IAYT Media Review – Meditation in the Yoga Tradition
The best practice is the one that suits you best-is a theme T that chimes throughout Nischala Joy Devi’s (E-RYT 500, C-IAYT) most recent book, Meditation in the Yoga Tradition. In the absence of dogma, the author presents an uncomplicated, heart-centered approach to meditation. Applying her cornucopia of experience as a teacher and meditator, Devi uses the Yoga Sutras and meditation scripts to guide the reader in the an of meditation.
This book touches on some of the major philosophical underpinnings of yoga, including the eight-fold path of Patanjali. The simplicity of Devi’s discussions offers the beginning student a door-way into ideas that can often be weighty and difficult to comprehend. I particularly enjoyed her distinction between the experiences of dharana, dhyana, and samadhi:
[These stages] are not practices in themselves, but states that blossom through the nurturing practices that preceded them. The Yoga Sutras define these three distinct phases of meditation that exhibit a quantitative rather than qualitative difference. The same attention and awareness that is present in Dharana (contemplation) is also brought to Dhyana (meditation) and the lower states of Samtufhi (Union with the Divine). The dif-ferent phases are determined by the length of time our con-sciousness is able to remain engaged within.
Her distinction between these stages continues to draw from the Yoga Sutras while finding clear language to explain complex teachings.
Later discussions on the characteristic of consciousness (buddhi, manas, and ahamkara—intellect, memory, and identity) support the reader in understanding that meditation helps us to see how consciousness operates through the mind and how this makes meditation “a tool for total transformation.”
The breath, pranayama, and other tools of meditative focus are explored along with scripts for invoking meditative experiences. These many scripts can be read to clients or used to inspire ideas and options for client-specific meditations. They can also be read aloud and recorded for later use in self-guided practice.
Devi shares that traditional practices may not be for everyone and offers two suggestions for selecting an object of focus to assist in finding the way to higher consciousness: “First, choose something that will elevate the heart and mind just by invoking its presence. And second, choose something that you love dearly and embrace it fully in your heart.”
Meeting clients where they are is further demonstrated in the section titled “Does One Need a Teacher or a Gum?” This section was a highlight, but I would have welcomed an entire chapter exploring this topic. Here Devi speaks of traditional ideas around the importance of the guru and the value of having a guide. She juxtaposes this with an echo of the teachings of the Yoga Sutras, acknowledging that progress can occur without the external guru: “The teacher of all teachers, the guru of all gurus, is knowledge, wisdom, and love, boundless, eternal, pure, and unchanged by time.” The section concludes with a valuable inquiry script for exploring our individual relationship to internal and external gurus.
Meditation in the Yoga Tradition is a user-friendly introduction to meditation through the lens of yoga. I imagine that yoga therapists will find the variety of scripts invaluable in creating meditations that will best suit clients, and the entire book helpful in explaining complex philosophy.
Ellen Schaeffer, E-RYT SOO, C-IAYE founded One Yoga Center in Foster, Rhode Island in 1996. Ellen is on the faculty for the Kripalu School of Integrative Yoga Therapy and is currently enjoying the challenge of taking her private and group yoga therapy work online.