What Yoga Is
Yoga is a way of life - of seeing and being in the world. It is a pathway to reconnecting with our divine essence, with ourselves and with others so that we can live a life of love and joy.
The goal of yoga is self-realisation / enlightenment and freedom from suffering.
Yoga is a path to joyful and peaceful living where we find our true nature aiming to live in bliss and harmony – experiencing that we truly are a spiritual being having a physical experience. It is called a 'practice' because there is always room to grow and evolve.
Yoga is learning to cease the constant chattering of the mind so as we can see the world clearly just as we can see true reflections in a pond of water only when there are no ripples.
Yoga is the union of our lower self with our higher self / God / creative force / universal energy. The uniting of mind, body and spirit so as to bring internal peace, stability, and to remove aversion, craving and illusion that causes us to suffer in this world
Yoga is learning to be full present in the moment with a heart of joy, love and compassion
Yoga is the path to learning we are all of the same essence, all one. In this realisation we then chose to live a life in harmony and non-violence to any other creature or part of the earth for in doing so we are not only harming another but also ourselves
Yoga is a journey to enjoy. Accept where you are and enjoy the ride
What Yoga Is NOT
Yoga is not just an exercise class as the poses (asanas) are but one rung on the 8 limbed yogic pathway (yamas, niyamas, asanas, pranayama, pratayhara, dharana, dhyana and Samadhi). The poses that many think of as yoga only, are practiced so as to create a steady and comfortable ‘seat’ for meditation. The 8 limbs all work together to help us see clearly and unite with the universal life force (God) allowing us to ‘remember’ who we truly are – our divine essence
Yoga is not something you just do on the mat but instead it is a way of being with the real yoga starting when you leave the mat and live in the real world. Can you take the peace, compassion, love, tolerance, generosity, acceptance etc out into your day and live it? That is yoga!
Yoga is not a competition with yourself or with other people – be present and accepting of where you are, be gentle in mind, body and spirit. Someone may be able to do the ‘perfect’ pose but yoga is not about the perfect pose it is about being truly present and in the moment while in your pose. Someone who looks good is not necessarily present, united in their divine essence or living from a place of love.
Yoga is love, divine connection, compassionate, ever present, a blissful way of life!
History of Yoga
No one knows exactly when Yoga began, but it does predate written history. Stone carvings depicting figures in Yoga positions have been found in the Indus Valley dating back 5,000 years or more. This shows that yoga does not in fact have its roots in Hinduism but instead was adopted by the Hindus as well as by many other cultures such as Buddhism.
The traditions of Yoga have been passed on from teacher to student through oral teaching and practical demonstration. The formal techniques that are now known as Yoga are, therefore, based on the collective experiences of many individuals over many thousands of years. The particular yoga taught and practiced by practitioners today is reflective of the teachings that person experienced and is why there are so many forms of yoga practised today.
The Vedas contains the oldest known Yogic teachings - called Vedic Yoga. This is characterized by rituals and ceremonies that strive to surpass the limitations of the mind. The Vedic people relied on rishis or dedicated Vedic Yogis to teach them how to live in divine harmony.
The creation of the Upanishads c. 400 BCE marks the Pre-Classical Yoga. The term "yoga" first appears in the Hindu scripture where it is defined as the steady control of the senses, which along with cessation of mental activity, leads to the supreme state. The 200 scriptures of the Upanishads describe the inner vision of reality resulting from devotion to Brahman. These explain three subjects: the ultimate reality (Brahman), the transcendental self (atman), and the relationship between the two. The Upanishads further explain the teachings of the Vedas.
Later, around 500BC the Bhagavad-Gita or Lord's Song was created and this is currently the oldest known Yoga scripture. The Gita was a conversation between Prince Arjuna and God-man Krishna and it basically stresses the importance of opposing evil. It is devoted entirely to Yoga and has confirmed that it has been an old practice for some time but does not point to a specific time where Yoga could have started. The central point to the Gita is that - to be alive means to be active and in order to avoid suffering in our lives and in others, our actions have to be benign and have to exceed our egos.
Like the Upanishads further the Vedas, the Gita builds on and incorporates that found in the Upanishads. The Gita introduced three prominent forms of yoga to be unified: Bhakti - loving devotion, Jnana - knowledge or contemplation, and Karma- selfless actions.
The Classical Period is marked by the creation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra written around the second century. Patanjali is widely regarded as the compiler of the formal yoga philosophy known as Raja yoga, which is a system for control of the mind. This work is 195 sutras detailing Raja Yoga and its underlying principles – known as Patanjali's Eightfold path of Yoga (also called Ashtanga or Eight Limbs of Classical Yoga)
Yoga was introduced in the West during the early 19th century. It was first studied as part of Eastern Philosophy and began as a movement for health and vegetarianism around the 1930's. By the 1960's, there was an influx of Indian teachers who expounded on Yoga. During the post classical era there has been a proliferation of literature as well as the practice of Yoga. Post-classical Yoga differs from the first three since its focus is more on the present. It no longer strives to liberate a person from reality but rather teaches one to accept it and live at the moment. As more became known about the beneficial effects of Yoga, it gained acceptance and respect as a valuable method for helping in the management of stress and improving health and well-being.
Patanjali's 8 Limbs of Yoga
As more became known about the beneficial effects of Yoga, it gained acceptance and respect as a valuable method for helping in the management of stress and improving health and well-being. Aisha Flow Yoga is a Astanga (vinyasa) based studio that follows Patanjali's teachings as found in the Yoga Sutras. The 8 limbs of yoga that Patanjali eaches for the realisation of enlightenment includes:
1. Yama – big picture and how we treat others
2. Niyama – personal picture – self controls
3. Asana – physical poses (what most people think of as yoga)
4. Pranyama – breath control
5. Pratyahara – sense withdrawal
6. Dharana – concentration
7. Dhyana – meditation
8. Samadhi – enlightenment
The Yama’s are guidelines for how to treat others in the world and include:
1. Ahisma – non-violence or more still to act in a way that does not cause harm be in in thought, speech and action. It is about kindness, friendliness, respectfulness for all beings including ourselves.
“Am I coming from a place of love”
2. Satya – truthfulness in thought, words and action. Being honest, open and in no way trying to deceive either through lies, miscommunication, avoidance or deception.
“Am I being honest in all my thoughts, words and actions?”
3. Asteya – non stealing meaning to not take that which is not ours be it possessions or someone’s time, trust, respect etc. It means to not cheat or be envious but instead to only take that which is ours and to live with consideration.
"Was it offered and do I need it?”
4. Aparigraha – greediness or non-possessiveness. It means to take only what we need from the earth be it possessions, food, time etc It also includes grasping onto the familiar because we are comfortable there e.g. poses we find easy
“Do I need it or am I being greedy”
5. Brahmacharya – sensual purity meaning to treat ourselves and others with honesty, compassion and love in all matters. To act with restrain and control developing warm, loving and appropriate relationships. It is maintainnig our vital energies and redirecting it into thoughts, words and acts of love and service..
"Are my thoughts, words and actions maintaining my vital energy"
The Niyamas are about the relationship with one’s self - personal self-controls and they include:
1. Saucha – purity of body and mind through an array of actions including the food we eat, the environment we live in, thoughts we have, words we chose, actions we take, people we socialise with, books we read, movies we watch etc. We strive for a clean mind and body so as we vibrate at a level that can receive divine consciousness.
“I purify my mind and body so as my soul can reconnect”
2. Santosha – contentment of where we are at in the world knowing that in every moment we are where we should be
” In every moment things are as they should be – say yes to life”
3. Tapas – a burning desire or self discipline meaning a commitment to live a yogic life being of service, devoting one’s self towards enlightenment – committing 100% and at times pushing beyond our comfort zone.
“Commit 100% to all that I do”
4. Ishvara pranidhana – surrender to life instead of grasping. Shifting identification from the individual to the universal self and surrendering to that life force knowing all we need is within us and available. Devoting the fruits of our labour to a higher self.
“Trust and surrender to the cosmic life force”
5. Svadyaya – self study through sacred texts and self awareness so as to allow growth. It is remembering who we really are and feeding ourselves higher vibrations through self study.
“If I am not growing I am dying”
What is Vinyasa Yoga?
"Vinyasa" is a sanskrit word that literally means "uniting breath with movement". Vinyasa yoga then connects static poses with fluid motion that is lead by the breath. Vinyasa yoga is also called flow yoga and can be done powerfully with constant fluid motion which becomes a beautiful dance or slowly with static holds in between the flows. The benefits of vinyasa yoga is that it strengthens, stretches and teaches the mind and body to move with grace and ease. Vinyasa yoga brings awareness to the connection between breath, mind and body and helps you move with fluidity, strength and flexibility in your every day life.
10 Things Every Beginning Yoga Student Should Know
adapted from an article by Erica Rodefer - writer, yoga teacher and former online editor for Yoga Journal magazine,
1. It doesn’t matter how flexible or inflexible you are. Really. Being flexible won’t make you happier.There’s no prize. Stop suffering and learn to love the body you have!
2. Don’t get hung up on how you look in a pose. Everyone else in class is focusing on their own pose. They don’t care how you look. Let this be your first lesson in ego management.
3. It’s OK if you don’t know what the Sanskrit words mean. The only people in the room who do are teachers or big yoga dorks.
4. It’s not religious—unless you want it to be. Your practice should be unique to you. You’re allowed to make it as spiritual or religious as you want. Yoga is a journey of self observation through what every path suits you.
5. Yoga is an art form, a science, a lifestyle and a philosophy. But more than anything, it’s a way to get to know yourself better. And that’s something that benefits us all.
6. Everyone gets the left and right sides mixed up sometimes. Don’t be embarrassed when this happens. If your teacher corrects you, just smile. There’s a good chance she’ll say “left”when she means “right” later in the class.
7. It’s cool to fall down. The first time I fell on my face while attempting an arm balance, I was mortified. Now,when I get a big red mark on my forehead from diving head-first into my mat, I consider it a badge of honour. It’s how you learn. Laugh at yourself and move on!
8. No one cares if you can do a Handstand in the middle of the room, or touch your foot to the back of your head, or some other advanced pose. Just start where you are, and your practice will build over time. You’ve got the rest of your life to master the poses — for now, just breathe.
9. Your teacher wants you to ask for help. No one understands the temptation to hide in the back row and pretend to be invisible more than I do. But believe me when I say yoga teachers LOVE to answer your questions. Your teacher really wants to help you with your pose, answer your question about philosophy or explain what that Sanskrit word means. So if you don’t understand what’s going on, ask!
10. Keep coming back. When you’re new to anything there will be moments of frustration and discomfort. Despite what you might see on TV commercials, asana practice is usually not the same as going to a spa to get pampered. It’s hard work. It can be exhausting —physically, mentally and emotionally. At times you will want to throw up your hands and quit (or at least curse out your teacher for making you hold that pose you hate). Don’t. This is where the healing happens. Breathe into it, and come back tomorrow. You’ll be glad you did