Yoga is more than a fitness or stretching modality – It also offers much more. Saying that, if that is what interests you about yoga, it is a very effective way to improve posture, flexibility + mobility.
Read on to know more about this ancient system of wellness + wellbeing.
The word ‘Yoga’ derives from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’ meaning ‘unity’, ‘yoke’ or ‘combine’. It reflects the concept of balance + wellbeing + inter-connectedness. It offers a clear and simple directive – manage yourself as a whole (body mind + spirit) and develop that 3-way connection to experience freedom in a unitive state, balanced + whole as part of a universal consciousness.
Born in Indian culture nearly 2500 yeas ago, yoga has ancient roots which is why the language of yoga is Sanskrit – an ancient language of India. Teachings were passed down from teacher to student + various styles developed over time – all with the same aim.
Yoga promotes health, reduces stress and guides us to live purposefully for the benefit of the individual, the collective + the environment.
Today you will find many different representations of Yoga each with their own approach to balancing our health + awareness.
Many of the shapes + poses mirror nature (like cow pose, cat pose, tree pose, crescent moon lunge, upward + downward dog). If you attend regular classes you will begin to recognise poses by their sanskrit names like ‘Chataranga dandasana’ (4 limbed staff pose – or low plank) ‘Tadasana’ (Mountain pose) ‘Badokonasana’ (butterfly or cobblers pose) etc.
Breathwork will relate to Nature or encourage connection to your energetic self by controlling + adapting parts of the nervous system which are usually automatic (the autonomic nervous system ‘ANS’). For example – Simhasana (Lions breath), Ujjayi (oceanic breath) or Bhramari breath (Bee breath).
Meditations will often guide us through a relatable story to help us monitor our current state of mind, feelings or presence or focus our concentration to a relatable phrase, mantra, or object like your breath pattern, or sounds or sensations or a visual object.
The majority of yoga styles being taught today are derived from Patanjali’s Fundamentals of yoga – the ‘8 Limbs’ of Yoga. Only one of these 8 categories of yoga practices relates to exercising the body through posture, stretching + movement (Asana). The other 7 support us in improving the health of our physical + energy body, mastering our senses + balancing our ego-self + becoming more aware of the subtleties of life.
Yoga Sutra 1.2 gives a description – yogash chitta vritti nirodhah – which means Yoga is the cessation of the whirling fluctuations of the mind.
The ultimate aim of yoga to STEADY THE MIND.
There are many many tools for the practice of yoga – these include life style choices and attitudes – relaxation tools – focus + concentration tools – introspection – attitudes – morals – intentions -mindfulness tools – meditation. These tools are not limited to movement + breath but are easier to experience + practice in tandem with movement (asana) + breathwork (pranayama).
Additional tools to play with on the mat to optimise our health + wellbeing include ~ Sense withdrawal (Pratyahara), Focus (Dristi) Concentration (Dharana), Mantra, Yantra, Visualisation, Nidra, Meditation (Dhyana), ethical practices + restraints (Yamas + Niyamas), positive attitude + intentions (Sankalpa) etc…..
There are many “styles” + categories to learn + practice to manage our physical, mental + energetic health. And there are many methods to do so from in-person classes, workshops + retreats to online courses + classes to do from home.
The concept of ‘Practice’ is the magic sauce within which these tools are used.
Sri Pattabhi Jois coined the phrase ‘Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory’. I think of it as – Yoga Practice is 99% doing + 1% theory – in other words it’s the discipline or dedication to DO yoga that improves our nervous system health, physical health, mental health + emotional health more than the proficiency or standard of the practice of the tools itself.
Despite the passage of time, I find yoga to be 100% relevant today offering a means to improve health, clarity of mind + inner calm. It enables an emotional + energetic stability despite the stresses, responsibilities + conflicts arising each day.
It keeps us physically, emotionally + energetically strong, flexible + healthy.
It’s so important to me in my practice + teaching to find a balance. To develop + share the tools of yoga but to keep it real – for application to our modern day lives.
Basically, the best version of ourselves… so we can weigh up our options daily, make balanced choices + live a more pain-free, purposeful + fulfilling life. Who doesn’t want that?
Yoga is not a religion. Religion defines what a person should believe. Yoga is a science – a means for self discovery that we can test, experiment with + discover for our self.
You know that subtle intuitive feeling that there’s more to you + your life than what you have a handle on right now…..? Yoga addresses that feeling. It’s a systematic collection of knowledge, theories, techniques and guidance. Each are capable of being studied, tested, sampled, verified + experienced individually. The results are extremely persuasive – a lighter, brighter, more present, fitter, healthier, calmer, self-aware version of you.
Look for a class or discipline that helps you take a look at yourself as a whole
+ makes you want more + more + more…. and you will discover an appetite for inner knowledge – to better know yourself + make the best of yourself.
Yoga is for everyone – not just the bendy – so get involved!
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