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The Meaning of Yoga

November 11, 2014

8limbsofyoga

Yoga’s popularity as a form of fitness is rapidly growing. Today, Yoga is practiced with more attention to the asana, or physical side whereas there is fundamental spiritual teaching within the practice which connects the body and the mind. It is easy to overlook the fact that our ancestors have been practicing this tradition for thousands of years. It is believed that Yoga originated in the Indus Valley roughly five thousand years ago meaning it is even older than the Hindu religion.

Yoga practice is an art and science dedicated to creating union between body, mind and spirit. The breath and the body develop an awareness of the individual and eventually form a connection to the external world. The objective is to achieve a balance in order to live a life of harmony, internally and externally.

The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali was written around 200 AD. This sacred text is a guide in controlling the business of the mind with the intention to achieve peace and presence.

The Yoga Sutra is structured in eight limbs, forming the yoga practice as a whole. By practicing each limb of yoga a balance is achieved by not prioritising one limb, but through the realisation that all are equal.

Through the balance of the practice, the individual practitioner can discover a connection to the divine. The intention is to form a complete understanding of each limb as a path towards enlightenment.

These eight limbs consist of;

Yama- Universal morality

Niyama- Personal observances

Asanas- Body postures

Pranayama- Breathing exercises, and control of prana

Pratyahara- Control of the senses

Dharana- Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness

Dhyana- Devotion, Meditation on the Divine

Samadhi- Union with the Divine

In particular it is Yama’s and Niyama’s which are ethical guidelines on how we should relate to our inner self and the external world.

Our relationship with our inner self is niyama and our relationship with the external world is yama. Yama’s are broken into five characteristics as guidelines. They direct us to be generous, honest, compassionate and peaceful.

Next time you practice, try to think about the original intention of the yogi thousands of years ago. To achieve balance and ultimate harmony.

Words by Helen Carr

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