Yesterday, a very dear friend suggested that I have a weekly post that goes into more detail about specific yoga postures, or yoga philosophy. Please feel free to email me your questions. You can visit the new About This Blog page to get my contact info. This week, let’s discuss the basics of yoga.
Yoga is a spiritual and physical practice that was created over 5,000 years ago in India. Yoga, meaning “union”, is intended to connect the mind to the body. There are many different types of yoga. The physical practice is called Hatha Yoga, “ha” meaning sun and “tha” meaning moon, and its purpose is to unite opposites and stretch the body in all directions. The physical practice was invented specifically so that yogis could sit comfortably in meditation without too many pins and needles.
Hatha Yoga is what we think of when we refer to yoga in the West, however, as you will read below, yoga is much more than just the physical practice where we contort, strengthen, and stretch our bodies. The type of Hatha yoga that I practice and teach is called Vinyasa Yoga. In Vinyasa Yoga, we connect the breath to movement. Vinyasa, which means “flow”, is a style of yoga where the movement is continual, and we use the breath to move in and out of the asanas, the yoga postures.
The asanas are just one part of yoga. There are, in fact, eight limbs to yoga, which represent the intention of our yoga practice; the purpose of the practice is to elevate conscious awareness. The eight limbs of Yoga are listed below.
Yamas (the restraints) Pratyahara (sensory withdrawal)
Niyamas (ethical observances) Dharana (concentration)
Asana (postures) Dhyana (meditation)
Pranayama (breathing) Samadhi (higher consciousness)
Weekly, I will discuss the 8 limbs of yoga more in-depth over time, and I will describe the asanas in detail. This week, I will begin with the Yamas and the Niyamas. Each of the Yamas and Niyamas consist of 5 categories, and together they make up the “10 Commandments of Yoga”. Each specific Yama and Niyama are important enough to have a blog post of their own in the future.
The 5 Yamas are:
- Ahimsa – Non-Harming
- Satya – Truthfulness
- Asteya – Non-Stealing
- Brahmacharya – Control
- Aparigraha – Non-Greed
The 5 Niyamas are:
- Saucha – Cleanliness
- Santosha – Contentment
- Tapas – Heat/Passion
- Svadhyaya – Self-Study
- Ishvarapranidhana – Surrender to God, or surrender to the powers greater than yourself, or simply, surrender to that which is.
The Yamas and the Niyamas are meant to be precepts. When you read the list of the 10 Commandments of Yoga, I would like for you to recognize the areas where you excel, and ask yourself if there are any areas upon which you can improve. They are meant to be a beacon by which we live our lives. Then, if you have any questions about anything in this post, please email me at email@example.com.