Rishikesh, India.

Perched on the banks of the holy River Ganges, the blissful town of Rishikesh attracts yogis, hippies, and spiritual seekers like moths to a flame. I came to this hallowed place to find peace, serenity and knowledge. Instead, I found myself.

The bustling streets of Rishikesh are a mirage. People with a shallow understanding of yoga get lost here, in the labyrinth of alleyways, market stands, river views and instagram opportunities. They’re never able to find the actual treasures that this place has to offer. But for those who are really able to dig deeper — to identify the true calling — this town becomes more than just a hippie heaven.

When I signed up for my 200 hour yoga teacher training in 2007, I had no idea that I would end up dedicating my life to yoga. More than a decade has passed since that day, but my commitment only seems to grow stronger and stronger.

I’ve seen a lot, on my journey to becoming a yoga teacher. Perhaps the most common thing I’ve noticed in my students is the dire need to twist themselves into pretzels. People like to do things that look impressive on the outside.

Unfortunately, students rarely seem to care much about meditation. Which is a great shame, since meditation is one of the most important things you can do, if you want to genuinely improve your yoga practice.

Stability

As I matured in my practice, I began to understand the multifaceted science of yoga. Instead of spending time in the yoga hall, I decided to give a boost to my meditation practice. I rolled up my yoga mat and marched up to the banks of Mother Ganges. I sat in silence in the wee hours of the night. I rose before the sun, and met its eye every morning with chants of OM and other mantras. Within days, I noticed a drastic change in my practice. I was much more stable. The centeredness was visible in my poses, and it was only a matter of time that even the most difficult ones became a cakewalk. Handstands, Headstands, Angle pose, Crow pose, the entry and the exit and the hold and the alignment — I could see it all falling into place.

Breath Control

The breath is an important factor in yogic science. I guide my yoga classes based on the timings and techniques of inhalations and exhalations. While the students follow my instructions, I am not certain if they understand them. Meditation enables us to gain a deep, intimate knowledge of the movement of our breath. The inflow and the outflow, the rise and the fall, all become clear with a tranquil approach. This deep awareness of the breath ultimately comes out in our physical yoga practice as well.

Concentration

Focus is the base upon which true yogis build their altars. In order to build a house of cards, the key is to master focus, determination, and patience. Following a yoga sequence, engaging the breath, gaze, and, locks, is like building a house of cards. Meditation can help in this regard. By bringing our awareness inward, and drawing it to a fixed point in the body, the mind creates a space, and practicing yoga poses becomes smoother. The blurring lines as we move in and out of the asanas clears up with increased focus and concentration.

While yoga makes us aware of our bodies, meditation introduces us to our minds. Meditation enables us to generate patience, control our breathing, increase focus, and work on our stability. All of these benefits directly enable us to excel in our physical practice as well.