Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What is yoga?

Most of you have probably heard that yoga means to "yoke" and it is the union of mind, body and spirit. Did you know that yoga has been around for over 5,000 years? OK, that's great. What does it all mean?

The intent of Yoga Practice for many is to reap from its physical benefits, but as people further their practice they often find awareness within. I also benefit from the spiritual sides of Yoga, such as meditation, pranayama (breathing) and even bettering myself in hope to live more harmoniously with myself and others.

The 8 Limbs of Yoga (Yoga Sutras) are considered to be the most organized and complete definition of the discipline, allowing the Yoga Practice to extend beyond the mat and to be carried into daily living. So the physical practice (the postures or asanas) is only 1/8 of yoga. Imagine how much you're missing out on, if you're only doing the physical postures in class!! But that's OK, we're all on our own path..slowly but surely we will all get there!! Here are the 8 limbs of yoga:

1. Asana: Physical postures that you do in class (Warrior I, Trikonasana, etc)
2. Dharana: Unbending concentration of mind (focus).
3. Dhyana: Profound meditation.
4. Yama: Five behavior patterns or relationships between the individual and the outside world:
a. Ahimsa: Harmlessness.
b. Satya: Truthfulness.
c. Asteya: Non-stealing.
d. Brahmacharya:Sense-control
e. Aparigraha: Neutralizing the desire to acquire and hoard
5. Niyama: Five rules for personal observation – attitude we adopt towards ourselves:
a. Sauca: Cleanliness – Externally and internally (clarity of mind)
b. Samtosa: Modesty and being content with what we have.
c. Tapas: Keeping the body fit and healthy. Paying attention to eating habits, good posture, breathing patterns. Not eating unless we feel hungry.
d. Svadhyaya: Get close to ourselves, study ourselves to make ourselves better. Centering ourselves through meditation.
e. Isvarapranidhana: "To lay all your actions at the feet of God." We should accept the fact that we will not always get everything we want. Sometimes we get disappointed. Things do go wrong. We have done our share. We have done the best we could under the circumstances. We can leave the rest to a higher power.
6. Pranayama: Measure and control of breath to relax and balance the body.
7. Pratyahara: Withdrawal of the senses from attachment to external objects.
8. Samadhi: Unconscious state of bliss. When we succeed in becoming so absorbed in something that our mind becomes completely one with it, we are in a state of Samadhi. Samadhi means "to bring together, to merge."
Do share your comments or questions below...

Blessings and Namaste,
Anna

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