What is Yoga?
There are many different interpretations of the word Yoga. One of these is to yoke, or unite in a physical and spiritual way.
It is joyous that we can unite and share our practice in Yoga classes.
A further meaning is 'to attain what was previously unattainable'. Remember yoga is a practice - just that. In time you may find yourself touching your toes or gaining more understanding of yourself.
Yoga also attempts to create a state in which we are always present - in every action, in every moment.
When we begin to familiarise ourselves with yoga, whether through physical postures, pranayama (breathing exercises), meditation or learning about Yoga philosophy, the more we will become aware of the holistic nature of ourselves: body, mind, breath and spirit, as well as our behaviour and connection with others.
The oldest record of yoga and Indian culture are the Vedas and the most significant work is by the ancient sage Patanjali who set out the Yoga Sutras (short verses or threads defining yoga). These and the Bhaghavad Gita scripture are just as relevant today in offering pearls of wisdom about how to live a happy, healthy and purposeful life.
A couple of my favourite quotes:
"yogas citta vrtti nirodhah" - yoga is the calming of the chattering of the mind (Patanjali)
"yoga is the journey of the Self, through the Self, to the Self"
Yamas & Niyamas
Yoga extends far beyond doing yoga postures - it is a way of living. The Yamas and Niyamas may be thought of as guidelines - gems of wisdom to give direction for a well-lived and joyous life. I will often include these themes into our yoga practice.
The 5 Yamas (restraints):
Ahimsa = Non-violence
Satya = Truthfulness
Asteya = Non stealing
Brahmacharya = Non excess
Aparigraha = Non possessiveness
The 5 Niyamas (observances):
Saucha = Purity
Samtosha = Contentment
Tapas = Self-discipline
Svadhyaya = Self-study
Ishvara Pranidhana = Surrender