Should I do meditation before or after yoga? This is a question I was asked recently. Let’s try to offer an answer.
Meditation or yoga first? What most of us do
We have a very deeply rooted idea that comfort should come after effort, or that stillness is linked to either a substance or an activity. Because of that, many people run because they feel good after running. Which translates to feeling tired enough for them not be overwhelmed by their thoughts.
Most yoga classes will first get you to practice asanas to finally end by a meditation (most of the time lying down on the floor). Finally, after having focused on our body for an hour, after having stretched it, we can finally relax a bit as we are too tired to fight that feeling. According to that model, a calm body leads to a calm mind.
Many people also think that cigarettes, drinks, or food help them to calm down. It is always the same thing. Cigarettes, drinks, running, yoga, and meditation (if you believe meditation is something that you do) are seen as tools to find Stillness. But is there another way?
Meditation is doing NO THING
The examples above are based on the idea of a body and a mind. And most importantly, on the idea that Stillness is a state that can be reached by doing something. Either getting our body tired or controlling our mind.
But meditation is not something that you do to control your mind. Meditation is doing NO THING, or not doing ANY THING. If you meditate, if you listen carefully, you might experience the fact that this Stillness is always present. That the very simple fact of doing something to reach it is actually what takes you away from it. Doing something to achieve that would be like being in your living room and thinking that you need to walk back home.
This Stillness is present before you start your run, during your run and after your run. It is present when you enter the room where you practice yoga, present when you do a back bend and present at the end of your session. Present before you light up your cigarette, while you are smocking and after. Not seeing it is a lack of perspective. That Stillness lies within each of us.
Because of that, I would offer you another possibility. I would sit down calmely and meditate until I have a deep tactile sensation of stillness in my body. Let me insist on that: I would sit down calmely and listen until silence seems to have a texture in my body. I wouldn’t sit with the idea to relax my mind or to relax my body. I would sit down until I feel, until I know, that I am operating both my body and my mind from that stillness.
And now I can do yoga
Once you feel that your whole body is filled with consciousness, I would start moving. Very slowly. Let say you decide to raise your right arm first. The accent would not be placed on the arm. Instead of that, the accent would still be on the silence, on the space in which the sensation of the arm appears. And when a tension appears, when a defence makes you feel like you are separated from the silence, I would come back a bit, and start again from a still point. Again and again, until I can clearly see that there is no separation anymore. And at this point, I would go a bit further.
This is a whole different kind of yoga. It is not a yoga for you to be more relaxed. Not a yoga to make you stonger. But if you have realised that the Stillness is your natural state and not something to achieve, then it might be the only yoga you feel like practicing. I apply the same principle to my osteopathy when I hold space for a baby.
About Jules RampalMeditation teacher and osteopath
I am an online meditation teacher and an osteopath currently working in Cavan, Ireland. My courses are for people who want to learn meditation with guided sessions, and for therapists who want to delve into the way they feel and the knowledge they can gather for their clients.
Learn more about me here