In Western Civilization, most people have misconceptions about yoga…
- It’s only for flexible people.
- It’s just a series of weird stretching poses.
- It’s an activity where my super cute yoga pants are acceptable.
…just to name a few.
Yoga is so much more than stretching and contorting your body into unnatural feeling positions. Patanjali, known as the Father of Modern Yoga, outlined these 8 Limbs (or Sutras) as the foundation of Yoga Philosophy, and act as guidelines on how to live a purposeful and meaningful life:
This sutra deals with one’s ethical standards & sense of integrity. It’s how we conduct ourselves in life.
There are 5 Yamas:
The second limb, is all about self-discipline and spiritual observances.
There are 5 Niyamas:
- Heat; spiritual austerities
- Study of one’s self
- Surrender to God (Your God, the Universe, the Divine)
Asanas, or postures, is what are most familiar to Western Civilization. In the yogic view, the body is a temple of spirit. Through the practice of asanas, we develop the habit of discipline and the ability to concentrate, both of which are necessary for meditation.
The 4th stage consists of techniques designed to gain mastery over the respiratory process while recognizing the connection between the breath, the mind, and the emotions.
Pratyahara, the 5th limb, is withdrawal. During this stage, we draw our awareness away from the external world and outside stimuli.
Dharana is concentration. We learn how to slow down the thinking process by concentrating on a single mental object.
Dhyana is Meditation; the uninterrupted flow of concentration. Dhyana is ultimately a state of being keenly aware without focus.
Samadhi is the ultimate state of Meditation. It is a state of ecstasy, where the mind and soul are at equal balance. Some refer to this state as “enlightenment” or “becoming enlightened”.
After learning all of this for myself and trying to apply it all to my own life, these are the
TOP 5 THINGS I’VE LEARNED FROM YOGA:
1. IT’S A PRACTICE!
The first couple of times you try Yoga, you may not notice a difference physically or mentally. It really takes practice and perseverance, not only in the Asanas, but with your breathing, and all of the mental aspects of the 8 Sutras.
2. LOVE EMANATES.
When I practice regularly, really try to focus on living in the present moment, and use meditation as a tool to quiet my mind, I feel nothing but love. Love for you, love for the universe, love for the sweet little birds singing in the trees… That’s what we’re supposed to feel, right?
3. I ACCEPT MYSELF.
For most of my life, I have always had self-esteem and self-confidence issues. I think that’s true for most women in this day and age. With movie stars and models in all of their presumed “perfection”, flashed in our faces constantly, there is such a high standard that we feel like we have to meet. I’m tiny, I’ll blind you in the sunlight, I have super long monkey arms and legs, I have a birthmark on my forehead, I have freckles… For years, all of these things bothered me and I would do my best to disguise what I could. But now, on my path to enlightenment, I embrace all of these things because they don’t define who I am. Our physical appearance will never be “who we are”. When I was a 5 year old little girl, I was Casey… Now that I’m 33, I am still Casey, even though I’m taller (not by much!), with shorter hair, and a lot more freckles. I wasn’t any more Casey back then than I am now. Why? Because my soul…my consciousness is who I am…not the shell that I’m residing in.
4. POSITIVITY BEATS NEGATIVITY .
When I’m on my yoga mat, focusing on my breathing and feeling that life-force pulse through me, negative thoughts never seem to arise. That’s because my mind is focused and not wandering. As I lay in Savasana, I focus on something beautiful, whether it be a rainbow, sunshine, flowers, the love I have for everyone, and nothing but positive feelings flourish, and it just sets my day for one of positivity and peace. Positive brings positive… Negative brings negative… I think I’ll just keep on doing yoga and cash in on the positive.
5. LIVING IN THE PRESENT IS THE ONLY WAY TO GO.
I’ve practiced the Western idea of yoga for about 9 years, and by this I mean, learning and practicing the asanas. For about a year out of those 9, I’ve REALLY been practicing yoga. I’ve worked on trying to apply those 8 Sutras and become more mentally and spiritually involved with the process. I was like many others in those first 8 years, because I thought it was just about breathing and poses. Now that I’ve educated myself, and have been applying all of those other aspects, I can say that I’ve never “lived in the present” as much as I have been lately. I used to worry about everything, and I mean EVERYTHING! But, when you live in the present, YOU…DON’T…WORRY. Why? Because you are focused on what you are doing at this very moment. You’re not thinking about past events, or worried about the future. I’m sure everyone knows someone or has read a story about someone that died suddenly or way before their time. That’s the truth of life…that we will all die. Whether that be today, tomorrow, or 50 years from now. Since we don’t know when that will be, why not live our life in this moment, since it’s right in front of us. There’s no need to waste time when we can just be happy now. It really makes you appreciate everyone in your life more, you love more deeply and live more happily.
“Undisturbed calmness of mind is attained by cultivating friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and indifference toward the wicked.” – Patanjali