Until about last Fall, I had “meditated” a few times a week for about a year. Yeah, air quotes around “meditated.” I would lay on the floor for ten or fifteen minutes, sometimes listen to cool music. Sometimes sit in a comfortable chair. Take a longer savasana after practice. Even though there’s no technical requirements for meditation, I was pretending.
But when I entered teacher training last Fall, I took my obligation to meditate seriously. I was in for a pound with the full program, and they wanted serious effort: 30 uninterrupted minutes a day. And sitting. And no music.
The first few weeks of this, I discovered two things. One, meditation is hard. Real hard. It’s hard to sit perfectly still. Like, really, really still, not even moving my tongue or eyelids or twitching a finger.
The second thing is, it hurts. It physically hurts. My back, mostly. Now, I came into meditation with some bone problems in my back, so I figured I was stuck. As I became more curious about this, it turns out just sitting, unsupported, is painful for a lot of people.
But here’s where the asana thing comes in: during TT I also worked real hard at improving my urdhva dhanurasana – wheel pose. I practiced. I held them longer. I used a strap on my arms, blocks on the wall, anything to improve. And I did improve, until one day it felt like someone had turned a switch, and my entire back opened up. It was kind of cool, actually.
Just after that, something else happened: one day as I sat down to meditate, I aligned my spine from my tailbone up through my neck, I rolled it up and open, and it didn’t hurt. For a full 30 minutes, no pain. I was also sitting in supported virasana – hero’s pose – on a zafu, which I find helps to align my pelvis/spine better (try it!). I continue to meditate – no air quotes on this one – almost every day. Although I still have some discomfort in my back, I only find myself shifting once or twice in 30 minutes, if at all, and there’s no where near the pain I initially felt.
So there you go, a living example of how the asana practice and a meditation practice are related. Still can’t stop my eyelids from twitching, though.