By Leyton Yoga, Sep 1 2016 10:45AM
What is Yoga?
The physical, mental and spiritual practice of Yoga has been practiced in Hindu and Buddhist cultures for thousands of years. The Sanskrit term yoga means “to yoke together” and speaks to yoga’s ultimate goal of uniting mind, body and spirit.
The fundamental principle that grounds all yoga practices is this: Our true nature is silent, joyful, peaceful and all-knowing. This essential truth is easily forgotten amidst the chaos and struggle of everyday life. Yoga is not a religion but an opportunity to explore and discover the vibrant, rich stillness that is in us all. As we establish this re-connection to the Self, peacefulness goes from being an occasional experience to being the core of our normal daily life, the grounding of all experience.
Modern science has revealed that yoga practices also move the body towards greater health. Yoga balances hormonal, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, regulates blood pressure, lifts depression, eases anxiety, alleviates asthma, lengthens and strengthens the muscles, reduces chronic pain, improves mobility and promotes better sleep and digestion.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga
One of the main texts within the yoga tradition is The Yoga Sutras, compiled by Patanjali around 2000 years ago. In the Sutras, Patanjali defines yoga as a tree-like philosophical system with 8 branches which grow together to form a holistic approach to peaceful, healthy living.
Ways to treat ourselves and others so we can live in generosity and abundance
• Ahimsa (non-harming, non-violence in action, thought and speech)
• Satya (commitment to truthfulness in thought and speech)
• Asteya (non-coveting and non-stealing)
• Brahmacharya (wise use of sexual energy, seeking spiritual connection to others)
• Aparigraha (non-grasping, non-hoarding, non-possessiveness)
Ways to self-nourish so we can strive towards self-improvement and personal growth
• Saucha (purity/cleanliness in body and mind)
• Santosha (contentment)
• Tapas (discipline)
• Swadhyaya (self-study and constant learning)
• Ishvarapranidhana (gratitude for or surrender to higher meaning)
Physical postures to refine inner perception and move the body and mind towards health and balance
Control of the prana (life force energy) in the body, including breathing practices
Withdrawal of the senses to focus attention inwards towards silence rather than outwards towards external objects
Unbroken concentration, to focus attention on a single action, object or thought
Sustained meditation under all conditions, a movement towards deep inner awareness
Return to original silence, an experience of wholeness and true connection
The Seven Moving Principles of Yoga Asana
Yoga asanas are postures that become vehicles for experiencing one’s own essential nature. Poses present us with an opportunity to listen deeply to our own body’s wisdom and to re-discover the joyfulness and peace that is our true nature. The goal in yoga is not necessarily to physically perfect the postures themselves, but to constantly refine and explore the spirit in which we practice them.
In Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit, Donna Farhi describes 7 principles or lines of self-inquiry to help us refine our concentration in each asana so that we may practice asana safely in a spirit of self-discovery, finding deeper inner meaning every time we come to our mats.
Let the breath move you
Yield to the Earth, balancing weight and levity
Move from the naval centre out the limbs and beyond into space
Elongate the spine to maintain its integrity
Establish the foundation of the posture from the ground up
Create clear lines of force through the body which create ease and comfort within effort
Support each pose with the muscles and breath
Return the mind to the original silence
“Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit” by Donna Farhi
“Light on Yoga” by BKS Iyengar
“Light on Life” by BKS Iyengar