Asana as Meditation

Today, many yoga classes focus on postures and skip meditation in favor of Savasana (Corpse pose) or a quick om. But asana was originally intended to warm up the body in preparation for seated meditation.

“For many years, I saw asana as a complement to my meditation,” says Frank Jude Boccio, who studied Buddhism before he started teaching yoga. “Then I went on retreat with Vietnamese Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh and realized I could change the role of asana from a preparation for meditation to a full-on meditation. The Buddha said to practice mindfulness while standing, sleeping, and walking. I thought, ‘Now let’s do it through Sun Salutations.’”

Mindfulness Yoga approaches asana as a meditation. Frank Jude says he teaches students not just to practice Triangle pose, for example, but “to practice mindfulness through Triangle.” He encourages his students to ask themselves, “What is really happening when I go into Triangle?”

Mindfulness Yoga builds on feelings and sensations, not emotions. What does it feel like to hold Warrior II? If it feels good, we want to hold the pose; if it’s unpleasant, we want to come out of it. But if we stay with sensation as our arms start to ache, the mat can become a safe place to explore our relationship with discomfort and aversion. Learning to be with unpleasant feelings as they arise on the mat enables us to become more skillful in how we handle difficult situations off the mat.

The process, as Frank Jude sees it, is to build a bigger container to embrace more and more of life. And while we can’t stop the waves, we can learn to surf them. When we wipe out, which we will inevitably do, practice is what allows us to get back on the board.

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