Yoga means union, unity or oneness. It is a holistic exercise for body, breath, mind and soul and a way of life..
Yoga is not just about putting your foot behind your head or sitting in lotus position nor is it just about a set of flowing movements in a hot studio. A physical yoga practice (asana) and the breathing practices (pranayama) are to build strength, suppleness and balance in our body. Yoga is about being mindful during asana practice, to work respectfully with your own body limitations, moving in a natural flow together with the breath. This is all aimed at allowing the mind to settle, to be present, to be quiet, to focus and concentrate. These are all important foundational practices to journey inwards towards meditation and inner peace.
Path of Yoga
One who follows a path of yoga is known as a yogi (male) or yogini (female).
Yoga has developed into several branches over many centuries and includes Hatha, Raja (Royal), Karma, Bhakti (Love & Devotion) and Jnana Yoga (Wisdom), and from there branches further to hundreds of individually named styles of yoga.
Each yoga teacher/class/style will have their unique characteristics and approach and I believe everyone will be able to find a yoga teacher to suit their needs.
Patanjali Yoga Sutras
One of the ancient yoga texts the ‘Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’ is known throughout the world as one of the most wonderful works of yogic spiritual literature.
Many yoga gurus and teachers apply, with guidance from their teachers, their own interpretation to the Yoga Sutras, and have done for centuries in the art and science of Yoga.
Patanjali’s teachings of ‘The Eight Limbs of Yoga’ guide us on how to live a more fulfilled, meaningful and purposeful life.
The Eight Fold Path
- Yamas – moral discipline towards others
- Ahimsa – non-violence
- Satya – truthfulness
- Asteya – non-stealing
- Brahmacharya – control of energy
- Aparigraha – non-greed
- Niyamas – moral behaviour towards oneself
- Shaucha – purity
- Samtosha – contentment
- Tapas – purification
- Svadhyaya – study of spiritual books
- lshvarapranidhanana – dedication
- Asana – posture
- Pranayama – breath
- Pratyahara – withdrawal of the Senses
- Dharana – concentration
- Dhyana – meditation
- Samadhi – bliss through union
Ahimsa – nonharming
The absence of violence or harm, instead to love ones self and others.
Ahimsa applies to our thoughts, speech and actions.
More love in action infuses us with energy for more loving action in the future.
There is no yoga without alignment and the mindful placement of our body, within movement and definitely in our asana practice/posture(s).
“Yoga is alignment” BKS Iyengar
Asana – seat
Meaning a physical posture or pose. The third limb of Patanjali’s eightfold path.
This is the limb of yoga where we find the majority of the yoga class, the physical aspect.
Although asana means ‘seat’ we move through a whole range of asanas (lateral stretches, forward & backward bends, twists, balances, inversions) to prepare our bodies to be able to sit with more ease.
The physical aspect of yoga teaches us patience, acceptance, focus, concentration, movement linked to breath, our limitations, our challenges, being present and more!
Drishti – view/gaze point
A directed focus of gaze, whilst in asana, pranayama or meditation, such as gazing at the tip of the nose, your fingers, the spot between the eyebrows…
Namaste – I bow to you
Bringing the hands together into prayer position at the heart centre signifies ‘namaste‘.
Namaste, for me, means that the inner light within me bows to the inner light within you.
Sometimes in class when a teacher says ‘namaste’ the students may respond with the same, however, remember its not necessary as the hands in prayer position represents the same.
Nature – Prakriti
Prana – life forceThe life force that sustains the body, increased through pranayama (breathing) techniques.
Yoga allows us to work on ourselves physically but within a yoga class you will be invited to work a level beneath the physical and that is our energy or prana level.
Yoga really helps us to tune into how we feel energetically and emotionally and that at the end of class we more often than not feel better than we did at the start of class.
Pranayama – breath extension or Life Force
There are many breathing practices in yoga, the fourth limb of Patanjali’s eightfold path. The conscious breath comprises four parts, the inhalation (puraka) the retention or natural pause (kumbhaka), the exhalation (recaka) and a retention or natural pause (kumbhaka).
We learn and work with our Full Yoga Breath as a foundation for all other breathing techniques of which there are many!
It is advisable to learn yoga breathing practices from an experienced yoga teacher.
In a yoga class you will learn what it is to release tension from your body, physically, mentally and emotionally.
At the beginning of class I invite the time to settle and be guided with a focus on the transition from the busy’ness of life and work etc. to become present in class.
The ancient language of yoga
The whole class is essentially developing our focus. A focus on the physical body, or the breath, or a focal point (internal or external) or a combination of them.