As physical awareness helps in overcoming the inertia-induced instability in body, breathing awareness helps in controlling and triumphing over the restlessness in mind. These when combined prepare you to apply the meditation techniques successfully.
Asanas & Pranayamas: Paramount Preliminaries
Never Hurry into Meditation
Learning and practicing Asanas and Pranayama Kriyas under competent yoga masters is the indispensable first steps towards mastering body and mind through meditation. It is good if you practice these in early morning hours with empty stomach.
Physical awareness and balanced breathing will help you remain focused on learning and assimilating the subtle art of meditation. Both ashtanga yoga & hatha yoga stress on these as the preliminaries for focus and concentration of mind which progressively deepen into meditation.
You should keep in mind that given the inherent restlessness of mind, it may take you at least 40 minutes for true focus to set in. This is why patience and perseverance are required for going into truly meditative state. You cannot hurry into meditation, skirting proper and patient preparations.
You should begin with simple stretching kriyas as delineated under classical hatha yoga texts. This will not just correct your physical posture and provide strength and stability to the spinal muscles but also will train you to sit in the asanic posture for quite a long time. Regular practice of pranayama removes all energy blocks of your gross and subtle bodies, thus clearing way for your awareness progressing into Consciousness. Repeated practice will enhance your meditation capacity by cleansing gross and subtle selves simultaneously.
Preparations to Meditation
Patience & Practice Keys to Meditation
As per traditional hatha yoga, meditation should always be followed by asana and pranayama. The great hatha yogis warn against jumping into meditation directly without practicing the preliminaries. You must relax your body and calm your mind down before taking your mind to higher mental dimensions through meditation. There is no short-cut to the goal.
Physical Posture: You should begin your preparation with pre-meditation postures. It is important because it removes stiffness and laziness from your body. Neck movements, spinal twist, hip rotation, crow walking and half butterfly pose are some of the pre-meditation postures performed under hatha yoga kriyas. Shatkarma, bandha and mudra are important too, for these practices help your Consciousness soar high from level to level.
Yogic Breathing: Slow and deep breathing with constant awareness stops fluctuations in mind, removing one of the greatest hindrances to meditation. Retention of breath internally and externally is integral part of higher yoga. Practice of nadi shodhana enhances mental tranquility.
Time & Duration: Early morning is universally acknowledged as the best time for yoga and meditation. And it is advisable that you should practice it with empty stomach, most preferably after fresh bath. You may also choose either evening or night before retiring to bed for practice. Fix a time and stick to it under all circumstances. You would better give 15-20 minutes in the beginning for practice.
Place & Dress: Choose a serene, uncluttered place for practice, for it will fill you with positive vibrations. The room must be airy but a little dark. And make it a point to wear loose cotton clothes so that your body moves with ease. Avoid heavy woolen clothes during the winter months.
Awareness & Consciousness
Never Allow Ordinary Awareness to Pull You Down
Start your meditation from outer awareness. Progressively, it will move inwards, in the unexplored regions of your awareness, from realms to higher realms. You should separate your awareness from the outer environment and outward-going senses. Don’t let them pull you down to the ordinary awareness.
Focus & Concentration: Focus your mind by holding only one thought, all other thoughts stilled completely. Initially, it may be difficult, but with time and dogged practice, it becomes effortless. Make sure that one positive thought reigns in your mind space. Tratak concentration is the best for yoga beginners according to classical hatha yoga. Initially, you may focus on a black dot on the wall.
Physical Awareness: Pre-meditation yogic poses not just relax the body but also induce awareness of your subtle body which is an important part of meditation techniques. Physical awareness, enhanced by bandha and mudra and mindful breathing, harmonizes your body with mind. When you breathe with awareness it becomes yogic breathing or pranayama.
Mental Relaxation: The more your mind space becomes silent and expansive the better your preparation for single-pointed concentration. Unclogging mind-space of the erratic, ever mobile thoughts is of immense importance without which you cannot progress in meditation.
Positive Attitude: Keeping an optimistic, cheerful attitude in all situations is a great mantra for practice of meditation. If you are doubtful and gloomy you can never succeed in mastering meditation. If the urge to meditate does not come from your Will you will end up frustrated. Cynicism and doubting will lead you nowhere.
Commitment: You must be honest and regular with your meditation practice. Trust your guru fully. He will guide you with his infallible knowledge in the nuanced region of meditation. Without guru’s guidance, you cannot progress much.