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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 42-47

Yoga and meditation: Integral correlation is a bit of mystery

Department of Anatomy, AIIMS, Raipur, Chhattisgarh, India

Date of Web Publication15-Feb-2018

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Dhanesh Kumar Sharma
Department of Anatomy, AIIMS, Raipur, Chhattisgarh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijny.ijoyppp_2_17

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The terms yoga and meditation are related with promotion of harmony of body and mind for physical, mental and spiritual wellness of human beings. Similarities or dissimilarities between these terms have been matter of debate many times. This study aims to search integral correlations between yoga and meditation, effect on body and mind disorders, and directions for upcoming researches to enhance healthcare facilities. Literatures reviewed through electronic database such as PubMed, NCBI, Google Scholar, and Web of science. The terms yoga, meditation, relationship, correlation, integral were entertained, and views, concepts, and evidences related with yoga and meditation were studied and analyzed. Finally, I came to conclusion about the meaning, history, changes, achievements, contradictions, and interrelations between the terms yoga and meditation. Yoga and meditation are not the synonym, they differ in definition, practice, concepts of researchers, and their achievements, but an interrelation and similarity between them exist to an extent. Yoga and meditation are integrally correlated, and both together can make the practitioners physically and mentally sound and help open their hearts and allow the energy to flow upward, to the higher chakras and higher consciousness. Meditation is an anon part of yoga, which should ideally be followed after yoga asanas. Meditative techniques take you through energizing the body and intellect. It is recommendable that yoga and meditation should be a part of health-care amenities to enhance the excellence of life by improving their overall mental and physical health status so that it could provide a healthy and permanent blissful life.

Keywords: Correlation, integral, meditation, relationship, yoga

How to cite this article:
Sharma DK. Yoga and meditation: Integral correlation is a bit of mystery. Int J Yoga - Philosop Psychol Parapsychol 2017;5:42-7

How to cite this URL:
Sharma DK. Yoga and meditation: Integral correlation is a bit of mystery. Int J Yoga - Philosop Psychol Parapsychol [serial online] 2017 [cited 2024 Feb 21];5:42-7. Available from: https://www.ijoyppp.org/text.asp?2017/5/2/42/225622

  Introduction Top

Yoga is a set of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which started off in ancient India. There is a large variety of yoga schools, practices, and objectives in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.[1] Advantage of yoga includes all round body fitness, weight loss, stress relief, improved immunity, better posture, and raised energy. In yoga, body positions are called asanas to improve different elements in life such as Kundalini, Ashtanga, Raja Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Swara Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Manta Yoga.[2] According to the Rigveda, the beginning of yoga have been considered to date back to Prevedic Indian civilization but most likely developed between 6th and 5th centuries before common era (BCE).[3] The chronology of the literatures describing yoga is unclear but varyingly attributed to Hindu Upanishads and Buddhist Pali Canon, probably of 3rd century BCE or little later.[4] Yoga Sutras of Patanjali came from the first half of the 1st millennium time but got distinction in the West during the 20th century. Hatha Yoga manuscripts emerged around the 11th century with origins in Tantra.

Yoga gurus in India later initiated yoga to the West, following the success of Swami Vivekananda in the late 19th and early 20th century. In the 1980s, yoga became popular as a system of physical exercise across the Western world.[5] In Indian traditions, the yoga is more than the physical exercise; it has a meditative and spiritual core.[6] Studies have attempted to establish the helpfulness of yoga as a complementary involvement for cancer, schizophrenia, asthma, and heart disease, but the results of studies have been varied, uncertain in effectiveness and may reduce risk factors and aid as a psychological healing procedure.[7],[8] A resolution for establishing 21st June as “International Day of Yoga” was approved by the 193-member United Nations General Assembly consensus on December 11, 2014. This approval came after the call for the adoption of 21st June as “International Day of Yoga” by Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in his address at UN General Assembly on September 27, 2014.[9] On December 1, 2016, yoga was listed as UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage.[10]

Meditation is a practice or discipline in which an individual guides the mind or induces a mode of realization, either to become conscious about some benefit or for the brainpower to simply allow its content without being identified with that content or as an end in it.[11] The term meditation refers to a wide variety of practices or disciplines including techniques to encourage relaxation, assemble internal energy or life power, and develop compassion, love, patience, tolerance, liberality, and forgiveness.[12] The word meditation carries different meanings in different contexts, and it has been practiced since ancient times as a part of several religious traditions and viewpoints. Meditation often engages an inner attempt to self-regulate the brainpower in some way and is frequently used to clear the mind and relieve numerous health concerns such as high blood pressure, depression, and anxiety.[13] It may be done in sitting posture or in a vigorous way, as Buddhist monks involve awareness in their everyday routine activities as a form of mind training. Prayer beads or other ritual things are commonly used during meditation to keep pathway of or remind the practitioner or meditator about some aspect of that training.

Meditation may involve generating an emotional state for the purpose of analyzing that state such as anger, hatred, or cultivating a particular mental response to various phenomena such as compassion, patience, and tolerance.[14] The term meditation can be referred to the state itself as well as to practices or disciplines engaged to develop the state and may also involve repeating a mantra and closing the eyes. The hymn or mantra is chosen based on its appropriateness to the individual meditator. In brief, a number of specific methods of meditation discipline, regulation, and action are commonly referred to as meditative practices. Meditation has a calming and cheering effect which directs wakefulness inward until wholesome awareness is achieved, which is described as “being awake inside without being aware of any other thing.”[15]

  Discussion Top

Yoga also means addition or combined. Guṇa Yoga means contact with a cord; Chakra Yoga has a medical sense of applying a splint or similar instrument by means of pulleys (like in case of dislocation of the thigh); Chandra Yoga has the astronomical sense of conjunction of the moon with a constellation; Pum Yoga is a grammatical term expressing connection or relation with a man; Bhakti Yoga means devoted attachment in the monotheistic Bhakti movement; Kriya Yoga has a grammatical sense meaning connection with a verb, etc. Yoga is also given a technical meaning in the YogaSutras, designating the practical aspects of the philosophy, i.e., the union with the supreme due to performance of duties in everyday life.[16] In accordance with Panini, Vyasa who put in writing the first comments on the Yoga Sutras states that yoga means samadhi or concentration. According to Dasgupta, the term yoga can be derived from either of two roots, yujir yoga (to yoke) or yuj samadhau (to concentrate).[17],[18] The term yogi is applied to a man or a woman who practices yoga or follows the yoga philosophy with a high level of commitment, whereas the term yogini traditionally denotes a woman with yoga. Some expert in this field claim that the ultimate goal of yoga is moksha (liberation or exemption from the birth/death cycle) by the techniques of controlling the body and the mind, while the precise definition of what form this takes depends on the philosophical or theological system with which it is conjugated.

According to David Gordon White, yoga is a meditative means of discovering dysfunctional perception and cognition as well as overcoming it for free from suffering, inner peace, and salvation. Illustration of the principle of yoga is found in Hindu texts such as the Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras, in a number of Buddhist Mahayana works as well as Jain texts. Yoga, as expansion of consciousness from oneself to being coextensive with everyone and everything, is discussed in sources such as Hinduism vedic literature and its epic Mahabharata, Jainism Prasamaratiprakarana, and Buddhist Nikaya texts. Yoga is a path to omniscience and enlightened consciousness for enabling one to comprehend the impermanent and permanent reality. Examples are found in Hinduism Nyaya and Vaisesika school texts as well as Buddhism Madhyamaka texts in different ways. Yoga is a technique for entering into other bodies, generating multiple bodies, and the attainment of other supernatural accomplishments. These states are described in Tantric literature of Hinduism and Buddhism as well as the Buddhist Samannaphalasutta. The last principle relates to legendary goals of Yogi practice, different from practical goals of Yoga practice, as they are viewed in South Asian thought and practice since the beginning of the Common Era, in the various Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain philosophical schools.[19] James however disagrees and suggests that such fringe practices are far removed from the mainstream yoga's goal as meditation-driven means to liberation in Indian religions.[20]

The Raja Yoga refers to Ashtanga Yoga, the eight limbs to be practiced to attain samadhi, as described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and originally referred to the ultimate goal of yoga, which is generally samadhi but was popularized by Swami Vivekananda as the common name for Ashtanga Yoga.[21] Hindu scripture in Sanskrit “Bhagavad Gita” consists of 18 chapters and 700 shlokas, with each chapter named as a different yoga, thus delineating 18 different yogas. Some intellectuals divide the Gita into three sections, with the first six chapters with 280 shlokas dealing with Karma Yoga, the middle six containing 209 shlokas with Bhakti Yoga, and the last six chapters with 211 shlokas as Jnana Yoga; however, this is rough because elements of karma, bhakti, and jnana are found in all chapters.[22]

Yoga is being marketed as a supplement to a cardio routine with health benefits, but in Hinduism, it is more than exercise and incorporates meditation with spiritual benefits.[23] Many medical communities regard the results of yoga research as significant, while others point to many flaws which undermine results. Much of the research on yoga has taken the form of preliminary studies or clinical trials of low methodological quality including small sample sizes, inadequate blinding, lack of randomization, and high risk of bias.[24] There have been claims that yoga creates improvements in musculoskeletal and mental health, low back pain, asthma, brain gamma-aminobutyric acid levels, mood, and anxiety. Hatha Yoga (exercise, breathing, and meditation) is beneficial to those suffering from heart disease and high blood pressure. Yoga is used for the treatment of cancer patients to decrease pain, depression, insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, and anxiety.[25] Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs include yoga as a mind-body technique to reduce stress.Another study found that MBSR is associated with positive effects on sleep anxiety, quality of life, and spiritual growth in cancer patients.[26] Some encouraging but inconclusive evidence suggest that yoga as a complementary treatment may help alleviate symptoms of schizophrenia and improve health-related quality of life.[8] Yoga has been shown in a study to have some cognitive functioning (executive functioning, including inhibitory control) acute benefit.[27]

In contrast, a 2016 systematic review and meta-analysis found no evidence that yoga was effective for metabolic syndrome.[28] A small percentage of yoga practitioners each year suffer physical injuries analogous to sports injuries; therefore, caution and common sense are recommended.[29] Yoga has been criticized for being potentially dangerous and being a cause for a range of serious medical conditions including thoracic outlet syndrome, degenerative arthritis of the cervical spine, spinal stenosis, retinal tears, and damage to the common fibular nerve “Yoga foot drop”.[30] Torn muscles, knee injuries, and headaches are common ailments which may result from yoga practice.[31]

The first International Day of Yoga was observed worldwide on June 21, 2015. About 35,000 people, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a large number of dignitaries, performed 21 yoga asanas/postures for 35 min at Rajpath in New Delhi. The day devoted to yoga was observed by millions across the world. The event at Rajpath established two Guinness records, the largest Yoga Class with 35,985 people and the most nationalities participating in it (84).[32]

In Ananda Yoga for higher awareness, yoga is taught to prepare for meditation, and its asanas are designed in a routine to help direct the energy into the spine and then to be directed upward to the brain to awaken and lift our consciousness. Yogananda said that getting into and out of a pose is as important as being in the pose itself, as in Ananda Yoga, when we raise our arms, we inhale and when we lower our arms to our sides, we exhale. When we begin to slow our breath and begin to sync it with our movement, we become calm; and then, we become closer to single-minded purpose. By slowing down, we begin to accomplish more and we keep our attention in the present moment. This also helps to strengthen our body as well as awareness to prepare for meditation. Benefit of meditation includes relief in stress, hypertension, headache, insomnia, ulcers, and joints pain. Meditation also improves the mood, immunity, alertness, concentration, and physical and mental energy. There are different meditative techniques to suit different purposes, for example, Mindful meditation, Reflective meditation, Mantra mediation, Focused meditation, and Visualization meditation.[2] Above all, ambitious form of meditation aspires at effortlessly natural sustained concentration meant to allow meditator to take pleasure in an eternal sense of well-being while engaging in any life activity.

Apart from its historical usage, the term meditation was introduced as a translation for Eastern spiritual practices, referred to as dhyana in Buddhism and in Hinduism, which comes from the Sanskrit root dhyai, meaning to contemplate or meditate.[33] The history of meditation is intimately bound up with the religious context within which it was practised. Some of the earliest references to meditation are found in the Hindu Vedas of Nepal and India. Around the 6th–5th centuries BCE, other forms of meditation developed through Confucianism and Taoism in China as well as Hinduism, Jainism, and early Buddhism in Nepal and India. 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. 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.[34]

Meditation in the broad sense of a type of discipline found in various forms in many cultures, by which the practitioner attempts to get deeper more devout or more relaxed state beyond the reflexive and thinking mind. The terms meditative practice and meditation are mostly used here in broad sense, but it does not mean that all meditations seek to take a person beyond all thought processes, only those processes that are sometimes referred to as discursive or logical.[35] Buddha is said to have identified two paramount mental qualities that arise from wholesome meditative practice, first “serenity” or “tranquillity” (Pali-samatha) which steadies, composes, unifies, and concentrates the mind; and second “insight” (Pali-vipassana) which enables one to see, explore, and discern “formations.” During serenity, one is able to release obscuring hindrances and development of insight that gains liberating wisdom.[36] In the sixth chapter of Bhavarthadipika commentary on the Bhagavad Gita by Sri Jnaneshvar (Dhyaneshwar), meditation in yoga is described as a state caused by the spontaneous awakening of the sacred energy Kundalini, which creates a connection of the individual soul Atman with universal spirit Paramatman. Internal and external signs of this state are clearly defined: the body is cured of diseases; the mind is serene, at rest with no thoughts; a stream of ambrosia is poured inside the body of the yogi, accompanied by a feeling of tremendous joy and bliss.[37]

In Sahaja Yoga, few threads of the sacred energy Kundalini rise spontaneously and gradually grow in number. Mantra meditation, with the use of a japamala and especially with focus on the Hare-Krishna maha mantra, is a central practice of the Gaudiya Vaishnava faith tradition and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness also known as the Hare-Krishna movement. Other popular new religious movements include the Ramakrishna Mission, Vedanta Society, Divine light mission, Chinmaya mission, Osho, Transcendental meditation, Oneness university, and Brahma kumaris. According to Brahma kumaris, meditation means “be in remembrance of Supreme-soul.” New Age Meditation evolved into a range of purposes and practices; from serenity and balance to access to other realms of consciousness to the concentration of energy in group meditation to the supreme goal of samadhi, as in the ancient yogic practice of meditation.[38]

In modern psychological research, meditation has been defined and characterized in a variety of ways; many of these emphasize the role of attention.[39] In the West, meditation is sometimes thought of in two broad categories: concentrative meditation and mindfulness meditation.[11] 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. Evidence from neuroimaging studies suggests that the categories of meditation, defined by how they direct attention, appear to generate different brainwave patterns. Evidence also suggests that using different focus objects during meditation may generate different brainwave patterns.[40]

Various postures are taken up in some meditation techniques such as sitting, supine, and standing. Popular in Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism are the full-lotus, half-lotus, burmese, seiza, and kneeling positions. Meditation is sometimes done while walking known as kinhin or while doing a simple task mindfully known as samu. Some mantra techniques as with Transcendental meditation do not require learning special positions, only sitting comfortably with eyes closed. Sahaja Yoga meditation is regarded as a mental silence meditation and has been shown to correlate with particular brain and brain wave activity.[41] Research on the processes and effects of meditation is a growing subfield of neurological research.[42] Modern scientific techniques and instruments, such as magnetic resonance imaging and electroencephalographic, have been used to see what happens in the body of people when they meditate and how their bodies and brain change after meditating regularly.[43] There is evidence that meditation is associated with changes in brain structure, although further research is necessary before making definitive conclusions.[44]

Yoga and meditation are interconnected and cannot exist without each other. They both are part of the Eight Limbs of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. Yoga is a spiritual, mental, and physical discipline, which helps achieve permanent peace. However, over the years, it had been thought that yoga is associated with physical fitness only. Meditation is mostly later or an anon part of yoga, which generally follows the yoga asanas. Meditative techniques take us achieve the ultimate goal of state of joy and enlightenment through energizing the body and intellect. Yoga is primary adaptation of body postures, which is followed by the meditation. It seems yoga and meditation go hand in hand and work together to unite our body with our soul. We need to be conscious of the body to forget about it, to go inward in meditation. Mediation also improves the breathing and mind; and eventually self-realization. Yoga asanas or postures are a great way to prepare the body for meditation. Yoga is not only rejuvenating for the body but also the brain.

Yoga and meditation are two different disciplines and practices, in which there is no similarity to an extent and both are claimed to have separate achievements and therapeutic value in certain diseases at body and mind levels. Hence, a clear understanding of both the terms is an utmost necessity for its clinical application. In modern time, both yoga and meditation may be attractive and impressive alternatives to a good way to augment current treatment strategies in body and mind illnesses. Yoga is both mental and physical, while meditation is a mainly mental technique that can, but does not necessarily have to, incorporate physical elements. In both, a quiet spirit helps practitioners instantaneously to make their mind up to solve problems, but it requires patience, sometimes it may require days, weeks, or even months of irritable brooding.

  Conclusions Top

Yoga and meditation are consistent and integrally correlated up to some extent. These two terms are not synonyms, but they both are part of the Eight Limbs of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. They go parallely means hand in hand. They work together at the commencement to unite practitioner with higher soul-self. They cannot be present without the other. We have to be conscious of the body to forget about it in yoga and to go inward in meditation.

In our multifaceted lives, the meditation should be a necessity. It is also not deniable that yet meditation does not come easily for the most of people, who want to fasten together with it, but when start joining, they find it is quite complicated than they ever expected. Sitting up straight is required for meditation which may feel quite uncomfortable at the initial stage, and it takes time and practice of muscles to develop habit and familiarity.

Meditation is an anon part of yoga, which should ideally be followed after yoga asanas. Meditative techniques take you through energizing the body and intellect. Mediation also improves breathing and the mind, and eventually self-realization. Yoga is not only rejuvenating the body but also rejuvenating the brain. Yoga is actually designed to systematically prepare the body for meditation; but with much of the yoga available nowadays, the link to meditation is rarely mentioned and integral correlation between yoga and meditation is still a bit of mystery.

In yoga and meditation both, we can raise our consciousness. Yoga helps us to bring the body to a point of stillness by clearing away the restless energy we carry around and prepares us to become fully immersed in deep concentration, meditation. Yoga like chanting can help open our hearts and allow the energy to flow upward, to the higher chakras and higher consciousness. We need to be aware of the body to forget about it, to go inward in meditation.

This review finally concluded with comment that yoga and meditation are integrally correlated, and both together can make the practitioners physically and mentally sound and help open their hearts and allow the energy to flow upward to the higher chakras and higher consciousness. It is recommendable that yoga and meditation should be a part of health-care amenities to enhance the excellence of life by improving their overall mental and physical health status so that it could provide a healthy and permanent blissful life.

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