On the eightfold branches of Classical yoga, meditation, or dhyana, is the penultimate step to achieve samadhi, or self-realization. The practice of yoga ultimately allows the student to access the atman, or self, and in that manner come to know the brahman, or absolute reality. The word “yoga” literally means “union” in Sanskrit, and its practice joins the individual with the universal. By knowing yourself, you understand how the world relates to you, and meditation mediates this interaction.
- relaxing the body,
- maintaining proper posture,
- noting images in the mind’s eye
- examining thoughts as they occur,
- encouraging helpful thoughts and
- ignoring outside distractions.
Along with these practical skills, intermediate students learn the five commitments to follow during meditation:
- Shraddha, the belief that you are on the right path in your life;
- Virya, putting energy into the practices;
- Smriti, continued practice with a quiet mind;
- Samadhi, deep concentration and
- Prana, realizing the universal life force.
Intermediate students also prepare themselves for deeper meditation through breath training, whether vigorous breathing practices or through alternating nostrils.
Once students have mastered the practice of meditation, they can focus on calming the conscious, or “noisy,” mind. Students, both intermediate and advanced, may even go on to achieve yoga nidra, or conscious deep sleep. This type of meditation goes from the waking state to that of dreams then finally the deep sleep of the subconscious.
Advanced yoga students use meditation to explore the mind and its four functions, which include:
- Chitta, or memories;
- Ahamkara, or ego;
- Manas, the thought process and
- Buddhi, inner wisdom.
Ultimately, the student understands that atman, or pure consciousness, is what every created thing has in common and is the individual’s connection to the immortal, unchanging and ultimately divine.