Both in the Body and in the Mind

From the introduction to Freeing the Body, Freeing the Mind: Writings on the Connections between Yoga & Buddhism edited by Michael Stone:

Over the years, I’ve found it increasingly frustrating that Yoga is continually reduced to a body practice and Buddhism to a mind practice. This makes no sense at all. Anyone who has practiced deeply in both traditions knows that the Buddha gave attention to the body and Patanjali to the mind, and that both traditions value ethical precepts and commitments as the foundation of an appropriate livelihood.

In the Buddha’s teachings the body serves as the primary object of meditation, so we can study the universe not through books or theory but through our subjective experience. Likewise, the Yoga postures, when practiced with breathing and sensitivity, become opportunities for deep meditative insight because they are designed to calm the nervous system. This grounds us. When we move within the various poses and tune in to the internal energetic patterns of our breath, we are working with the habits of mind as well. The postures we practice in modern Yoga studios have obvious therapeutic benefits at the physiological level, but some teachers and schools seem to have forgotten that the postures also teach us how to work with the mind. And for most of us, our troubles are not simply in the body but primarily in the mind. How can we use the body to study the mind, and work with the mind through the body? By experiencing how the two are completely interrelated.

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