Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years! It may be news to many of us Americans, but Yoga was not developed to give us tight butts and flat stomachs (although these can be achieved through Asana practice). Yoga’s higher purpose, gaining enlightenment or union with the One was always the motivation until it reached our shores. Over 2,000 years ago in India a great sage named Patanjali codified the practice of Yoga in his book The Yoga Sutras. He described an eightfold path of yoga culminating in enlightenment as the ultimate condition.
The steps are:
Yama – codes of ethical behavior such as: Non-violence, Non-greed, Truthfulness, Chastity, and Freedom from desire
Niyama – principles of self restraint, i.e. Cleanliness, Contentment, Austerity, Self study and Devotion to God
Asana – the purpose of Asana practice is to prepare the body for long periods of sitting in meditation
Pranayama – control and direction of prana or life force via the breath
Pratyahara – detachment of the senses
Dharana – single pointed focus
Dhyana – Meditation
Samadhi – state of total absorption or enlightenment
It’s worth noting that of the 196 verses in the Yoga Sutras, Asana is mentioned in only three. This signifies the depth of the subject. There’s obviously a lot more to learn in Yoga than just the physical aspects of Asana. Each of us will find and follow our own path in life and can be thankful that Yoga is part of our journey. Beginning this month, and in future issues, our staff will share with you some of their insights on these steps.
Peace and Light to your Journey,