Yoga has become a house hold name in the United States and is typically understood as a physical studio practice. There are many different varieties of Yoga in the west serving many different personalities. Vinyasa (sequence/flow) Yoga appears to be the most popular where students flow from one posture to the next to the sound of music. Some other types of yoga include: Kundalini, Iyengar, Ashtanga, Ananda, Karma, and Hatha. Most studio yoga unless otherwise noted will be practicing some form of vinyasa. ex: Yin, restorative, power, core, flow, aerial, acro, silks, etc.
What is Yoga Asana?
Yoga means “Union” and Asana means “Seat” or more recently “Posture”. Let’s look at the larger context of the Yogic system to understand why we practice asanas. Yoga is a scientific system to experience inner God-Union (Samadhi). In Patanjali’s Astanga Yoga system (no to be confused with the “Ashtanga Set”) there are 8 limbs of Yoga.
- Yamas (Self-Restraints or Self-Controls)
- Ahimsa – Non-violence
- Satya – Truthfulness
- Asteya – Non-stealing
- Brahmacharya – Chastity (Non-lust)
- Aparigraha – Non-possessiveness
- Niyamas (Positive Duties or Observances)
- Shaucha – Cleanness of Mind
- Santosha – Acceptance, Contentment
- Tapas – Self-discipline
- Svadhyaya – Self-Study
- Ishvarapranidhana – Contemplation of God
- Asanas (Seat, Pose, Posture)
- Pranayamas (Control of the the Breath)
- Pratyahara (Withdrawal from 5 Senses)
- Dharana (Concentration or One-pointed Focus)
- Dhyana (Meditation or Contemplation)
- Samadhi (God-Union)
As you can see in the larger context studio yoga is a modern adaptation of the third limb (Asana) of Patanjali’s Ashtanga (8 Limb) system. Present day yoga asana is more a kin to a work out routine than the traditional practice of asana.
Patanjali systematically turns ones focus from the outer world to the inner; starting with the most externalized plane of habits, actions, restrictions, observances, and study of ones self. Next the Yogi moves into the physical body and begins to experience the unification of body, breath, and mind through postures. After the knots in the body both physical and energetic are moved out and the mind calmed, the yogi is ready for Pranayama (breathing practices). The fifth limb can be experienced in a number of ways. Pratyahara or sense withdrawal begins in pranayama and can also be practiced through mudras (hand positions) or mantras (repetition of word(s) or phrases). Dharana is what most people believe to be meditation, although it is more like a preliminary stage. Through one-pointed focus, whether on the breath, a mantra, or a part of the body (spiritual eye between eyebrows is common) ones awareness is further withdrawn from the tumultuous sea of thoughts. This is where we move from a human doing to a human being. Dhyana then, is an uninterrupted presence. From this place we set the stage for the experience of Samadhi. Samadhi (Union with Eternal Self) is the center and most inward state. Yogi’s that are blessed with Samadhi committ their lives to Yoga. This is a state of being that is the inevitable experience for any seriously dedicated Yogi. Long hours of Meditation and a Guru who can willing enter Samadhi are typically requirements for God-Union. Although some people may glimpse this experience through sacred plant medicine or a near death experience, the Master Yogi has dissolved all false identification and can enter Samadhi at will.
Where do I start?
To be a Yogi one is not limited to the studio practice. Yoga is first an attitude of mind and then develops into a devotional longing to know the unlimited self within. You may know many Yogis that do not fit the conventional western idea. Anyone who experiences a greater sense of connection and existence through living is a Yogi. This could be through painting, acting with compassion, having strong work ethic, taking care of others, gardening, etc.
Yoga is Love. We begin by redefining our capacity to love our selves and others. We begin right where we are with exactly what we have. And from this center of loving ones self and others unconditionally as a moment to moment practice, everything else will follow. You may visit your local yoga studio or visit Youtube. You may buy a book or go to a retreat center. As Yogi’s we must always come back to the present moment and ask ourselves, am I living from a place of love right now?
What does Healing Within Offer?
David teaches Yoga Asana, Pranayama, and Meditation in the Westport, Ma area both publicly and privately. Healing Within offers retreats and workshops year round and country wide that include yogic practices. Check upcoming events on the home page to learn more. For private sessions or collaborations please leave us a message here.
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