Modern way of life produces a permanent stimulation of our senses and mind which exhausts our nervous system and weaken our capacity to concentrate and assimilate information. Moreover, a huge amount of energy is wasted for nothing when the mind is constantly agitated and under pressure. Yoga proposes various techniques to learn how to calm down and focus the mind. When the mind is calm and disciplined, his immense potential can then be utilized on demand and consciously. Several recent scientific studies have clearly demonstrated the benefits of concentration and meditation exercises for the brain and how these techniques can be useful and efficient to better mange stress.
Concentration consists in focusing the mind on one single object, disregarding any other perception. Objects of concentration vary a lot but they can be separated in two main kinds: they can be of a concrete nature (breath, sensation, mantra, image…) or of an abstract nature (concept, quality, emptiness…) Focusing the mind requires discipline and regularity in the practice. Postures and breathing exercises are very helpful in that sense because the mind is gradually trained to focus on the breath and on the body sensations. Therefore, when the practitioner tries to meditate for the first time, it is much easier than if he had done nothing at all before. The physical aspect of yoga, on top of its numerous benefits on health, is then an excellent preparation to the work on the mind, which otherwise can be quite difficult to approach if the body and mind have not been prepared.
Meditation is the logical step after concentration. Once the practitioner is able to calm down and empty the mind, he can then open his consciousness to a reality that exists beyond the limits of his own mind. We can distinguish two main types of meditation:
- Active meditation, where one “does” something with his mind, like for instance concentrating in chakra or certain areas in the body, repeating a mantra, visualizing a symbol…
- Contemplative meditation, where the practitioner opens his heart and his consciousness upwards and let grace fall upon him. This kind of meditation is a bit like praying but in silence.
Both types are equally important. Active meditation allows to develop and control our mental capacities whereas contemplative meditation provides the necessary lightness and grace to progress with a smile…