The breath…

The breath is like a vehicle that takes us into the body in the present moment.

— Thich Nhat Hanh

This quote sometimes comes to mind at the beginning of yoga class when we’re just starting to move with the breath.  “Vehicle” is a potent word choice here as the breath literally transports us from one state to another—out of our thoughts and into the sensations of our bodies, here, now.

The physical practice is deeply beneficial at a purely physical level.  As Dr. Timothy McCall has noted, over 75 medical conditions have been found through scientific studies to be improved by yoga.

Perhaps even more importantly, the physical practice creates a disengagement from the mind and prepares the body/mind for meditation.  Note that, in this way, yoga is very different from the stretching you do at the gym.

For newcomers to yoga and for those who say, “my mind is too busy to meditate,” the first glimpses of quiet mind are sometimes in savasana, corpse pose—when you’re laying on your back in a state of relaxation at the end of yoga class.  

In these moments of quietude or openings into stillness, you’re imprinting a meditative experience in your body-mind.  Over time, those repeated imprints, called “samskaras” in yoga, create a shift that enables an easeful opening into meditation.