The Roots of Yoga
Yoga is an ancient science and practice which addresses physical, mental and spiritual development, it is a state of mind and way of life, a discipline and philosophy that originated in India thousands of years ago. The word ‘yoga’ is Sanskrit and means union. Yoga works to unite and achieve the full potential of the body, mind and spirit, to facilitate union between individual consciousness & the Universal or Divine consciousness.
The Indian sage Patanjali was a pioneer of classical yoga more than 2000years ago, He defined yoga as “the cessation of the modification of the mind.” Patanjali assigned eight limbs to the tree of yoga, each limb representing a stage or a step on the path to self realization.Yoga classes today tend to involve mostly asana (yoga postures) & pranayama (breathing practice) however these are only two of Patanjali’s eight limbs.
1. Yama (moral codes)
The yamas are the means to regain balance in life. They are ethical attitudes which help the student with his/her relationships with the external world. They help in redirecting energies that have been disturbed by attachment and include the practice of non-harming, truthfulness, non-stealing, moderation and non-possessiveness.
2. Niyama (self purification & study )
The niyamas are practices that lead to wisdom and knowledge of the Self. They are observances that channel energy inwards towards self-realization. They include the practice of purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-study and self-surrender.
Both yama and niyama are the fundamental attitudes necessary to balance inner and outer life. Through a consistent and regular yoga practice, an understanding of each will be cultivated and will be adopted as part of the natural growth and transformation that comes with the practice.
3. Asana (posture)
The asanas are the most familiar aspects of Yoga in the West today and refer to the postures practiced to build health and self-awareness, and to prepare oneself for meditation.
4. Pranayama (breath control)
Pranayama is breath awareness, extention, control and mastery. The breath is used to relax and steady nerves, improve concentration and expand energy. This happens both during an asana practice and with more specific breathing techniques and exercises.
5. Pratyahara (sence control)
Pratyahara is the withdrawal of the senses or attachment to objects and external focuses. Through the practice of the preceding limbs of Yoga the senses are naturally calmed and the mind will turn inward.
6. Dharana (concentration)
Dharana is concentration. When the mind rests on its inner object such as the breath, the body, a mantra etc.) it becomes steady & stable.
7. Dhyana (meditation)
Dhyana is meditation. When the effort to concentrate can be relaxed and held steady, the flow of concentration is called meditation.
8. Samadhi (self realization)
Samadhi is self-realization. At this point the Eternal Self alone shines in the mind.
‘ Citta vritti nirodhah ‘ ~ ‘ To still the thought waves of the mind ‘ ~ Patanjali