Yoga is an ancient science and practice, which originated in India over 5000 years ago to address physical, mental and spiritual development.
The word ‘Yoga’ is a Sanskrit term derived from the root ‘Yuj’, which means to yoke, join or unite. Yoga is practiced to bring about the understanding and complete mastery of the mind and body, and to facilitate union between the individual consciousness and the Universal or Divine consciousness. The science works to bring the student back in touch with the state of Oneness that exists at the core of every being and is our natural state. Yoga is a spiritual practice with physical, mental and spiritual benefits.
In order to reach an understanding of Self that Yoga leads us to, it is necessary to prepare the foundations. For this reason Yoga offers systematic methods for increasing physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Through the training of body, breath and mind, one can gradually attain higher levels of self-knowledge and wisdom, as well as enjoying a healthy body and a calm and clear mind.
At Yoga Place we offer a developing Hatha and Raja Yoga program, following the principles of Astanga, or eight limbs of Yoga (ashta – ‘eight’, anga – ‘limbs’), as laid out in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The estimated dates for the Sutras range from 5000 BC to 300 AD. Hatha Yoga addresses the physical aspects of Yoga practice (postures, breathing techniques) and Raja Yoga is the system of concentration and meditation. In the Sutras, Patanjali systematized and compiled already existing Yoga ideas and practices. Since that time he has been considered the ‘Father of Yoga’ and his Sutras are the basis for the various types of meditation and Yoga which flourish today in their many forms.
The eight limbs, or eight aspects of Yoga, lead the student on an adventure of human potential, and to the highest state of realization (Samadhi). The eight limbs consist of:
The yamas are the means to regain balance in life. They are ethical attitudes which help the student with his/her relationship to the external world. They help in redirecting energies that have been disturbed by attachment and include the practice of non-harming, truthfulness, non-stealing, moderation and non-possessiveness.
The nyamas are practices that lead to wisdom and knowledge of the Self. They are observances that channel energy inwards towards self-realization. They include the practice of purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-study and self-surrender.
Both yama and niyama are the fundamental attitudes necessary to balance inner and outer life. Through a consistent and regular Yoga practice, an understanding of each will be cultivated and will be adopted as part of the natural growth and transformation that comes with the practice.
The asanas are the most familiar aspects of Yoga in the West today and refer to the postures practiced to build health and self-awareness, and to prepare oneself for meditation.
Pranayama is breath awareness, control and mastery. The breath is used to relax and steady nerves, improve concentration and expand energy. This happens both during an asana practice and with more specific breathing techniques and exercises.
Pratyahara is the withdrawal of the senses or attachment to objects and external focuses. Through the practice of the preceding limbs of Yoga the senses are naturally calmed and the mind is lead inward.
Dharana is concentration. When the mind rests on its inner object (ie. The breath, the body, a mantra etc.) it becomes stable.
Dhyana is meditation. When the effort to concentrate can be relaxed and held steady, the flow of concentration is called meditation.
Samadhi is self-realization. At this point the Eternal Self alone shines in the mind.
General Benefits of Yoga
A regular and consistent practice of Yoga, accompanied by a healthy diet and regular sleep, leads to harmony of body, breath and mind.
Through Yoga one learns to cultivate mindfulness in daily life, reducing distractions and painful attachments. Challenges such as stiffness, physical illness, poor breathing habits, depression and an inability to concentrate or manage stress, become less obstructive to inner growth. Yoga leads to a spontaneous lightness of body and mind, a sense of natural energy, wholeness, vitality, joy and a sense of wellbeing on all levels. Yoga cultivates states of centeredness, clarity and focus.
- Improves flexibility
- Improves strength and stamina
- Improves posture
- Excess weight is reduced
- Movement becomes easy and graceful
- Cleanses and regulates body systems (including the skeletal, muscular, circulatory, nervous, digestive)