September is the official National Yoga Month!!
Time to learn more about the incredible benefits of yoga. Follow the blog this month for your daily inspirational/educational yoga tip.
But before we discuss the well known benefits of yoga, let’s talk about what yoga really is. Many/most Westerners think of yoga as a form of stretching and contorting the body into bizarre poses. While stretching and moving the body in certain poses is part of yoga, it is only a small part, in fact 1/8 of what Yoga really is.
Yoga is a way of life.
Yoga is a 5000 year old tradition that provides us with tools or guidelines to achieve that which we all truly desire and deserve in this life – peace, love, happiness and health. In ancient times, the desire for peace, health, longevity and heightened self-understanding gave birth to this practice of physical and mental exercises which has since spread throughout the world.
The word Yoga literally means “to join or yoke together,” and it brings the body, mind and spirit together into one harmonious experience. Some people feel uncomfortable when they hear the word “spirit” – all it is, is your true essence. Whatever you do, whether you are running a half marathon, playing tennis, field hockey, taking a yoga class, teaching your child to ride a bike, closing a business deal, or involved in a conversation, where we all need to be is in that moment (in the zone) – the zone where the body, mind and yes, spirit are aligned to achieve a common goal. Yoga teaches us how to be present in the moment. Being fully present in each moment will change your life.
The first written description of Yoga comes to us from Patanjali, considered the father of Yoga. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, the eightfold path is called ashtanga, which literally means “eight limbs” (ashta=eight, anga=limb). These eight steps basically act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. They serve as a prescription for moral and ethical conduct, self-discipline; they direct attention toward one’s health; and they help us to acknowledge the spiritual aspects of our nature. Some like to see it as 8 sequential steps, but you should practice as many limbs concurrently as possible. The three limbs that we work with in our yoga classes are physical movement/postures (Asanas), Breathwork (Pranayama) and Meditation (Dhyana). The rest is up to you.
Eight Limb Path
1. Yamas – how we relate to others and our outer environment. The yamas help us maintain our integrity through universal ethical principles – Nonviolence (practicing loving kindness), Truthfulness, Nonstealing (practicing giving), Moderation (practicing balance) and Nonattachment (practicing letting go).
2. Niyamas – how we relate to our inner environment, our self-discipline. The Niyamas remind of the importance of cleanliness of body, mind and heart; contentment, self-discipline and zeal, contemplation and self-study and devotion to a higher power – whatever that is for you – be it God, Allah, Buddha, Spirit or Love.
3. Asanas – the physical postures
4. Pranayama – mindful breathing
5. Pratyahara – turning inward
6. Dhrana – concentration
7. Dhyana – meditation
8. Samadhi- ecstatsy, enlightenment,