Atha yoganushasanam - In this present moment is the teaching of yoga - Patanjali's Sutras (300 B.C.E)
Yoga meaning union is the ancient practice of self-inquiry and finding harmony and balance at every level of experience. There are many different forms of yoga practices however each shares the common goal of attaining self-realization. Yoga philosophy is often misunderstood as a series of stretching techniques known in yoga as Asana or postures. Yoga is a complete science of mind, body and spirit.
Yoga is not considered as a religion, rather a path of self-mastery and aligning the physical body, breath, mind and heart with pure consciousness or universal intelligence. The practice of yoga promotes a sense of inner peace and helps remind us that our thoughts and actions direct our lives and affect the world we live and the ones we love.
THE EIGHT LIMBED PATH - ASHTANGA YOGA
The eight limbs of yoga act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life containing moral and ethical conduct as well as self-inquiry. These practices are as relevant to present day as they have been throughout millennia as they aid in deepening our relationship within and around us day-to-day, moment-to-moment.
1). Yamas - Abstinences
Ahimsa – Non violence
Ashteya – Non stealing
Bramacharya – Control of the senses
Apigraha – Non-greed
2). The Niyamas - Spiritual Observances
Saucha - Purity
Santosha - Contentment
Tapasya – Discipline
Ishwara Pranidhana - Surrender to truth
3). Asana- Yoga postures
4). Pranayama - Breath control
5). Pratyahara - Withdrawal from senses and their objects
6). Dharana - Concentration
7). Dhyana - Dissolution of subject and object
8). Samadhi – Integration/pure awareness
YOGA POSTURES - ASANA
Daily asana practice is one of the most effective forms of physical activity for regular maintenance. It provides a wealth of benefits ranging from strengthening the body including joints, vital organs and tissue systems, assisting with the removal of waste products and preventing stagnation and obstruction in the subtler channels and improving as well as increasing and maintaining flexibility. This health benefits transcend the physical acting on the mind promoting strength, clarity and flexibility with choices that we make and our response towards the external environment.
To ensure a safe yoga practice, proper guidance is essential. It is strongly recommended that if you find a well-trained yoga teacher well established in all aspects of yoga philosophy. Many contemporary western yoga schools have modified their teaching into a form of aerobics however the real rewards are gained when the physical components are redirected towards the self that encourage a more joyful purposeful life experience.