What is Yoga and Why Choose this Practice?

There are a few questions that I want to be able to readily answer, in layman’s terms, to my future students and anyone else questioning!

  1. – What is yoga?
  2. – Why choose yoga, over all the other forms of physical and meditative practices available?

Yoga is a form of physical exercise. Yoga is meditation. Yoga concentrates on the breath.
Most people know these things about yoga. But most people understand little beyond this (myself included until recently).
Yoga is an ancient, systematic methodology that was designed with an appreciation of the human as a whole; mind, body and soul.
The yoga sutras of Patanjali’s provide the definition ‘Yoga Citta Vritti Nirodhah’. A basic translation of which, is the cessation of fluctuations in the mind. Yoga is a way of gaining a peaceful mind.
Yoga is a spiritual path – but not a religious one. Ashtanga yoga provides an ‘eight-limbed’ systematic methodology but which we can achieve a peaceful, alert and steady mind. The eight limbs begin with ‘Yama’ and ‘Niyama’, which address ways to control and respond to our ‘external’ environment (Yama) and our ‘internal’ environment (Niyama). The third limb is ‘Asana’ meaning the practice of steady, stable and motionless yoga poses – the importance is placed on alignment, comfort and steadiness in this aspect of our yoga practice. The forth limb of Pranayama includes ‘breathing techniques’ by which we can expand our ‘vital inner energy’ – regulating our breath is a way of controlling our thoughts and mind. The fifth limb of ‘Pratyahara’ includes methods of turning our consciousness inwards away from our senses, so that we do not behave and act in unconscious ways i.e. in response to our senses. The sixth limb of Dharana describes an optimal state of consciousness in which we operate at a higher frequency and can exclude any irrelevant thoughts and make happen anything that we place in our intention – this is where Patanjali says the extraordinary capabilities of the mind can really express itself. The final two limbs describe the practice of meditation (Dyana) and a super-conscious state (Samadhi) in which Samadhi is an extension of Dyana, where you become boundary-less and (in Samedhi) transcend all normal and sensory experiences.
It may be hard to communicate all this to students in a ‘regular’ one hour yoga class! So I think the most important message to convey is the following;
Yoga is an ancient, spiritual practice, dating back 2000 years. It systematically sets out ways by which we can achieve a peaceful, steady, healthy and intelligent mind, body and soul in which our thoughts, words and actions all align.
And to answer the question, why choose yoga?
Yoga is a life practice that can be sustained until the day we die. It is an ancient and holistic practice that provides guidance beyond just the physical body and intellectual mind. Yogis are at peace and the world would be a better place for more peaceful, steady and healthy minds and souls!

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