Yoga for Attaining the State of Mindfulness

Yoga for Attaining the State of Mindfulness

Gitanjali Roy
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8682-2.ch017
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Mental peace, inner peace, and spiritual enlightenment are often emphasized in ancient scriptures for the holistic development of man. Every culture and religion of the world teaches, preaches, and practices these virtues for a vertical development of love and restating the brotherhood in society. Yoga and Mindfulness are two prominent and popular practices to achieve the good values and virtues. These two practices are dissected by philosophers, researchers, and physicians to the threshold only to conclude that the effects are inevitably gainful. This chapter brings together yoga and mindfulness on same page to show their complementary relationship. Here are mentioned few challenges and issues that both the practices have to face often.
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Since ages, almost all ancient scriptures emphasize the acquisition of mental peace, inner peace as life goals and suggest various paths for its attainment. Irrespective of the origin of the oldest and common religions of the world, gurus (central figure) portrayed their struggling, fighting, preaching and practicing peace. Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism or Mazdyasna and Buddhism emphasizes on peace and non-violence. If one prepares a Venn diagram using the values preached in each religion, the common value shared by all religions will be 'peace'. To attain peace, meditation is commonly practiced and suggested. Of these religions, Hinduism and Buddhism have different types of meditation- Yoga and mindfulness respectively are the most common meditational practices in current times.

Found about 2600 years ago in Buddhist philosophy, mindfulness is now a popular meditational practice in neurophysiology and psychology literature. Kabat-Zinn (1994) defined it as non-judgemental attention to the present moment; and the main techniques to practice the core of mindfulness are meditation, mental body scan, and breathe watching and mindfulness yoga (Kabat-Zinn 2003). According to Tang and Posner (2013) different mindfulness skills converge to a common goal i.e. being in the state of awareness and placidity of the phenomenological field. This meditational practice requires a conscious acceptance by one of the present conditions or situation, both behavioural and mental. Numerous research in mindfulness provides pieces of evidence for its effectiveness in emotion regulation (Chambers, Gullone, & Allen 2009; Geschwind et al., 2011; Mathew et al., 2010; Nyklícek & Kuijpers, 2008; Zhang et al., 2019), enhancing happiness and satisfaction (Davidson et al., 2003; Ivanovski & Malhi, 2007; Shapiro, Schwartz, & Bonner, 1998), reduce anxiety, depression and experience equanimity (Baer et al., 2006), reduce addiction (Bowen et al., 2006) and increase cognitive abilities (Brefczynski-Lewis et al., 2007; Jha, Krompinger, & Baime, 2007; Low et al., 2008; McCracken & Yang, 2008; Ortner, Kilner, & Zelazo, 2007; Tang et al., 2007). According to Schoenberg and Barendregt (2016) mindfulness involves a fine-tuning of attention to dismantle mental processes into basic constituents and observe this dismantling from a distant ego. They have used Vipassana as a synonym for Mindfulness (Schoenberg & Barendregt, 2016). Mindfulness or Vipassana meditation involves observing the abdominal breathing movement to bring attention focused on abdominal movements. The practitioners are required to meditate for 13-14 hours a day with stipulated time for other activities such as mealtime etc. (Schoenberg & Barendregt, 2016). Mindfulness meditation manifests discipline and concentration in lifestyle and actions. Insight emerges once the discipline and concentration are developed in behavioural, cognitive and emotional levels of individuals. Schoenberg & Barendregt (2016) structured the advancing of mindfulness meditation (according to discipline, concentration and insight) into levels for better functionality. The first, second and third levels are discipline levels that require a restriction of physical output, mental output, avoidance of any distractions through persistence (Schoenberg & Barendregt, 2016). As a result, this process developed concentration and mindful observation of actions and thoughts, thus ensues insight i.e. awareness of what, how and why of happenings. The above study claims a heightened resolution of observation of internal or external stimulus as the emergence of equanimity and established an empirical baseline with neurophysiologic markers. Hölzel et al. (2011) proposed four effective compositions of mindfulness namely, attention regulation on the chosen object, body awareness, regulation of emotional reactions and changing perception about self. They found these four components similar to “SatipatthanaSutta” in the Theravada Buddhist scriptures (Hölzel et al., 2011). Davis and Hayes (2012) review several articles on mindfulness and concluded various benefits for both people in health and ill-health, and psychologists.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Equanimity: When a person has a calm state of mind in different situations such as failure, success, emotional pains, etc.

Yoga: An Ancient Vedic lifestyle that aims to promote physical, psychological, and spiritual wellbeing. The yoga is propounded by Maharshi Patanjali in an ancient Indian scripture, Yoga Sutra.

Mindfulness: Awareness that stems from attending the present moment in a non-judgmental and accepting manner. Its roots are in Buddhist philosophy, later furnished and popularised as a practice by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Chitta-Vritti-Nirodham: This is the first verse mentioned in Yoga sutra by Maharshi Patanjali indicating the core aim of yoga. Chitta is the mind, soul, consciousness that needs to be freed [nirodham] from disturbing or distracting entities [vritti].

Emotional Regulation: Is controlling the emotional state of self by regulating anger, anxiety, sadness and focusing on positive emotions.

Sadhak: Any individual who practices yoga regularly and dons it as lifestyle.

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