionally, Kabbalah is only taught to Jews over the age of forty in Ashkenaz, though training begins at 13 in Sephardic and Mizrahi communities. The Talmud refers to the advantage of the scholar over the prophet, as his understanding takes on intellectual, conceptual form, that deepens mental grasp, and can be communicated to others. The advantage of the prophet over the scholar is in the transcendence of their intuitive vision. The ideal illumination is achieved when the insights of mystical revelation are brought into conceptual structures. For example, Isaac Luria revealed new doctrines of Kabbalah in the 16th Century, that revolutionised and reordered its teachings into a new system. However, he did not write down his teachings, which were recounted and interpreted instead by his close circle of disciples. After a mystical encounter, called in Kabbalistic tradition an "elevation of the soul" into the spiritual realms, Isaac Luria said that it would take 70 years to explain all that he had experienced. As Kabbalah evolved its teachings took on successively greater conceptual form and philosophical system. Nonetheless, as is implied by the name of Kabbalah, which means "to receive", its exponents see that for the student to understand its teachings requires a spiritual intuitive reception that illuminates and personalises the intellectual structures.
Corresponding to the learning of Kabbalah are its traditional meditative practices, as for the Kabbalist, the ultimate purpose of its study is to understand and cleave to the Divine. Classic methods include the mental visualisation of the supernal realms the soul navigates through to achieve certain ends. One of the best known types of meditation in early Jewish mysticism was the work of the Merkabah, from the root /R-K-B/ meaning "chariot" (of God).
In modern Jewish practice, one of the best known meditative practices is called "hitbodedut" (התבודדות, alternatively transliterated as "hisbodedus"), and is explained in Kabbalistic, Hasidic, and Mussar writings, especially the Hasidic method of Rabbi Nachman of Breslav. The word derives from the Hebrew word "boded" (בודד), meaning the state of being alone. Another Hasidic system is the Habad method of "hisbonenus", related to the Sephirah of "Binah", Hebrew for understanding. This practice is the analytical reflective process of making oneself understand a mystical concept well, that follows and internalises its study in Hasidic writings.
Pagan and Occult Religions Religions and religious movements which use magic, such as Wicca, Thelema, Neopaganism, occultism etc., often require their adherents to meditate as a preliminary to magical work. This is because magic is often thought to require a particular state of mind in order to make contact with spirits, or because one has to visualize one's goal or otherwise keep intent focused for a long period during the ritual in order to see the desired outcome. Meditation practice in these religions usually revolves around visualization, absorbing energy from the universe or higher self, directing one's internal energy, and inducing various trance states. Meditation and magic practice often overlap in these religions as meditation is often seen as merely a stepping stone to supernatural power, and the meditation sessions may be peppered with various chants and spells.
New Age Main article: New Age New Age meditations are often influenced by Eastern philosophy, mysticism, Yoga, Hinduism and Buddhism, yet may contain some degree of Western influence. In the West, meditation found its mainstream roots through the social revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, when many of the youth of the day rebelled against traditional belief systems as a reaction against what some perceived as the failure of Christianity to provide spiritual and ethical guidance. New Age meditation as practised by the early hippies is regarded for its techniques of blanking out the mind and releasing oneself from conscious thinking. This is often aided by repetitive chanting of a mantra, or focusing on an object. Sikhism
Main article: Nām Japō Sikh's gather in Gurdwara's and recite Shabad Kirtan, a vocal meditation
In Sikhism, simran (meditation) and good deeds are both necessary to achieve the devotees Spiritual goals, without good deeds meditation is futile. When Sikhs mediate they aim to feel God's presence and immerge in the divine light. It is only God's divine will or order that allows a devotee to desire to begin to mediate. Guru Nanak in the Japji Sahib daily Sikh scripture explains, "Visits to temples, penance, compassion and charity gain you but a sesame seed of credit. It is hearkening to His Name, accepting and adoring Him that obtains emancipation by bathing in the shrine of soul. All virtues are Yours, O Lord! I have none; Without good does one can't even mediate." Japji Sahib (Stanza 21). Nām Japnā involves focusing one's attention on the names or great attributes of God. The practices of Simran and Nām Japnā encourage quiet internal meditation but may be practiced vocally in the sangat (holy congregation). Sikhs believe that there are 10 'gates' to the body, 9 visible holes (eg nose holes, ears holes, mouth, belly button, etc) and the 10th invisible hole. The 10th invisible hole is the top most energy level is called the tenth gate or Dasam Duaar. When one reaches this stage through continuous practice meditation becomes a habit that continues whilst walking, talking, eating, awake and even sleeping. There is a distinct taste or flavour when a meditator reaches this lofty stage of meditation, and experiences absolute peace and tranquility inside and outside the body. Followers of the Sikh religion also believe that love comes through meditation on the lord's name since meditation only conjures up positive emotions in oneself which are portrayed through our actions. The first Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak Dev Ji preached the equality of all humankind and stressed the importance of living a householder's life instead of wandering around jungles meditating, the latter of which being a popular practice at the time. The Guru preached that we can obtain liberation from life and death by living a totally normal family life and by spreading love amongst every human being regardless of religion.
In the Sikh religion, kirtan, otherwise known as singing the hymns of God is seen as one of the most beneficial ways of aiding meditation, and it too in some ways is believed to be a meditation of one kind. Daoism Main article: Daoist meditation
"Gathering the Light", Taoist meditation from The Secret of the Golden Flower Taoist or Daoist meditation has a long history, and has developed various techniques including concentration, visualization, qi cultivation, contemplation, and mindfulness meditations. Traditional Daoist meditative practices were influenced by Chinese Buddhism beginning around the 5th century, and later had influence upon Traditional Chinese medicine and the Chinese martial arts.
Livia Kohn distinguishes three basic types of Daoist meditation: "concentrative", "insight", and "visualization". Ding 定 (literally means "decide; settle; stabilize") refers to "deep concentration", "intent contemplation", or "perfect absorption." Guan 觀 (lit. "watch; observe; view") meditation seeks to merge attain unity with the Dao. It was developed by Tang Dynasty (618–907) Daoist masters based upon the Tiantai Buddhist practice of Vipassanā "insight" or "wisdom" meditation. Cun 存 (lit. "exist; be present; survive") has a sense of "to cause to exist; to make present" in the meditation techniques popularized by the Daoist Shangqing and Lingbao Schools. A meditator visualizes or actualizes solar and lunar essences, lights, and deities within his/her body, which supposedly results in health and longevity, even xian "immortality".
The (late 4th century) Guanzi essay Neiye 內業 "Inward training" is the oldest received writing on the subject of qi cultivation and breath-control meditation techniques. For instance, "When you enlarge your mind and let go of it, when you relax your vital breath and expand it, when your body is calm and unmoving: And you can maintain the One and discard the myriad disturbances. … This is called "revolving the vital breath": Your thoughts and deeds seem heavenly." The (c. 3rd century BCE) Daoist Zhuangzi records zuowang or "sitting forgetting" meditation. Confucius asked his disciple Yan Hui to explain what "sit and forget" means: "I slough off my limbs and trunk, dim my intelligence, depart from my form, leave knowledge behind, and become identical with the Transformational Thoroughfare."
Daoist meditation practices are central to Chinese martial arts (and some Japanese martial arts), especially the qi-related Neijia "internal martial arts". Some well-known examples are Daoyin "guiding and pulling", Qigong "life-energy exercises", Neigong "internal exercises", Neidan "internal alchemy", and Taijiquan "great ultimate boxing", which is thought of as moving meditation. One common explanation contrasts "movement in stillness" referring to energetic visualization of qi circulation in Qigong and zuochan "seated meditation", versus "stillness in movement" referring to a state of meditative calm in Taijiquan forms.
Most of the ancient religions of the world have a tradition of using some type of prayer beads as tools in devotional meditation. Most prayer beads and Christian rosaries consist of pearls or beads linked together by a thread. The Roman Catholic rosary is a string of beads containing five sets with ten small beads. Each set of ten is separated by another bead. The Hindu japa mala has 108 beads, as well as those used in Jainism and Buddhist prayer beads. Each bead is counted once as a person recites a mantra until the person has gone all the way around the mala, which is counted as 100, with an extra 8 there to compensate for missed beads. The Muslim mishbaha has 99 beads. Specific meditations of each religion may be different.
Secular meditation in the West
A collective meditation in Sri Lanka
As stated by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a U.S. government entity within the National Institutes of Health that advocates various forms of Alternative Medicine, "Meditation may be practiced for many reasons, such as to increase calmness and physical relaxation, to improve psychological balance, to cope with illness, or to enhance overall health and well-being."
Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School conducted a series of clinical tests on meditators from various disciplines, including the Transcendental Meditation technique and Tibetan Buddhism. In 1975, Benson published a book titled The Relaxation Response where he outlined his own version of meditation for relaxation. Biofeedback has been used by many researchers since the 1950s in an effort to enter deeper states of mind.
Main articles: Mindfulness (psychology) and Mindfulness
Over the past 20 years, mindfulness-based programs have become increasingly important to Westerners and in the Western medical and psychological community as a means of helping people, whether they be clinically sick or healthy. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program in 1979, has defined mindfulness as 'moment to moment non-judgmental awareness.':626 Several methods are used during time set aside specifically for mindfulness meditation, such as body scan techniques or letting thought arise and pass, and also during our daily lives, such as being aware of the taste and texture of the food that we eat. Scientifically demonstrated benefits of mindfulness practice include an increase in the body's ability to heal and a shift from a tendency to use the right prefrontal cortex instead of the left prefrontal cortex, associated with a trend away from depression and anxiety, and towards happiness, relaxation, and emotional balance.
Jacobson's Progressive Muscle Relaxation was developed by American physician Edmund Jacobson in the early 1920s. In this practice one tenses and then relaxes muscle groups in a sequential pattern whilst concentrating on how they feel. The method has been seen to help people with many conditions especially extreme anxiety.
Modern cross-cultural dissemination Methods of meditation have been cross-culturally disseminated at various times throughout history, such as Buddhism going to East Asia, and Sufi practices going to many Islamic societies. Of special relevance to the modern world is the dissemination of meditative practices since the late 19th century, accompanying increased travel and communication among cultures worldwide. Most prominent has been the transmission of numerous Asian-derived practices to the West. In addition, interest in some Western-based meditative practices has also been revived, and these have been disseminated to a limited extent to Asian countries.
Ideas about Eastern meditation had begun "seeping into American popular culture even before the American Revolution through the various sects of European occult Christianity,":3 and such ideas "came pouring in [to America] during the era of the transcendentalists, especially between the 1840s and the 1880s.":3 But The World Parliament of Religions, held in Chicago in 1893, was the landmark event that increased Western awareness of meditation. This was the first time that Western audiences on American soil received Asian spiritual teachings from Asians themselves. Thereafter, Swami Vivekananda... [founded] various Vedanta ashrams... Anagarika Dharmapala lectured at Harvard on Theravada Buddhist meditation in 1904; Abdul Baha ... [toured] the US teaching the principles of Bahai, and Soyen Shaku toured in 1907 teaching Zen...:4
More recently, in the 1960s, another surge in Western interest in meditative practices began. Observers have suggested many types of explanations for this interest in Eastern meditation and revived Western contemplation. Thomas Keating, a founder of Contemplative Outreach, wrote that "the rush to the East is a symptom of what is lacking in the West. There is a deep spiritual hunger that is not being satisfied in the West.":31 Daniel Goleman, a scholar of meditation, suggested that the shift in interest from "established religions" to meditative practices "is caused by the scarcity of the personal experience of these [meditation-derived] transcendental states — the living spirit at the common core of all religions.":xxiv
Another suggested contributing factor is the rise of communist political power in Asia, which, "set the stage for an influx of Asian spiritual teachers to the West,":7 oftentimes as refugees.
Western context Meditating in Madison Square Park, New York City
In the late 19th century, Theosophists adopted the word "meditation" to refer to various spiritual practices drawn from Hinduism, Buddhism and other Indian religions. Thus the English word "meditation" does not exclusively translate to any single term or concept, and can be used to translate words such as the Sanskrit dhāraṇā, dhyāna, samādhi and bhāvanā.
Meditation may be for a religious purpose, but even before being brought to the West it was used in secular contexts. Beginning with the Theosophists meditation has been employed in the West by a number of religious and spiritual movements, such as Yoga, New Age and the New Thought movement.
Meditation techniques have also been used by Western theories of counseling and psychotherapy. Relaxation training works toward achieving mental and muscle relaxation to reduce daily stresses. Jacobson is credited with developing the initial progressive relaxation procedure. These techniques are used in conjunction with other behavioral techniques. Originally used with systematic desensitization, relaxation techniques are now used with other clinical problems. Meditation, hypnosis and biofeedback-induced relaxation are a few of the techniques used with relaxation training. One of the eight essential phases of EMDR (developed by Francine Shapiro), bringing adequate closure to the end of each session, also entails the use of relaxation techniques, including meditation. Multimodal therapy, a technically eclectic approach to behavioral therapy, also employs the use of meditation as a technique used in individual therapy.
From the point of view of psychology and physiology, meditation can induce an altered state of consciousness. Such altered states of consciousness may correspond to altered neuro-physiologic states.
Meditation, religion, and drugs
Main articles: Entheogens and Religion and drugs
Many traditions in which meditation is practiced, such as Sahaja Yoga, Transcendental Meditation, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other religions, advise members not to consume intoxicants, while others, such as the Rastafarian movements and Native American Church, view drugs as integral to their religious lifestyle.
The fifth of the five precepts of the Pancasila, the ethical code in the Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist traditions, states that adherents must not ingest, "intoxicating drinks and drugs causing heedlessness."
On the other hand, the ingestion of psychoactives has been a central feature in the rituals of many religions, in order to produce altered states of consciousness. In several traditional shamanistic ceremonies, drugs are used as agents of ritual. In the Rastafari movement, cannabis is believed to be a gift from Jah and a sacred herb to be used regularly, while alcohol is considered to debase man. Native Americans use peyote, as part of religious ceremony, continuing today. In India, the soma drink has a long history of use alongside prayer and sacrifice, and is mentioned in the Vedas.
During the 1960s, both eastern meditation traditions and psychedelics, such as LSD, became popular in America, and it was suggested that LSD use and meditation were both means to the same spiritual/existential end. Many practictioners of eastern traditions rejected this idea, including many who had tried LSD themselves. In The Master Game, Robert S de Ropp writes that the "door to full consciousness" can be glimpsed with the aid of substances, but to "pass beyond the door" requires yoga and meditation. Other authors, such as Rick Strassman, believe that the relationship between religious experiences reached by way of meditation and through the use of psychedelic drugs deserves further exploration. Also see Psychedelic psychotherapy.
Main article: Meditative postures
For bodily positions applied during yoga, see Asana. Various postures are taken up in meditation. Sitting, supine, and standing postures are used. Popular in Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism are the full-lotus, half-lotus, Burmese, and kneeling positions. Meditation is sometimes done while walking, known as kinhin, or while doing a simple task mindfully, known as samu.
Main article: Research on meditation
Meditation has been linked to a variety of health benefits. A study of college students by Oman et al. (2008) found that meditation may produce physiological benefits by changing neurological processes. This finding was supported by an expert panel at the National Institutes of Health. The practice of meditation has also been linked with various favourable outcomes that include: “effective functioning, including academic performance, concentration, perceptual sensitivity, reaction time, memory, self control, empathy, and self esteem.”(Oman et al., 2008, pg. 570) In their evaluation of the effects of two meditation-based programs they were able to conclude that meditating had stress reducing effects and cogitation, and also increased forgiveness. (Oman et al., 2008)
In a cross-sectional survey research design study lead by Li Chuan Chu (2009), Chu demonstrated that benefits to the psychological state of the participants in the study arose from practicing meditation. Meditation enhances overall psychological health and preserves a positive attitude towards stress. (Chu, 2009)
Mindfulness Meditation has now entered the health care domain because of evidence suggesting a positive correlation between the practice and emotional and physical health. Examples of such benefits include: reduction in stress, anxiety, depression, headaches, pain, elevated blood pressure, etc. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that those who meditated approximately half an hour per day during an eight-week period reported that at the end of the period, they were better able to act in a state of awareness and observation. Respondents also said they felt non-judgmental. (Harvard’s Women’s Health Watch, 2011)
"Meditation as Medicine" (American Academy of Neurology) cites scientific evidence from various studies which claim that meditation can increase attention span, sharpen focus, improve memory, and dull the perception of pain. The article lists as common types of meditation: Attention Meditation, Mindfulness Meditation, Passage Meditation and Benevolent Meditation.
Mindfulness meditation may help treat chronic inflammation and associated disorders, such as asthma and arthritis. Over 1,000 publications on meditation have appeared to date. Many of the early studies lack a theoretically unified perspective, often resulting in poor methodological quality, as discussed above in the section Definition and scope. A review of scientific studies identified relaxation, concentration, an altered state of awareness, a suspension of logical thought and the maintenance of a self-observing attitude as the behavioral components of meditation; it is accompanied by a host of biochemical and physical changes in the body that alter metabolism, heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and brain activation. Meditation has been used in clinical settings as a method of stress and pain reduction. Meditation has also been studied specifically for its effects on stress. Despite the large number of scientific publications on meditation, its measurable effect on brain activity is still not well understood.
In June, 2007 the United States National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine published an independent, peer-reviewed, meta-analysis of the state of research on meditation and health outcomes. The report reviewed 813 studies in five broad categories of meditation: mantra meditation, mindfulness meditation, yoga, T'ai chi and Qigong. The result was mixed. The report concluded that "firm conclusions on the effects of meditation practices in healthcare cannot be drawn based on the available evidence. However, the results analyzed from methodologically stronger research include findings sufficiently favorable to emphasize the value of further research in this field.":210 More rigor in future studies was called for.:v
More recent research suggests that meditation may increase attention spans. A recent randomized study published in Psychological Science reported that practicing meditation led to doing better on a task related to sustained attention.
A 2007 study by the U.S. government found that nearly 9.4% of U.S. adults (over 20 million) had practiced meditation within the past 12 months, up from 7.6% (more than 15 million people) in 2002. According to the American Cancer Society, "available scientific evidence does not suggest that meditation is effective in treating cancer or any other disease". Since the 1960s, meditation has been the focus of increasing scientific research of uneven rigor and quality. In over 1,000 published research studies, various methods of meditation have been linked to changes in metabolism, blood pressure, brain activation, and other bodily processes. Meditation has been used in clinical settings as a method of stress and pain reduction.
Meditation and intelligence Recent investigations of meditation have linked it to increased intelligence through physical growth of the brain. Researchers at Harvard, Yale, and MIT conducted brain scans that reveal an increased thickness in the parts of the brain that deal with attention and sensory input processing. Using magnetic resonance imaging, they visualized variations in the thickness of the cerebral cortex of experienced Buddhist Insight meditation practitioners. The data show that regular practice of meditation is associated with increased thickness in a subset of cortical regions related to somatosensory, auditory, visual and interoceptive processing. Further, regular meditation practice may slow age-related thinning of the frontal cortex, leading to longer lasting executive functioning. Another study investigated the effects of Transcendental Meditation on Cattell’s Culture Fair Intelligence Test (CFIT) and Hick’s reaction time, which are both correlated with general intelligence. In the study 100 men and women who meditated showed significant improvement on the tests compared to the control group of non-meditators, which showed no improvement. The results indicated that participation in meditation results in improvements to intelligence.
A study by Keith Wallace, David Johnson, and Paul Mills investigated the relationship between the paired H-reflex and the academic success of students practicing Transcendental Meditation. The paired H-reflex correlated significantly with GPA, but not with sat scores or any of three IQ measurements. The results suggest that meditation may be a useful indicator of academic achievement by "improving awareness and wakefullness".
Self-discipline, a trait linked to the practice of meditation has also been linked to increases in IQ scores. In a behavioral delay-of-gratification task with 8th graders, self-discipline accounted for more than twice as much variance as IQ in final grades, high school selection, school attendance, hours spent doing homework, hours spent watching television and the hour of the day students began their homework. The effect of self-discipline on final grades stayed even when controlling for grades, achievement-test scores, and measured IQ.
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Posted by admin on February 4, 2014
Prāṇāyām (Devanagari: [[प्राणायाम]], prāṇāyām) is a Sanskrit compound. V. S. Apte provides fourteen different meanings for the word prāṇ (Devanagari: प्राण, prāṇ) including these: Breath, respiration The breath of life, vital air, principle of life (usually plural in this sense, there being five such vital airs generally assumed, but three, six, seven, nine, and even ten are also spoken of)
Energy, vigor The spirit or soul Pran
Pran is a subtle invisible force (high valence ion charged oxygenated air air) - is the life-force that pervades the body. It is the factor that connects the body and the mind, because it is connected on one side with the body and on the other side with the mind. It is the connecting link between the body and the mind. The body and the mind have no direct connection. They are connected through Pran only. – Swami Chidananda Saraswati 
Yog Yog primarily works with the energy in the body through the science of pranayam or energy-control. Pran also means ‘breath.’ Yog teaches how to still the mind through breath-control and attain higher states of awareness. The higher teachings of yog take one beyond techniques and show the yogi or yog practitioner how to direct his concentration in such a way as not only to harmonize human with divine consciousness, but to merge his consciousness in the Infinite. – Paramahansa Yogananda 
Of these meanings, the concept of "vital air" is used by Bhattacharyya to describe the concept as used in Sanskrit texts dealing with prāṇāyāma. Thomas McEvilley translates prāṇ as "spirit-energy". Its most subtle material form is the breath, but is also to be found in blood, and its most concentrated form is semen in men and vaginal fluid in women. Monier-Williams defines the compound prāṇāyāma as "(m., also pl.) N. of the three 'breath-exercises' performed during Saṃdhyā (See pūrak, rechak (English: retch or throw out), kumbhak". This technical definition refers to a particular system of breath control with three processes as explained by Bhattacharyya: pūrak (to take the breath inside), kumbhak (to retain it), and rechak (to discharge it). There are also other processes of prāṇāyāma in addition to this three-step model.
Macdonell gives the etymology as prāṇa + āyāma and defines it as "m. suspension of breath (sts. pl.)". Apte's definition of āyāmaḥ derives it from ā + yām and provides several variant meanings for it when used in compounds. The first three meanings have to do with "length", "expansion, extension", and "stretching, extending", but in the specific case of use in the compound prāṇāyāma he defines āyāmaḥ as meaning "restrain, control, stopping". An alternative etymology for the compound is cited by Ramamurti Mishra, who says that: Expansion of individual energy into cosmic energy is called prāṇāyāma (prāṇa, energy + ayām, expansion). —
Hatha and Raja Yoga Varieties Some scholars distinguish between hath and rāj yog varieties of prāṇāyām, with the former variety usually prescribed for the beginner. According to Taimni, hath yogic prāṇāyām involves manipulation of pranic currents through breath regulation for bringing about the control of chitt-vritti and changes in consciousness, whereas rāj yog prāṇāyām involves the control of chitt-vritti by consciousness directly through the will of the mind. Students qualified to practice prāṇāyām are therefore always initiated first in the techniques of hath prāṇāyām. Bhagavad Gītā Prāṇāyām is mentioned in verse 4.29 of the Bhagavad Gītā. According to Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is, prāṇāyām is translated to "trance induced by stopping all breathing", also being made from the two separate Sanskrit words, prāṇ and āyām.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Pada (Chapter) English meaning Sutras Samadhi Pada On being absorbed in spirit 51 Sadhana Pada On being immersed in spirit 55 Vibhuti Pada On supernatural abilities and gifts 56 Kaivalya Pada On absolute freedom 34 Pranayama is the fourth 'limb' of the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga mentioned in verse 2.29 in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Patanjali, a Hindu Rishi, discusses his specific approach to pranayama in verses 2.49 through 2.51, and devotes verses 2.52 and 2.53 to explaining the benefits of the practice. Patanjali does not fully elucidate the nature of prana, and the theory and practice of pranayama seem to have undergone significant development after him. He presents pranayama as essentially an exercise that is preliminary to concentration, as do the earlier Buddhist texts. Many yoga teachers advise that pranayama should be part of an overall practice that includes the other limbs of Patanjali's Raja Yoga teachings, especially Yama, Niyama, and Asana.
Medical Several researchers have reported that pranayama techniques are beneficial in treating a range of stress-related disorders, improving autonomic functions, relieving symptoms of asthma (though a different study did not find any improvement) and reducing signs of oxidative stress. Practitioners report that the practice of pranayama develops a steady mind, strong will-power, and sound judgement, and also claim that sustained pranayama practice extends life and enhances perception. Alternate nostril breathing (ANB) prāṇāyāma, also known as Nadisuddhi prāṇāyāma, is one of the beneficial prāṇāyāma for cardiopulmonary functions. Regular practice of ANB (Nadisuddhi) increases parasympathetic activity and lowers systolic blood pressure as well as respiratory rate. In fact there are a number of studies indicating that pranayama causes changes in the cardiorespiratory system including a lowering of blood pressure and of heart rate.
Cautions Many yoga teachers recommend that Prāṇāyāma techniques be practiced with care, and that advanced prāṇāyāma techniques should be practiced under the guidance of a teacher. For example, people with low blood pressure must perform it cautiously or may even have to avoid it. On the other hand pranayama may be helpful for someone with high blood pressure as the practice has been shown to lower resting blood pressure and heart rate (see the Medical section this article). These cautions are also made in traditional Hindu literature. Pregnant women may have to forgo pranayama. Exercises which incorporate the Valsalva maneuver, a moderately forceful attempt to exhale against a closed airway, usually done by closing one's mouth, pinching one's nose shut while pressing out as if blowing up a balloon, have been medically associated in emergency room practice with subcutaneous emphysema, development of pockets of air in the body outside the lungs, for example under the skin or in the abdomen. An incidence of rectus sheath hematoma which required emergency surgery to repair a ruptured inferior epigastric artery and removal of 750 ml of blood from a woman's abdomen occurred during vigorous pranayama practice by an older woman with high blood pressure.
Be sure to tune in to the free public HD Broadcast of our next class, Wednesday at 7 pm PST.
Posted by admin on February 14, 2014
Full-Length Kundalini Yoga Class (57min)
So we train ourselves in yoga to be strong, to be radiant, to control the energy, to be awake enough so when that blessing of kundalini does happen that this body and this mind, that you have made up over these years, is strong enough to handle it. You have a matrix of consciousness to handle the experience, because all the sudden you’re going to be confronting infinity. You’re gonna be seeing the light of the universe in front of you. You’re gonna be meeting with Jesus, Mohammed, whoever your guru is. You’re gonna be meeting that form of consciousness. You have to have a stable mind to deal with that, ‘cause what are you going to say? “Hi, how are you?”
The idea is to create a worthiness in yourself, and you are all worthy of that, because you are the same light. There’s no difference in the light that makes up any of us. You have to create that worthiness in your mind so when you have that experience the position of your consciousness merges easy, seamlessly into that infinite consciousness. Otherwise it’s too much for you. Otherwise you’ve forgotten to bring your clothes to the dance. So we train ourselves to be worthy beings of our own light.
We strengthen the body with yoga. We strengthen the breathing with pranayam, the breath. By strengthening the body, strengthening the nervous system it allows the energy to manifest itself. When the kundalini does happen to you, when the energy, the primal force of life, manifests itself in this body the yoga becomes natural. The body automatically does these postures. The breathing becomes natural. It’s a way that programmed chemically into your DNA. Nobody ever gets that and when it does happen, if you’re not prepared, if your body is not strong, if your nervous system is weak it freaks you out. It causes problems, because you’ve been too lax.
Sit in easy pose. Let your breath be relaxed. Now take an inventory of your body. See what is painful. See what is not straight. Try to straighten that out. Try to relax your body. Go inside. Feel any tension. Relax it. Everything is straight and perfect. Go within now. Feel the energy swirling around you. Visual these currents of energy swirling. Feel this double helix of swirling energy, and you’re sitting in it. This is the evolutionary pathway. We’ve added to this helix. We’ve added chromosomes. Through the countless incarnations we built this human form. It’s not an accident. We’ve taken the time to build this human form. We’ve taken the time, chromosome by chromosome to add to the double helix to create this form. Now is the time to use this form, not to fall asleep.
Gravity naturally wants to pull the energy down and keep it in our three lower centers, security, sensation, and power. Breath of Fire acts as the bellows stoking the fire within our core, gathering the life force. Learning to use the bandhas (locks) we can stop the flow of prana and allow the heat we’ve built to rise into our heart and higher centers of consciousness. Once there we can notice where we feel pain, or discomfort, and provide it with the energy needed to overcome even the hardest of obstacles.