Although not every class includes it, meditation is generally a large part of yoga. Meditation involves letting go of the outside world and going inward, often by focusing on something like breathing or sound at first. Meditation can help a person simply clear his mind, or it can lead to new levels of consciousness and awareness.
Many people in the West are unsure of meditation and reluctant to try it. Some people might be nervous because it is often associated with Eastern practices. However, meditation is a personal experience and can be whatever you want it to be. It doesn’t have to involve any activities you’re uncomfortable with, and it doesn’t have to mean you are following another religion or culture.
Meditation can improve physical and mental health. A yoga class can teach you to calm and quiet your mind, which can calm your nervous system and help you deal better with stressful situations. It can reduce the heart rate, blood pressure and stress hormones. It can ease anxiety and panic attacks, and help with pain. Some research suggests it improves symptoms of cancer and other serious health conditions. Also, spiritual growth can be an unexpected part of a yoga class, and meditation is usually the component of the class that opens you up to it.
Yoga classes include many aspects that help with meditation. Deep breathing and focusing on the breath is a large part of yoga, and this can help you calm and open your mind. Many of the poses in a yoga class could be considered a “moving meditation” because you are often looking inward, focusing and letting go of thoughts while practicing them. Plus, the poses can help you use some of your physical energy, so that at the end of a practice, you can more easily calm your mind. Yoga also includes calming and restorative poses, especially Corpse Pose, which include letting go of the body and opening the mind.
Also, yoga classes often include tools to facilitate meditation. These can include incense or essential oils, music, sound bowls, chimes, chanting, guided imagery, guided relaxation and more. Many of these help to get you started with meditation, and then when you have progressed, you have less of a need for them, although you might still enjoy their help.