yoga vocabulary: meditation

Yoga Vocabulary 5: Meditation

We do yoga, at least in part (I hope), to prepare the body for meditation. More flexible hips and a stronger core, for example, make it easier to sit for extended periods of time. When our bodies feel good, we can be still and focus on our meditation rather than facing distractions of discomfort.

As with other aspects of yoga, there might be a few meditation-related words you’re unfamiliar with. Let’s get familiar! I’m drawing this information from my Akhanda Yoga teacher training and the associated manuals.

Pratyahara

This is the fifth of the eight limbs of yoga. Pratyahara is the redirecting of the senses, or the withdrawal of the senses, away from external stimuli. It’s essentially the first technique we use as we work toward meditation. A good example of this might be hearing the ding of a smartphone notification, but not responding to it. 🙂

Dharana

The sixth of the eight limbs, dharana is concentration. It is, again, a technique we can use to move us toward meditation. There are a variety of ways to practice dharana; external techniques include gazing at a candle flame, a sacred symbol, or another object, while internal techniques include visualization or mantra.

Dhyana

This is meditation, complete absorption, the seventh of the eight limbs. Dhyana is the point where we’re no longer using any sort of technique; we’ve fallen into that meditative state where no technique is required to maintain focus. It’s effortless meditation. Two more words associated with that:

Sthul: Effortless meditation on a single point, be that point internal or external.

Suksham: Effortless meditation without that point of focus. As my yoga teacher training manual explains, “The meditator is absorbed in the ideation of Pure Consciousness.”

Mala

This is a string of 108 beads that can be used for meditation. If you are repeating a mantra, you move your hands over the beads to keep track of how many you’ve done. It’s similar to the Catholic Rosary.

Mantra

A sacred sound, word, or phrase. You can repeat it, with or without the use of mala, as a means of concentrating (dharana).

Vachik Japa: Repeating a mantra aloud.

Upanshu Japa: Silently repeating a mantra while mouthing the words.

Mansik Japa: Repeating the mantra in your head.

Padmasana

Lotus pose, the posture we commonly take to meditate. It requires quite a bit of hip flexibility, so if it’s not possible or comfortable, we can sit in sukhasana, easy pose (cross-legged).

For more Yoga Vocabulary, see Non-English Words, Yoga Styles, Yoga Pose Names, and Body Parts.

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