The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit word yuj meaning to yoke or bind and is often interpreted as “union”, union of the mind, body and spirit with the Universal Consciousness. Through yoga we can start to experience a sense of connectedness with all living beings and understand we are bigger than our ego-identified self and personality.
Yoga encompasses a wide range of approaches and practices, including physical postures, breathing exercises, chanting and meditation, among others. All of these lead to compassionate self-awareness, working through physical experience to access, awaken and refine ever-subtler depths of our nature. Whether you seek enlightenment or just a chance to stretch and strengthen, yoga can offer many tools so you can live a happy and healthy life.
What are yoga asanas?
Yoga asanas are a series of postures that aim to purify and strengthen the body physically and energetically. The yoga postures are one aspect of an eight-step system written down in The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, approximately 200 AD. The eight-steps have been perfected and practiced in India for thousands of years with the goal of controlling the restlessness of the mind so as to enjoy a contented life. This system is as relevant today, if not more so, as it was thousands of years ago.
In brief, the eight limbs – or steps – to yoga, are as follows:
Yamas and Niyamas: Ten ethical precepts that allow us to be at peace with our family, our community, and ourselves.
Asanas: A series of postures that help to keep the body strong, flexible, and relaxed. Their practice strengthens the nervous system and refines our process of inner perception.
Pranayama: Roughly defined as breathing practices, and more specifically defined as practices that help us to develop constancy in the movement of prana, or life force.
Pratyahara: The drawing of one’s attention toward silence rather than toward things.
Dharana: Focusing attention and cultivating inner perceptual awareness.
Dhyana: Sustaining awareness under all conditions.
Samadhi: The return of the mind into original silence.
At Ishvara Yoga we practice the 8 limbs of yoga asana during a standard class and also develop a greater awareness of the subtle energy system (chakras). These practices result in stress reduction, vitality and greater inner awareness. When we have greater inner awareness we can live our lives more creatively and fully.