Ask Roe About Life
Yoga is Science
“The practice and study of Yoga should include immersion and study of the entirety of the Eight Limbs of Yoga.”RCS
In Western Culture, ‘Yoga’ is defined as what we do for 75 minutes on our sticky mat. In reality, (and Sanskrit) those poses are known Asana and are third down the line in the Teachings of The Eight Limbs of Yoga. Each Limb being just as important as the next, and each builds upon one another to truly take you from a yoga class participant to a Yoga Practitioner.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga are defined by the Sanskrit word ‘Ashtanga’ meaning Eight Limbs. There is an Asana which means ‘Eight Limbs Salutation’ called Ashtanga Namaskara, a pose you may know as knees, chest chin; which is an excellent warm-up before Chaturanga Dandasana, or 4 limbed staff pose. WHAT? Yes, I know, Yoga is complicated, but so are people. Which is why Yoga is the perfect compliment for everyone in some way or another.
“Yoga is the Journey of the Self, Through the Self and to the Self “~ Bhagavad Gita.Bhagavad Gita
Yoga dates back 5000 years, its origins rooted in India, along with its Sister Science Ayurveda. Yes, Yoga is Science. It is described as a state of equilibrium. The word Yoga means “Yoke” or ‘Unite” – the Union between body, mind, and consciousness. Each flow of movement in unison with our breath helps us balance ourselves, and begin to find ways to maintain that balance as our daily life shifts.
The original and ancient purpose of Yoga was to become still enough to meditate, Hatha Yoga is designed for this specific purpose. In the modern world, we have taken Yoga to different types of practices: Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Bikram, Iangeyr, Yin, and Aerial, to name a few. By bringing in various forms of Yoga, we in the Western world have found a way to embrace this Ancient Method of Healing, but have become lost as to its authentic value and meaning.
Patanjali, the “Father of Modern Yoga,” is believed to have written the Yoga Sutras as a way to bring together a cohesive understanding of this practice. According to the Yoga Sutras, ‘Asana’ means posture as well as mood or Mudra. To be seated in a position that is steady but relaxed. Mudra is a symbolic hand gesture or seal that can help produce joy, happiness, calm, and power, to name a few. Mudra is a potent gesture of self-truth.
“Asana is that which brings steadiness and happiness. It is the third step in the perfection of Yoga.” ~ PatanjaliThe Yoga Sutras
Understanding The 8 Limbs of Yoga
The First Limb – Yama – Moral Restraints
Yamas are the ethical codes we should observe when interacting with those around us. Yamas area guideline for the way we should act and conduct ourselves around others. Yamas are about respect for self and respect for others. Following the Yamas should be a no brainer, they are basically The Golden Rule subdivided:
“Do unto to others as you would have them do unto you.”The Golden Rule
Satya – Truth
Asteya – Non-Stealing
Brahmacharya – Non-Indulgence
Aparigraha – Non-Possessiveness
The Second Limb – Niyama – Spiritual Observances
Niyamas or our Spiritual Observances take on self-discipline rituals that keep you connected to your practice. These Observances are to help us transcend and become more self-aware. Practicing Niyamas gives a sense of accomplishment because it is practiced for purity to help you into a liberated state of being.
Saucha – Cleanliness
Santosha – Contentment
Tapas – Self-Discipline
Svadyhaya – Study-of-Self
Ishvara Pranidad – Surrender to The True Self
The Third Limb – Asana – Posture or Seat
Asana is the postures or seat we take in our 75-minute yoga class. This is the physical practice that gives us our healthy bodies. Notice how it is third down the list and after our moral and spiritual observances. These postures were created initially to help hold your Sukasana or ‘Easy Seat’ for meditation, but have evolved into modern Yoga, with physical benefits overtaking the emotional, mental, and spiritual benefits. The art of combining the flow of breath with movement and strength is the place where we begin to truly feel our practice taking shape because we have tangible evidence of the power of Yoga through our bodies.
The Fourth Limb – Pranayama – Life Force
Life Force is our breath. Breath in Sanskrit is known as Pranayama or ‘Life Force,’ Prana meaning ‘energizing life force’ and Yama meaning ‘extension.’ The practice of Yoga specifically Pranayama slows down the breath and the heart rate, thus extending the life and the finite amount of breaths we are all allotted. Using Pranayama in other ways can speed up the heart rate, as in a power yoga class, but the intent was never to be “in shape” but rather strong enough within the body to maintain stillness.
“Don’t speak until you can improve upon the silence. Don’t move until you can improve upon the stillness.”AMDA 1998
The Fifth Limb – Pratyahara – Sensory Transcendence
Withdrawing of senses is when you begin to become one with the breath and movement, and things seem to flow seamlessly. Pratya means ‘control of ahara,’ and ahara means ‘gaining mastery over external influences.’ That just sounds delicious, doesn’t it? This is our first glimpse at self-love because we get to see inside our true selves and make a conscious choice to feed our current needs of blending breath with the body to free the mind.
The Sixth Limb – Dharana – Concentration
To rid the mind of internal distractions. Pratyahara helps us free the mind of outside distractions, but what about the laundry, dinner, your weekend plans, is that a bug on the window? Hello…., thoughts in yoga class. This is the place where over-thinking comes in, and everyone says, “I can’t sit still and do yoga, it’s too slow.” Yes, this part is to help you slow down. This is where you prepare for mediation and begin to focus on a single point.
The Seventh Limb – Dhyana – Meditation
Being aware without focus or Contemplation – deep reflective thought, but these thoughts are without borders. The goal is to eventually free the mind of all thought and just to be one with the moment of your divine self. This is not the easiest of tasks, but any moments free of outside distraction is enlightening. Lots of things happen during meditation, including conscious thoughts, but don’t let those thoughts be a deterrent, just learn to be.
“Be Here Now” Ram DaasBe Here Now by Ram Daas
The Eighth Limb – Samadhi – Nirvana or Bliss
Patanjali described this Limb of Ashtanga as a state of ecstasy. In this state, the practitioner has fully merged with the point of focus and transcends the self. The state of knowing that you are interconnected with all living things, and the divine gift that this is.
So how does all of this fit onto your yoga mat with you? In your ever-expanding mind, consciousness, and your eternal spirit; You have room for all of this to fit inside your body, because you are an infinite evolving being. All these extraordinary things need to make their way into your body for a genuine connection with The Self.
Let’s begin with the physical benefits of Yoga:
Move with more ease/less physical pain
Calming of the Mind
The mind can and will wander. If you’re an insomniac, the practice of Yoga can help you utilize the same tools on the mat as off the mat to get some rest.RCS
According to Ayurvedic Science, all sickness begins in the ethereal body, which is our Aura or energy globe. Through proper maintenance of nutrition, physical movement, mental control, and breath control, we can shape our thoughts and feelings to help us work toward acheiving a chill flow of life. Or at least moments that feel chill. Keeping those moments and extending those moments come directly from the practice of yoga.
I often say that how you look is how you feel, but it is so much more than that. This practice and all of its limbs bring you together as a being of light and love.
You can practice your religion and Yoga, as Yoga is not religious. The practice of Yoga can make you more devout in your beliefs and bring your spiritual growth to higher levels.
You can simply start at the beginning and find the balance you need at the moment. Remember, as we evolve, life shifts, as will our practice and the aspects of it that we choose to focus on.
People are all at different levels, be okay with the level you are at and when it is time, you will move forward. This practice really helps you live life at your pace, and balance out stress when things go too fast. Yoga will benefit everyone, always.
One of the best aspects of a yoga practice is the community of like-minded individuals who come together to practice. Each class has new and familiar faces, as the community grows, so does the positive energy. This is what each yoga studio strives to create, a community where you can come together and flourish. Classes should be designed with the community in mind, and change as the the group evolves.
Yoga, specifically Asana, should be a gathering, a celebration. You should happily anticipate each Sadhana (Daily Practice) and leave the class with a renewed sense of self. You literally should feel good in a mind, body, spirit capacity. Pay attention to how you feel after certain yoga classes, it will say a lot about the direction of your practice.
The Yoga Class
Let’s be brutally honest, many yoga teachers, depending upon where they’ve received their certification, do not focus on much other than Asana during a yoga class. Especially gym yoga. Ugh, gym yoga is a waste of your time and money.
Anyone who teaches gym yoga is merely following a chart of Vinyasa flow with little to no change. Surya Namaskar A & B are fine for a warm up, but should never be your only class choice as a teacher.
I made the mistake of hiring a gym yoga teacher for 6 am classes, Although you would sweat, everyone always complained to me that they had gotten hurt, because the teacher was following a gym yoga chart, not coming up with a planned class, a theme or anything that would have been actual Yoga. People buy that for a while, but stepping into an authentic yoga studio, you realize that kind of teaching is hollow and has nothing to do with the 8 Limbs of Yoga.
Students will notice the difference in classes, but many are blissfully unaware that they should leave a yoga class with much more than they came in with. Yoga is not to push people so hard during a class that the movement feels wrong. Yoga is about building up the confidence of the student, within themselves, using breath, flow, and dharma talk. Nothing should feel impossible in your yoga class.
Your practice should feel, safe and secure. You should become flexible, and perfectly capable of even the most physically & mentally challenging classes, if your teacher sets you up and guides you properly. You should literally feel like you’re flying at the end of each class.
The 8 Limbs of Yoga are a beautiful blend of philosophies that are a complete mind body spirit system of bliss. A bit of all of this should be part of each yoga class.
There are nothing but benefits to becoming a serious Yoga Practitioner. It’s always the right time to begin a practice. Find a local studio and begin the greatest journey within yourself.