12 Ways to Meditate Like a Real Yogi

Via Ramesh Bjonnes
on Aug 6, 2010
get elephant's newsletter

Why do so few American yogis practice meditation? And, if they do, why do they often practice Buddhist meditation?  Why do so few American yogis know how to practice the meditation techniques Patanjali wrote about in the Yoga Sutras?

American yogis may know the philosophy of Asthanga Yoga; they may have read the Yoga Sutras many times, but when they want to learn meditation, they often end up learning Buddhist meditation. Why?

Because very few American yoga teachers know how to teach the meditation techniques Patanjali outlined in the Yoga Sutras.

Also, the Yoga Sutras is not an instruction manual in meditation.

The meditation techniques integral to the eight limbs of Patanjali’s Asthanga Yoga are still largely taught personally and for free by a guru in the old Tantric fashion. Very few yoga teachers in the West knows how to teach Asthanga Yoga, because they largely know how to teach only one of the eight limbs of Asthanga Yoga, namely asanas, or yoga postures.

Here is a list of the most common and classical meditation styles integral to Asthanga Yoga, Kriya Yoga or Tantra Yoga. This list is not an instruction manual, but it gives you a brief overview of how they are practiced and what some of their benefits are.

1) Sadhana: a general Sanskrit term for spiritual practice or meditation. Sadhana means  to make an effort, sustained spiritual endeavor, spiritual practice. In a sense, this term is synonymous with the English word meditation and may refer to many different practices; the whole shebang of yogic meditation styles.

2) Dhyana Mantra: A Sanskrit verse listing the attributes of a deity and used to visualize that deity in meditation.

3) Pranayama: the process of controlling or regulating the breath or prana and thereby increase concentration and intuition.

Hatha Yoga pranayama is generally performed without fixing the mind in a certain chakra and without Dhyana or repetition of a mantra.

Yudhistira pranayama, which is commonly performed in Tantra, is performed while concentrating on a chakra, repeating a mantra and ideating on Supreme Consciousness/God/Sprit. Pranayama is the fourth limb of Asthanga Yoga.

4) Pratyahara: a yogic practice of withdrawing the mind from the physical senses and the mind itself in order to experience deep concentration and peace during meditation.

Pratyahara is the fifth limb of Asthanga Yoga.

In Tantra Yoga there are three forms of Pratyahara:

A) Bhuta Shuddi: a process of withdrawing the mind from the external world.

B) Asana Shuddi: a process of withdrawing the mind from bodily sensations and concentrating the mind in a chakra.

C) Citta Shuddi: a process of withdrawing the mind from thoughts and meditating on a spiritual or sacred idea.

5) Dharana: concentration; fixing the mind in a certain point or chakra during meditation while repeating a mantra or performing visualization.

Dharana is the sixth limb of Asthanga Yoga.

6) Dhyana: advanced meditation; meditation on Supreme Consciousness/God/Spirit, unbroken flow of mind moving toward union with Supreme Consciousness/God/Spirit. This practice is also common in Buddhist Tantra and is the seventh limb in Patanjali’s Asthanga Yoga.

7) Chakra Niyantrana: a specific meditation technique used to control the chakras.

8) Chakra Shodana: a specific meditation technique used to purify the various chakras.

9) Madhuvidya: often termed “the sweet science; using a mantra with ideation on Supreme Consciousness/God/Spirit before performing an action, and thus making the action free of karmic reactions.

10) Madhya Sadhana: a system of Tantric meditation used to stimulate the production of amrita, an intoxicating hormone from the pineal gland.

11) Maethuna Sadhana: a system of Tantric meditation to control the kundalini energy.

12) Samadhi: the final result of meditation; absorption of the mind in Supreme Consciousness/God/Spirit; union with same; various stages of spiritual absorption and bliss; a natural attainment and state of mind as a result of long term meditation practice; the eighth limb of Ashtanga Yoga.

The five limbs of Asthanga Yoga mentioned above represents various forms of Yogic or Tantric meditations. The three remaining limbs of Asthanga Yoga are 1) Yama (social ethics), 2) Niyama (personal ethics) and 3) Asanas (physical postures, or hatha yoga, for health, wellbeing and meditation).


About Ramesh Bjonnes

Ramesh Bjonnes is the co-founder of the Prama Institute, a holistic retreat center in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and the Director of the Prama Wellness Center, a retreat center specializing in detox by incorporating juice fasting, ayurveda, meditation and yoga to cleanse, relax and rejuvenate. Bjonnes is also a writer, yogi and workshop leader. He lived in India and Nepal in the 1980s learning directly from the traditional teachers of yoga and Tantra. He has taught workshops in many countries and is the author of Sacred Body, Sacred Spirit (InnerWorld) and Tantra: The Yoga of Love and Awakening (Hay House India). He lives and practices in an eco-village in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.


6 Responses to “12 Ways to Meditate Like a Real Yogi”

  1. Ben Ralston says:

    Hi Ramesh,

    It’s nice to see someone writing seriously and accurately, honoring the ancient tradition, whilst at the same time conveying it in a modern style. I hope you get the recognition you deserve here for that, because it’s not an easy thing to do.

    With love,


  2. Ramesh says:

    Hi Ben,

    Thank you so kindly for your comments and appreciation.

  3. Padma Kadag says:

    "American yogis may know the philosophy of Asthanga Yoga; they may have read the Yoga Sutras many times, but when they want to learn meditation, they often end up learning Buddhist meditation. Why?" Ramesh, why is buddhist meditation, this certainly encompasses many forms, so accessible? Accessible to people who are spiritual and needing a path? Your question "Why?" is obvious…if we are yoga practitioners from a hindu tantric path why do we rely on buddhist meditation which is not in keeping with a hindu tantric path? You often explain deeper meaning in terms of the "unexplained" realms of a great mystery, or divine interaction. Could buddhist meditation's accessibility not be explained in those same terms?

  4. Ramesh says:

    Padma, the most obvious answer and the main reasons is that there are many more Buddhist meditation teachers in the West than there are Yogic or Tantric meditation teachers. Yoga as parcticed in the West is by and large various forms of Hatha Yoga. In other words, physical exercise, asanas. In Buddhism, on the other hand, the main focus is meditation.

    But, asanas by itself, is not a complete form of Yoga, it is only one limb of the eight limbs of Asthanga Yoga. However, modern Yoga as practiced in the West, is mainly body-oriented, mainly asana focused. The other limbs of Yoga are not widely practiced yet. Hopefully this will change over time.

  5. […] I discovered they give you that sense of stira, which is the Sanskrit word meaning steadiness and durability. You may have heard the yoga sutra […]

  6. sean says:

    im in tears right now. youve explained so much to me. Everything is REAL! Keep meditating and we'll find our selves across the universe.