Meditation refers to any of a family of practices in which the practitioner trains his or her mind or self-induces a mode of consciousness in order to realize some benefit. The earliest clear references to meditation in Hindu literature are in the middle Upanishads and the Mahabharata, which includes the Bhagavad Gita. According to Gavin Flood, the earlier Brihadaranyaka Upanishad refers to meditation when it states that "having becoming calm and concentrated, one perceives the self (ātman) within oneself".
The practices of Yoga help one to control the mind and senses so the ego can be transcended and the true self (atman) experienced, leading to moksha or liberation. According to Patañjali's Ashtanga yoga practice includes ethical discipline (Yamas), rules (Niyamas), physical postures (Asanas), breath control (Pranayama), withdrawal from the senses (Pratyahara), one-pointedness of mind (Dharana), meditation (Dhyana), and eventually Samadhi, which is often described as the union of the Self (Atman) with the omnipresent (Brahman), and is the ultimate goal of all Hindu Yogis.
The influential modern proponent of Hinduism who first introduced Eastern philosophy to the West in the late 19th century, Swami Vivekananda, describes meditation as follows:
It is difficult to understand the nature of our mind and control over it’s journey because it has no physical existence. It is subtle and distinct from the body and organs. The mind can multiply or divide the strength of our body and it also interconnects the ‘Self’ with the body. Dhyan is the study of attaining the complete control over our mind through deep concentration and calmness. Dhyan is a way of life. Dhyan means cessation of the thought process and releasing the mind from scattered thoughts. When the mind has been trained to remain fixed on a certain internal or external location, there comes to it the power of flowing in an unbroken current, as it were, towards that point. This state is called dhyana. When one has so intensified the power of dhyana as to be able to reject the external part of perception and remain meditating only on the internal part, the meaning, that state is called Samadhi..
Meditation can heal both body and mind. Various physical benefits include improvement in breathing, decreased stress level and blood pressure. It also leads to deeper level of relaxation and builds self-confidence. Studies have found a direct correlation between meditation and the performance level of activities. Meditation strengthens the mind; it comes under control and is able to provide effective guidance to the physical body to effectively execute all its projects.