Dear Yogini: What are the benefits of meditation? What is the traditional link between meditation and yoga? How do these two practices work together? ~ Sitting Still

Dear Sitting Still: Most Americans consider asana, the physical postures, to be yoga. But asana is just one of the limbs of yoga. In fact, of Patanjali's eight limbs of yoga, four would fall under the broad category meditation: Pranayama (breathing exercises); Pratyahara (control of the senses) Dharana (concentration), and Dhyana (meditation). These meditation practices are essential steps towards the yogic goal of overcoming suffering and leading a life resonant with meaning and purpose.

Asana is usually taught as a preliminary step toward sitting meditation. While Asana is a physical exercise, it is also a movement meditation and a flowing prayer. Asana increases strength, flexibility, balance and grace and the mind is trained to connect with the flow of the body and breath. This practice develops a mind-body connection that 'stills the fluctuations of the mind' so that the body can literally sit still for meditation.

Meditation practice deepens the focal power of the mind, a very useful skill. The ability to 'still mental fluctuations' allows us to live, work and accomplish our goals with less stress and less effort. We can actively relax when faced with stressful situations and let go of situations beyond our control. Stress hormones are reduced and the multitude of illnesses related to stress are abated. As the practitioner gains control of body and breath, health, vibrancy and physical well being are increased.

Continued practice of asana and meditation helps us to naturally give up unhealthy life style choices. Our natural state of being gives us deep pleasure reducing our dependence on external stimuli and this facilitates the journey of overcoming compulsions and addictions. Both our mental and physical improves and we experience a sense of freedom.

There are many great places to learn asana and meditation in Corvallis: yoga studios, athletic centers, gyms OSU and LBCC. For those ready to go deeper, Cedar and Fir Studio hosts Satsang (pranayama, chanting, and meditation) on the third Sunday of each month from 10:30a to noon (by donation). The next Satsang will happen on March 16th.

Yogini Lisa

Lisa Wells is the owner of Cedar and Fir Studio, a space for yoga, pilates and dance. You can pose your questions to Lisa by e-mailing her at: lisa@cedarandfir.com.