Yogis are not the only people to recognize the many benefits of a meditation practice. Many teachers include a period of meditation in Hatha yoga classes to help students achieve a balance of physical and mental fitness. Medical doctors even recommend meditation as a method of controlling blood pressure and stress relief. Kriya yoga meditation is one the many yoga methods that offers practitioners both spiritual and physical benefits.
Paramahansa Yogananda, author of "Autobiography of a Yogi," introduced Kriya yoga meditation to the West in the early 20th century. According to Yogananda's Self-Realization Fellowship, the Kriya yoga technique had been lost for centuries until Mahavatar Babaji revived it in the 19th century. Earlier descriptions of the method are mentioned by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita and in Patanjali's yoga sutras, according to Yogananda. Babaji refers to it as the "scientific technique of God-realization," that would bring harmony among nations. Yogananda describes the basic techniques in his "Autobiography;" together they make a comprehensive system.
Before beginning meditation, Yogananda teaches a number of preparation techniques to relax the body and mind, which he calls energization exercises. These use the breath and attention on a focus point. Not only does this relax you but it also helps you to draw energy into the body and circulate it through all the organs and body system. Students practice this technique for 15 minutes before moving on to the meditation techniques. Yogananda claims this preparatory exercise is an excellent method of eliminating stress and nervous tension.
The goal of this Kriya meditation technique is to develop your power of concentration. Essentially, Hong-Sau teaches you to withdraw your attention and thoughts from external distractions, such as noise and movement, so that you can focus on a problem that needs resolved or methods of achieving a goal. This is a practical use of the technique as practitioners can use it at work, or in any goal-oriented task such as losing weight. A more spiritual approach to using this technique is to direct your concentration inward to realize cosmic consciousness.
The Aum Technique and Beyond
"Aum" is thought by some to be the sound of the universe and is frequently used as a sound to meditate upon. A number of meditation techniques use words, phrases or mantras to help the practitioner turn her focus inward and still the mind. This technique trains your concentration to do just that, so that you can connect with your higher self and expand your awareness beyond the limitations of your body and mind. Other teachers have added dynamic, or moving meditation techniques to Yogananda's original methods. Some of these are best practiced by advanced Hatha yoga students as the body postures are not for beginners, according to author and lecturer Dr. John Mumford, writing for "The Journal of Yoga." The goal of these dynamic Kriya techniques is to push psychic energy up the spine.
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