In Sanskrit, the word YOGA means to yoke, to join, to harness. It also means union or communion and has been described as the "yoking of all the powers of body, mind, and soul," and as the "disciplining of the intellect, the mind, and the emotions." Yoga allows for the poise of the soul and this enables us to look at life in all its aspects evenly. In short, it is about making balance and creating equanimity so as to live in peace, good health, and harmony with the greater whole. This art of living was perfected and practiced in India thousands of years ago and the foundations of yoga philosophy were written down in The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, approximately 200 AD. This sacred text describes the inner workings of the mind and provides an eight-step blueprint for controlling its restlessness so as to enjoy lasting peace.
While ashta means eight and anga means limb, we can say that these are steps as much as limbs. They are limbs in the sense that they all belong to the same body of teachings and each is essential, but they are steps in the sense that there is a logical order to them and to how they must be approached.
1. Yama: Universal morality or ethical observations
2. Niyama: Personal observations
3. Asanas: Body postures
4. Pranayama: Breathing exercises, and Control of prana
5. Pratyahara: Control of the senses
6. Dharana: Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
7. Dhyana: Meditation
8. Samadhi: Union With the Divine or Absorption into the Universal
Yoga is about showing up on your mat daily with no expectations of how it should go. It is about not believing the labels like "too injured" or "too old" and finding a new way to be the best version of yourself. Yoga is a lifestyle, not an exercise program although, yoga has no judgment if you only want to use the poses to exercise.
Yoga is about discovering that those crazy thoughts in your head about why you "can not" or "should not" are not true. it is about slowing down and seeking something greater than yourself. Yoga is more than what you wear or if you can handstand or split.
YOGA IS THE ULTIMATE PRACTICE OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE
The Yamas and Niyamas, yoga's ten ethical guidelines, are foundational to living skillfully. They are tools for having harmonious living in society.
Yoga is a sophisticated system that extends far beyond doing yoga postures: it is a way of living. Yoga is designed to bring us more and more awareness of not only our bodies but also our thoughts.
Turns us from harming ourselves and others to kindness and compassion for ourselves and others.
Ahimsa is more than just a lack of violence. It means kindness, friendliness, and thoughtful consideration of other people and things. Ahimsa also means acting in kindness toward ourselves. In every situation, we should adopt a considered attitude.
Turns us from lies and half-truths to expressing our uniqueness and authenticity.
We have to consider what we say, how we say it, and in what way it could affect others. If speaking the truth has negative consequences for another, then it is better to say nothing. Satya should never come into conflict with our efforts to behave with Ahimsa.
From Others, from the Earth, from the Future, from Ourselves
Turns us from theft to cultivating new skills and abilities.
The question we can ask ourselves in our encounters with others is, does the other person feel uplifted and lighter because they have been with us, or do they feel like something precious was taken from them?
We are living as if there is no tomorrow and no one to live here after we are gone.
Turns us from greed to appreciation and pleasure without excess.
We all know the misery of a too-full stomach, the deadness of overwork, and the lethargy of oversleeping. Excess is often a result of forgetting the sacredness of life. Brahmacharya reminds us to enter each day and each action with a sense of holiness rather than indulgence. It means responsible behavior with respect to our goal of moving toward the truth. In yogic thought, there is a moment in time when we reach the perfect limit of what we are engaged in. It is this moment of "just enough" that we need to recognize.
APARIGRAHA: Nonpossessiveness (nonattachment)
Turns us from attachment to intimacy without possession.
Aparigraha invites us to let go and to pack lightly for our journey through life, all the while caring deeply and enjoying fully. Attachments ruin our day when they aren't fulfilled. Non-attachment does not mean that we don't care. In fact, nonattachment frees us up to be immersed in appreciation of life and one another.
Invites us to cleanse our bodies, our speech, and our thoughts.
The practice of purity asks us to slow down and do one thing at a time. Purity embodies the slow steadiness and integrity necessary to give all of our attention to one thing at a time. As we practice slowing down and giving each thing our undivided attention, we will find ourselves more integrated and purer with the moment. Cleanliness is a process of scrubbing the outside of us, purification works on our insides and changes our essence.
Invites us to fall in love with our own lives, and accept what happens.
Instead of complaining about things that go wrong, we can accept what has happened and learn from them. When we expect the world to meet our needs, we turn outside of ourselves to find sustenance and completion. As long we think satisfaction comes from an external source, we can never be content. Looking outward for fulfillment will always disappoint us and keep contentment one step out of reach. Practicing gratitude protects us from our own pettiness and smallness and keeps us centered on the joy and abundance of our own life.
Invites us to consciously choose discipline and growth. It means to heat the body and, by so doing, cleanse it. Another form of tapas is paying attention to what we eat. Attention to body postures, attention to eating habits, attention to breathing patterns - these are all tapas that help to prevent the buildup of rubbish in the body, including excess weight, and shortness of breath. Tapas has a sense of "cooking" ourselves in the fire of discipline to transform ourselves into something else. It's our determined effort to become someone of character and strength.
Invites us to know the Self. The yogis teach that we are, at the core, divine consciousness. Around this pure consciousness, we are packed in "boxes" of our experience, our conditioning, and our belief systems. These boxes are things like how we identify ourselves, what we believe to be true, our preferences and dislikes, our fears, and our imagination. All of these boxes are informed by country, culture, gender, town, ancestors and family history, groups we belong to, and our personal experience.
ISHVARA PRANIDHANA: Surrender
Invites us to pay attention to what life is asking of us.
Ishvara Pranidhana presupposes that there is a divine force at work in our lives. Ultimately this guideline invites us to surrender our egos, open our hearts, and accept the higher purpose of our being. The yoga posture called Shavasana is a posture for practicing surrender.
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is an ancient system of Yoga that was taught by Vamana Rishi in the Yoga Korunta. This text was imparted to Sri T. Krishnamacharya in the early 1900s by his Guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari and was later passed down to Pattabhi Jois during the duration of his studies With Krishnamacharya, beginning in 1927.
Vinyasa means breathing and movement system. For each movement, there is one breath. The purpose of vinyasa is for internal cleansing. Breathing and moving together while performing asanas makes the blood hot, or as Pattabhi Jois says, boils the blood.
Shri. K.Pattabhi Jois
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is both a dynamically aerobic and meditative practice. It was primarily introduced to practitioners in the West by Shri K. Pattabhi Jois, a dedicated yogi, and Sanskrit scholar. As taught by Jois, Ashtanga is a form of Hatha Yoga that focuses on asana (posture), pranayama (breath control), and vinyasa (the linking of postures by breath and movement).
The practice is 99% practical and 1% theoretical. The exploration of the self in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga occurs primarily through the body and its connection to breath and movement. When the asana is practiced without these connections, or without an understanding and observation of the first two limbs of the eight-fold path, the movements become merely acrobatic. When combined with the other limbs of Ashtanga Yoga, asana practice becomes an essential element of self-realization.
The entire practice is a continuous flow of movements and breathing which generate an internal and physical heat that purifies the body and clarifies the mind. This purification is achieved through pranayama, which entails a deep sort of breathing we call ujjayi, or victorious breath. By controlling the ujjayi breath, we can activate the body`s three bandhas or energy locks. Throughout the practice, we control our breath and our eye gaze or Drishti.
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is made up of six series (Primary, Intermediate, and four Advanced Series) each of which has a set order of poses.
The Ashtanga Primary series is called Yoga Chikitsa, meaning yoga therapy, because of the cleansing and toning effect it has on both body and mind.
The Ashtanga Intermediate Series is known as Nadi Shodana - meaning Nerve Cleansing.
Mysore is the traditional way of learning Ashtanga yoga, named after the city in India where Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, the guru of Ashtanga Yoga, lived.
Mysore is open to all levels, from absolute beginners to more experienced students. The class is not led and all instruction is given on an individual basis. As you gain strength, stamina, flexibility, and focus, poses will be added to your sequence.
Before beginning to practice, it is necessary to discuss some of the fundamental aspects of Ashtanga Yoga. These elements exist within an unseen world. Without them, yoga becomes nothing more than an outward expression of physical movement. When performed correctly these subtle tools allow the practitioner to enter into the mystical realms of prana and experience the subtle wonders of Ashtanga Yoga. These invisible tools are "Ujjayi Breath", "Bandhas", "Vinyasa" and "Drishti".
"Ujjayi" comes from Sanskrit and means "to be victorious".
Ujjayi breathing is a breathing technique employed in a variety of Taoist and Yoga practices. In relation to Yoga, it is sometimes called "ocean breathing". Ujjayi is a diaphragmatic breath, which first fills the lower belly, rises to the lower rib cage, and finally moves to the upper chest and throat. The unique form of breathing is performed by creating a soft sound in the back of the throat while inhaling and exhaling through the nose. The exhalations and inhalations are equal in duration.
According to Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who taught the creators of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, Ujjayi Pranayama is a balancing and calming breath, which increases oxygenation and builds internal body heat. The main idea is to create a rhythm in the breath and ride it gracefully throughout the practice. This sound becomes a mantra to set the mind in focus. We must learn to listen to our breath. It is the guide that will tell us the quality of our practice. If we apply too much effort, the breath will become constricted or forced. With too little focus, the ujjayi breath may be drowned out by the sound of our own thoughts. Maintain awareness upon your breath and every moment becomes a meditation.
Bandhas are a series of internal energy gates or body locks within the subtle body that assist in the regulation of pranic flow (prana - life force).
Mula bandha is the root lock. Mula means also base, beginning, foundation, and source. the root referred to here is the root of the spine, the pelvic floor, or more precisely, the center of the pelvic floor, the perineum. It is the muscular body between the anus and the genitals. By slightly contracting the pubococcygeal muscle (which controls urine flow and contracts during orgasm as well as assisting in male ejaculation), we create an energetic seal that locks prana into the body and prevents it from leaking out at the base of the spine.
Benefits: strengthens the pelvic floor, and relieves hemorrhoids and congestion in the pelvic area. Calms the autonomic nervous system, calms and relaxes the mind. On the spiritual level, Mula Bandha activates and purifies the Muladhara Chakra. It awakens dormant consciousness and the Kundalini Shakti (divine spiritual power).
Uddiyana Bandha is the abdominal lock and it means flying upward. Uddiyana Bandha is performed by exhaling fully and then drawing the lower belly inward and upward while simultaneously lifting the diaphragm. This level of uddiyana is primarily utilized during the exhale retention phase of specialized breath control methods known as pranayama. This full level of engagement is not possible to maintain throughout practice due to the inability to inhale while total uddiyana bandha is engaged. The level of uddiyana we should hold for the duration of our practice is more subtle.
Benefits: activates the Manipura Chakra and solar plexus, stimulates intestinal activity and helps relieve constipation, stimulates the pancreas, strengthens the immune system, balances the mind, soothes irritability and anger, and dispels a depressive mood. perform only on an empty stomach.
Jalandara Bandha is the chin lock. It occurs spontaneously in some asanas such as shoulderstand and is prescribed for use in others. It is used extensively for pranayama.
Benefits: improves the ability to retain breath for a long period of time and develops the ability to concentrate. Beneficial for throat diseases and regulates thyroid function.
Maha Bandha, the great lock is practicing all three bandhas at the same time. Generally, the breath is held during the practice of the Bandhas. Mula Bandha and Jalandara Bandha can be performed after the inhalation as well as after the exhalation. Uddiyana Bandha and Maha Bandha are only performed after the exhalation.
Drishti is a point of gaze or focus, yet it has little to do with our physical sight. The real "looking" is directed internally. We may fix our physical sight upon an external object or a specific point on our body, yet truly the Drishti is meant to direct our attention to the subtle aspects of our practice, the breath, and bandhas as well as the mind. Those of us with sight are easily distracted by our surroundings. Other students in the room, a clock on the wall, or a myriad of other forms may pull us away from the immediate concerns of practicing yoga with awareness. The Drishti is a device designed to balance our internal and external practice.
There are officially nine Drishti points:
Nasagrai: the tip of the nose; Ajna Chakra: between the eyebrows; Nabi Chakra: navel; Hastagrai: hand; Padhayoragrai: toes; Parsva Drishti: far to the right; Parsva Drishti: far to the left; Angustha Ma Dyai: thumbs; Urdhva or Antara Drishti: up to the sky
Restorative yoga is a deeply relaxing style of yoga practice. It is a receptive practice, not an active practice. Unlike the more active styles of yoga where poses "flow" into one another, restorative yoga poses are held from five to as long as twenty minutes. During this time, you are held in "shapes" while being supported with blankets, blocks, or bolsters (pillows). The shapes emulate the forms of some more active poses found in Ashtanga, Vinyasa, or Iyengar such as backbend, forward bend, twist, or inversion. When you are in the poses you are completely supported in a particular shape, which helps achieve the desired benefit - it could open up your lungs, release tension in your lower back, or any of the other physical or psychological benefits. In any style of yoga, part of the practice is about letting go of the ego. Restorative yoga is no different. Yoga teaches patience, devotion, and faith. When you apply the teachings both on and beyond the mat, your mind is better able to adjust to the stresses of everyday life and is brought into harmony with your body.
When you practice this type of yoga, you enter into a state of deep relaxation. It is here, that you can "let go" of those deep holding patterns in your body and find a state of balance that will allow your body to heal.
The development of restorative yoga poses began in 1937 with B.K.S. Iyengar, a master of yoga teacher from Pune, India. They grow out of Iyengar`s need to find therapeutic poses that would help him to heal and restore his physical body.
Restorative yoga is a relatively new style of yoga and is becoming popular because it addresses the ills of our fast-paced society so effectively. It gives the body a real sense of the healing power of just being still, which is the heart of the practice of yoga and meditation.
Most of us lead lives that reinforce our working at a fast-forward speed and then collapse in exhaustion. We have very few habits that encourage a balance between these two extremes. We can call this a balance point the art of being relaxed. Restorative yoga poses will teach us how.
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, and aware of where we are and what we are doing.
Mindfulness involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them - without believing, for instance, that there`s a "right" or "wrong" way to think or feel in a given moment.
Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhist meditation. Jon Kabat-Zinn was the man who took a scientific lens on Buddhist mindfulness and studied it at the Stress Reduction Clinic at UMass Medical School (Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice, Bangor University, UK).
Breathing exercises, visualization techniques, and mantra meditations will help quiet the mind.
Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness, even for just a few weeks, can bring a variety of physical, psychological, and social benefits.
The result of using Mindfulness, in either a scientific or religious form, is calmness. Both forms help you deal with emotional aspects and restless thoughts, and they make you a more aware and compassionate person in return. Buddhist mindfulness practice, however, also promises you more wisdom.
Many people enjoy listening to soothing music while relaxing. Restorative yoga is recommended to be practiced in a quiet space. Outer stillness is just beginning. Then we discover that nothing is still. There is the mind, jumping from thought to thought, from past to future, resisting stillness. As with meditation practice, it takes time to train the mind to find some quiet. You can equate the process of training a puppy. You tell it to sit and stay; it gets up two seconds later. You take the puppy back to where it started and try again. This time it may stay a little longer until eventually, it stays until you tell it to move. In restorative yoga, we build up to being able to stay longer. This is a kind of stamina that every one of us could use.
The best way to describe the benefits of restorative yoga is to perhaps ask what aren`t the benefits of restorative yoga? If you have suffered from stress, trauma, injury, or illness, this practice can help you heal. If you are just a regular person, with a normal amount of stress in your life, and want to continue to feel good in your body, this practice will help you maintain that well-being.
The effects of stress have reached epidemic proportions in our lives, and stress-related diseases have become a medical specialty.
Sometimes the effects of stress present themselves during milestone life events: marriage, the birth of a child, getting a new job, or the death of a loved one. Other times it`s the little things that get us as we try to juggle the myriad responsibilities of job and family. Regardless of the trigger, stress is often accompanied by one or more negative effects-impatience, frustration, irritation, anger, muscle tension, headache, indigestion, or poor elimination. When stress becomes chronic, a residue builds up in the body that can lead to disease.
Body and mind are connected.
Anxiety is a common psychological illness in our society, and creates a "hypervigilance" in the muscles of the body, leading them to become tightened and inflexible. Restorative yoga gives you an opportunity to really dissolve physical tension. But above all, it gives you an opportunity to "check in" with your body, to get in touch with it, and gain control over your thoughts.
Yin is a Chinese word. Yin and yang are relative terms; they describe the two facets of existence. Like two sides of the coin, yin cannot exist without yang, nor yang without yin. They complement each other. Since existence is never static, what is yin and what is yang are always changing. There is no absolute yin or absolute yang. A context is always required. Yin is retiring. Yang is acting. The Dao is the balance between the two.
In the Eastern world of yogis of India and the alchemical Daoists of China, the need for balance is well known and understood. In the West, when we do not use the terms yin and yang, the need to pay attention and balance our opposing natures has been realized by many astute observers of our psychological landscape. We don't think in these terms, our lifestyles rarely reflect the need for balance. We can be yang-like for only so long before crashing. We can be yin-like for only so long before stagnating. We need balance in all things.
Yin Yoga is a part of the original Hatha Yoga tradition. Yin Yoga combines the influences of Indian Yoga with Chinese Daoist practices and Western science to improve our health on many levels. With its emphasis on long-held, passive stresses of the deeper connective tissues, Yin Yoga mobilizes and strengthens our joints, ligaments, and deep facial networks.
Yin Yoga is specifically designed to exercise the ligaments and to regain space and strength in the joints.
When we are youngsters, we don't need to work on gaining more mobility because we are already so yang-like, we need to work on our muscles and gaining strength. This is a yang time of life so we need yang forms of exercise. Somewhere around our mid-twenties to mid-thirties, we reach the optimal balance between yin and yang, between mobility and stability. But the arc of aging must be followed: we continue to become more yin-like as we age until eventually, we end up completely rigid. As we get older, as we get more yin-like, we need a yin form of exercise to keep us mobile. Many forms of yoga are dynamic, active practices designed to work the "yang" tissues like muscles. Yin yoga allows us to work with "yin" tissues of our ligaments, joints, deep fascial networks, and even our bones.
Yin Yoga as a platform of meditation.
We do not use the body to get into the pose, we use the pose to get into the body. How we practice is much more important than what we practice. Too often, yoga students force themselves into contorted positions with no regard for whether what they are doing is helping them or hurting them. Their egos are in control, and the ego wants to look good in front of others. Yoga was never a competitive sport: it is an inward practice designed to build awareness, non-attachment, tranquility, and contentment. Practiced correctly, yoga can provide all the physiological benefits while offering the deep inner calm and insights treasured by the yogis of old. We simply have to practice mindfully, with attention and intention. Above all, practice in a relaxed manner. Do the best you can, and just be present for what arises.
The first principle of Yin yoga is this: every time you come into a pose, go only to the point where you feel a significant resistance in the body. Don't try to go as deeply as possible right away. Give your body to chance to open up and invite you to go deeper. After thirty seconds or a minute, usually, the body releases and greater depth is possible, but not always. Listen to the body and respect its requests. Consider your body and your will as two dancers, moving in total union. Too many yoga students make their yoga practice into a wrestling match - the mind contending with the body, forcing into postures that the body is resisting. Yoga is a dance, not a wrestling match. Listen to your body and go to your edge. When and if the body opens and invites you in deeper, then accept the invitation and go to the next edge. In this manner we play our edges, each time awaiting a new invitation. We ride the edges with a gentle flowing breath, like a surfer riding the waves of the ocean. When you come into the pose, drop your expectations of how you should look or be.
The pose is working if you can feel the body being stretched, squeezed, or twisted. You don't need to go any further. Going further is a sign of EGO, staying where you are is embracing yin.
Yin yoga is not meant to be comfortable; it will take you well outside your comfort zone. Much of the benefits of the practice will come from staying in this zone of discomfort, despite the mind's urgent pleas to leave. As long as we not experiencing pain, we remain. Pain is always a one-way ticket out of the pose. Acceptance is the essence of yin.
The second principle is stillness.
Once we have found the edge, we settle into the pose. We wait without moving. This is our resolution, our commitment. The body becomes as still as a great mountain, unaffected by the winds and dramas swirling around it. Clouds come and go, rains pelt and snows melt, but the mountain remains. Stillness in the body leads to the quieting of the breath. A calm breath is regular and even, slow and deep, natural, and unforced. Soft ujjayi breathing is perfectly okay. Once the breath has become quiet, the deepest stillness arises.
To still the mind, the breath must be calm. To calm the breath, the body must be still. When these conditions have been met, deep awareness is possible. This state can be achieved only by commitment and dedication. Commit to stillness and allow whatever arises to be just what it is.
Yin postures are generally held for at least one minute and sometimes as long as twenty. Yin tissues require yin exercise. It is the long, gentle pressure that coaxes them into being strengthened.
The older we get, the more we should be doing Yin Yoga every day.
Yin Yoga is a practice much needed in today's difficult, divisive times. It offers us a way to leave behind our ideas of how we should be, and return to our true selves, where all lasting healing takes place.
Who should practice Yin Yoga?
People love to do things that they love to do. Sounds obvious. When you are in balance you will tend to keep doing things that keep you in balance. When you are out of balance, you will tend to continue to do things that keep you out of balance. Active people love to do active yoga. Calmer people love to do calming yoga. Don't always practice what you love; practice what you need! Active people probably need yin yoga more than anyone else.
The word pranayama is comprised of two roots: 'prana' plus 'ayama'. Prana means vital energy or life force. It is the force that exists in all things, whether animate or inanimate. The word ayama is defined as extension or expansion. The word pranayama means extension or expansion of the dimension of prana. B.K.S. Iyengar called pranayama the science of the breath. The techniques of pranayama provide the method whereby the life force can be activated and regulated in order to go beyond one's normal boundaries or limitations and attain a higher state of vibratory energy and awareness. The practice of pranayama seeks to quieten the mind, bringing it under control through the deep and rhythmic flow of inhalations and exhalations.
The breath is the most vital process of the body. It influences the activities of each and every cell and, most importantly, is intimately linked with the performance of the brain. Respiration fuels the burning of oxygen and glucose, producing energy to power every muscular contraction, glandular secretion, and mental process. The breath is intimately linked to all aspects of human experience.
Most people breathe incorrectly, using only a small part of their lung capacity. The breathing is then generally shallow, depriving the body of oxygen and prana essential to its good health. Rhythmic, deep, and slow respiration stimulates and is stimulated by calm, content, states of mind. Irregular breathing disrupts the rhythms of the brain and leads to physical, emotional, and mental blocks. Pranayama establishes regular breathing patterns, breaking this negative cycle and reversing the debilitating process. It does so by giving us control of the breath and re-establishing the natural, relaxed rhythms of the body and mind.
Although breathing is mainly an unconscious process, conscious control of it may be taken at any time. Consequently, it forms a bridge between the conscious and unconscious areas of the mind.
During pranayama, concentration is drawn solely to the action of the breath, and it is this attentive awareness of the breath that leads to the art of dhyana, or meditation.
There are four aspects of pranayama:
Nadi Sodhana or Alternate Nostril Breathing is a powerful breathing practice. Nadi means channel and sodhana means purification. Nadi Sodhana is primarily aimed at clearing and purifying the subtle channels of the mind-body organism while balancing its masculine and feminine, and sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
Kapalabhati (frontal brain cleansing breath) is an important part of the yogic system of body cleansing techniques. Kapal means skull and bhati means shining.
Kapalbhati involves short and strong forceful exhalations and inhalations happen automatically.
Bhastrika (bellows breath) involves a rapid and forceful inhalation and exhalation powered by the movement of the diaphragm.
Brahmari (humming bee breath) is the action of making a slight humming sound when exhaling.