WHAT IS YOGA
Yoga is much more than a physical practice.
Through the practice of yoga we learn to connect the body, fluctuations of the
mind, and the rhythm of the breath. Connecting the mind, body and breath helps
us to focus inward and become aware of habitual thought patterns without
judgment. We become more attuned to our moment to moment experiences.
Ashtanga Yoga comes from the teachings and philosophy of Patanjali. It is
thought that Patanjali complied the Yoga Sutra's around the 3rd or 4th century
BC. The Yoga Sutra's contain 196 surtas and serve as a guidebook on the
practice of yoga.
THE EIGHT LIMBS OF YOGA
The eight principles found in the Yoga Sutra's of Patanjali serve as a
doctrine to yoga as well as a moral and ethical guidebook to living a
meaningful life. These guidelines do not imply that anyone is bad or wrong
based on behavior, but rather that when we choose a specific behavior we get
certain results. The Yoga Sutras serve as a manual for attaining mental and
personal freedom and Samadhi. In Samadhi all mental fluctuations are inhibited
and one is in a meditative concentration leading to an experience of oneness
The first limb of Ashtanga yoga, Yama, looks at
ethical standards of how we live our lives. Yamas are restraints that we place
on our self, a essential self-discipline to propel us towards the actualization
of our dharma or life's purpose. The yamas are broken into five practices of
The first yama, Ahimsa, is non-violence. Ahimsa refers to living in
such a way that causes as little harm as possible, this applies not only to
physical violence but also to the violence of thoughts, words or actions. To
practice Ahimsa is to be conscious of our thoughts and intentions in our daily
The second yama, Satya or truth is about slowing down our speech and
carefully choosing our words so that they agree with the first yama, ahimsa.
It's only when we have intended to act from non-violence can our words reflect
truth or satya.
The third yama, Asteya, or non-stealing, in the obvious sense is
interpreted as not taking things from another without permission. In a less
obvious sense Asteya refers to taking only what you need, and avoiding greed.
Greed can stem from a feeling that we are lacking. When we internalize that we
have everything we need in this moment can be really practice Asteya.
The fourth yama Brahmacharya, has to do with sexual conduct. When we
practice Brahmacharya, the intentions of our sexuality are spiritual and
conscious. Our sexuality supports our inner selves rather than deplete us.
Aparigraha, the fifth yama tells us to avoid greed. Aparigraha is
different from Asteya, that reminds us to avoid stealing that is motivated by a
greed steaming from a sense that we are lacking. Aparigraha is greed that
steams from jealously. Jealously means that we are resentfully or painfully
desirous of another's advantages. We become resentful of and long for what
another has. Aparigraha helps us discover our self, so that we no longer feel
the need to desire what someone else has, or be what someone else is.
The second limb of Patanjali's Ashtanga yoga is Niyama. The Sanskrit word Niyama translates as
observance and are rules of conduct that apply to individual and
self-discipline. It is through the study of yamas that we learn restraint and
what actions to avoid. It is through the study of the niyamas that we learn to
cultivate the attitudes and behaviors that contribute to eliminating personal
Saucha translates into cleanliness and purity. Saucha reminds us to
become conscious of our intentions. Through awareness can we practice sincerity
and purity of our thoughts, words and actions.
Santosha is the practice of contentment. Embracing contentment means
accepting each and every experience as it is without attempting to change it.
To attain peace of mind is to find contentment within, as our external
environment is constantly changing beyond our control. Through the practice of
yoga we learn to cultivate Santosha. We learn to become content and at ease in
the midst of difficulty.
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Tapas or austerity comes from the Sanskrit word tap which means to
burn. Tapas means burning the impurities from the mental and physical through
self-discipline. Self-discipline, study of true-self and devotion are yoga in
practice. Tapas is consistency in the practice of the eight-fold path. Through
Tapas we learn to develop consistency in all our goals.
Svadyaya or self-study is being aware of our thoughts, words and
inner-dialogue. To practice svadyaya we begin to rid ourselves of the illusion
of separation from our true self, from others and the world around us. We
practice self-inquiry and also study of the sacred texts of the world such as
the Yoga Sutras and sacred literature of the world.
Ishvara-Pranidhana is about humbling one's self and surrendering the
fruits of one's action to a higher good. To practice ishvara-pranidhana is to
act with our best intentions and commitment and to let go of our attachment to
a practical outcome. To really live presently is to let go of our expectation
of what should be.
The third and most well-known limb of Ashtanga yoga is Asana or the physical postures of yoga. Asanas should be
practiced mindfully connecting movement with breath while observing the mind.
Through the practice of asana develops discipline, concentration and awareness
of the body. The physical practice of yoga not only gives us a strong body but
frees us from physical aliments and mental distractions.
Pranayama, the fourth limb, is breath control,
and is different than normal breathing. Prana means "breath" and yama
means "pause". During pranayama three processes are regulated,
exhalation (rechaka), suspension (kumbhaka), and inhalation (puraka) to
establish control over the nervous system and mind. Pranayama techniques range
from the simple to the advanced. Pranayama will play an important role in your
yoga practice and can restore energy and relax the mind and body.
Pratyahara, the fifth limb, focuses on
withdrawal of the senses. During pratyahara we consciously bring our awareness
away form the external world and direct attention inwardly. When focusing
consciousness inward we can objectively observe our habits and thoughts.
The sixth limb, Dharana is the ability to focus
the mind's attention on one thing. Dharana allows us to slow down thinking and
is often taught by focusing one's attention on a mantra, silent repetition of
sound, an idea or image. We learn to extend the length of concentration
eventually leading to the next limb of Dhyana (meditation).
The seventh limb, Dhyana, is the practice of
meditation. Learning to meditate is a technique that allows for control of
one's mind leading to a feeling of inner calm.
Samadhi, a state of meditative union with the
Absolute and self-realization, is the eight limb of ashtanga yoga. Patanjali
refers to the final stage as one of ecstasy. When the mediator engages with the
object of meditation, the mediator is no longer conscious of herself, because
the mind is totally engaged and identified with the object of meditation; the
knower, the known, and the knowledge become one. The mediator experiences a
deep sense of connectedness with all living things and a sense of being at one
with the universe. The final practice is one when we sit in a place of pure
WHERE DOES YOGA COME FROM?
- Yoga was initially communicated in Sanskrit, the Indo-European language of
- Indias ancient religious texts gave birth to the literature and the
techniques of yoga.
- Yoga comes from out of an oral tradition: the teaching was transmitted
from teacher to student.
- Patanjali has been credited with taking the oral teachings and putting
them in written form.
- The work is called the The Yoga Sutras, which provide a philosophical
guidebook for dealing with the challenges of being human.
- The Yoga Sutras provide the framework which all yoga practices today are
WHAT DOES HATHA MEAN?
- "Ha" meaning (Sun)
- "Tha" meaning (Moon)
- We have the common interpretation of Hatha Yoga as "Union of the
Pairs of Opposite"
- A more technical translation of hatha yoga is "Determined
THE ROOTS OF YOGA
- Root yuj meaning to hitch up
- To put to active and purposeful use
- Yoke, join, or concentrate
- Hence yoga has come to describe a means of uniting or a method of
THE PATHS OF YOGA
- Bhakti Yoga
- Jnana Yoga
- Karma Yoga
- Raja Yoga
- Tantra Yoga
- Kriya Yoga