Catholics Should Meditate

Through following this series I hope you have seen the interconnectedness of each limb. Especially for this limb we can see that one must build off another. The lucky number seven of the ashtanga practice is dhyana meaning “meditation.” Dhyana cannot be completed without dharana (concentration). Essentially, concentration becomes meditation when the soul is attracted and connected to the topic. Anyone can concentrate on something without being emotionally invested, but meditation is the elaboration of the commitment to concentration. Notice that dhyana’s meaning is solely “meditation.” It is not meditation on anything in particular; that meditation is up to you. You decide your meditative pa

Concentrate to Balance

The sixth stage of ashtanga is dharana meaning "concentration." This is particularly concentrating on one focus without letting our busy minds take over. Practicing dharana may be extremely challenging for people. As a society we are told that we must be the most productive human being in order to gain favor and success of the world. We also glorify multi-tasking because of this. In yoga, dharana can be many things: relaxing a certain area of the body that holds tension, using your drishti in order to stabilize a pose, connecting to the pose at hand without anticipation for the next, etc. The most important aspect of dharana in yoga is focusing your consciousness fully on your practice. Thi

In the World but Not of the World

Our next limb of Ashtanga is pratyahara meaning "sense withdrawal" or "control over the external." This is particularly used in context to releasing the reaction of the mind and body when there is an influence happening within the physical world. In a yoga class, pratyahara is important especially in savasana. We use this to allow ourselves space to be undisturbed. Tuning yourself to practicing pratyahara is similar to hanging the “Do Not Disturb” sign outside of your hotel room after a long day of travelling. The feeling you receive when you can extract yourself from the senses creates a positive emptiness. We usually think of emptiness as being depressing and lonely but only when we are co

Pranayama and the Breath of Life

Pranayama, meaning controlled breath, is the fourth limb of Ashtanga. Breath is the foundation of life. We use breath to determine whether or not someone is alive or dead. The inhale and exhale of the breath is a powerful method used to calm the mind and body. Our breath is a powerful force that trains our bodies to move with grace. Most yoga styles are breath-based meaning the movements of the body are matched to either an inhale or an exhale. One of my yoga mentors says that when you can breathe through the transitions of poses, you can breathe through the transitions of life. But what is this infinite breath that gives us the ability to live out the ups and downs? Breath presents its imp