The practice of yoga is so much more than twisting your body into a pretzel on a mat. In fact it is more even then a physical activity used to keep the body in shape. Why do people practice yoga? What is the purpose of this practice that seems to have taken the western world by storm over the past few years?
The word yoga means “to come together” or to “unite”. A study of yoga will help the student unite their body, their mind and their spirit, bringing about an experience of the present moment and also a union with the greater whole. This increase in self-awareness helps bring an end to suffering as we no longer live life connected to the ego. Of course getting to this point of enlightenment and bliss can take life-times, but continual study of yoga helps one live a more peaceful and contented existence.
To work towards achieving this “oneness” a student of yoga must practice more then just the physical yoga poses, or asanas. The foundations of yoga philosophy come from ancient India and were part of a text called “The Yoga Sutras” of Patanjali. This text describes a structural framework of all of the aspects of yoga practice and divides them into 8 sections, or “limbs”. Each limb describes a very important aspect of yoga practice and only one of the eight limbs includes physical asanas! The limbs are as follows:
Yama : Universal morality
Niyama : Personal observances
Asanas : Body postures
Pranayama : Breathing exercises, and control of prana
Pratyahara : Control of the senses
Dharana : Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
Dhyana : Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
Samadhi : Union with the Divine
Through the next series of articles we will break down each of the limbs in detail and discuss how a practice of them can help the student live a more peaceful life moving closer towards “enlightenment”. Yoga philosophy is an important part of any Yoga Alliance certified yoga teacher training program, if this is of interest to you, maybe you should consider further study!
“Be where you are: Otherwise you will miss your life” Buddha