So, you wanna ‘do’ yoga, eh? We all have different motivations for starting. I first got into yoga because I wanted to stay in shape without having to use all the fancy equipment. But I discovered pretty quickly that I got a lot more outta yoga than physical fitness.
What is Yoga? A common misconception is that Yoga is, simply, the physical postures (asanas, in Sanskrit). But yoga is much more than doing yoga postures. It is a means to a purposeful life. Think of it as a way to stay focused and emotionally controlled both on your mat and off.
Here goes. Classical Yoga is actually comprised of eight parts, called The Eight Limbs of Yoga. Here is a very brief overview of the first four of the eight limbs.
Yama, the First Limb, is a Sanskrit term which translates to “character building restraints.” These are Yoga’s ethical practice, focusing on our behavior and how we conduct ourselves in life.
The Second Limb, Niyama, translates into “observances.” Think of this limb as an invitation to explore the possibility of a better life, one which we are not currently aware. Examples of practicing niyamas are developing; a meditation practice, better eating habits, a contemplative practice.
Translated from Sanskrit as “physical body posture,” asana, the postures practiced in yoga, comprise the Third Limb. Yogis view the body as the temple of spirit. Thus, caring for this temple is important for our spiritual growth. Physical fitness, discipline, and concentration are developed by practicing asana.
This Fourth Limb means breath control. Breath control is developed during the physical yoga practice to recognize the connection between the body and the mind. Similarly, pranayama can be experienced during daily life simply by sitting.
These first Four Limbs focus on polishing our personalities, gaining control over our bodies, and developing an energetic awareness of ourselves. This prepares us for the second half of this journey. The second half addresses the senses, the mind, and attaining a higher state of consciousness. The Fifth through Eighth Limbs will be addressed in a future post.