Yoga is a cultivated way of being throughout the world, long since its conception 5-7000 years ago. At no other time in history has it flourished so widely, being central to healing modalities while practiced in the comfort of one’s own home and Yoga studios everywhere. Historically both female and male yogis meditated on working with and transforming this human condition of the mind that we are born into. They arranged the body in a myriad of different positions that we call ‘asanas’ in order to sit for prolonged periods in meditation and to fully understand the body in its physical and energetic form and to channel and preserve the life force. The mythology and lore of Yoga is a vast, intricate study that has kept practitioners and academics enthralled over the ages. Yoga has evolved into potent present day practices, thanks to the many completely dedicated teachers and gurus over time that have carried it forth , while we now draw on every ‘style’ of Yoga revealed under the sun. And we benefit deeply from this, particularly during a critical era of needing to manage high levels of stress, internally and externally.
Hatha Yoga is the most commonly approached and practiced Yoga. Eight limbs of practice support it. While the focus is often on asana and the physical postures, this is but one limb of a full Yoga practice. Seven less known limbs supplement them. They are the ‘Yamas and Niyamas’ which shine light on our universal conduct and personal observances or disciplines in life, and Pranayam which offers breathing practices to harness the life force (prana) , manage stress and expand into full living. Three central limbs are Pratyahara, controlling the senses, Dharana, cultivating inner perceptual awareness through concentration and Dhyana which is a devotional practice of meditating on the Divine. Samadhi, the jewel in a Yogi’s crown is the ultimate union with the Divine.
Basically, the word Yoga translates as ‘to yoke’ the mind with the body through awareness of the power of the breath. If you are aware of your breath you are in the Yoga. It’s a profound misconception to think you need to be ‘bendy’ to practice Yoga. If you can breathe you can practice Yoga and you will gain every benefit it delivers. This is a perfect starting place to a personal journey of discovering balance, strength, and flexibility in all areas of life, and coming to a cumulative understanding of what Yoga is all about.
On this glorious path different forms of Yoga offer distinct benefits. Kundalini Yoga supports (through set exercises) the raising of a dormant, untapped energy that sits at the base of the spine, elevating consciousness, strengthening the nervous system and connecting the finite Self to the Infinite. Many forms of practice are active and ‘Yang’ in character while Restorative and ‘Yin’ Yoga deeply relax, restore and rest the nervous, muscular and skeletal systems. Both are practiced in long held, supportive asanas. Traditionally Yoga is provided one on one, between a teacher and student, focusing on the unique and personal needs of an individual. Great benefits are reaped in this way. In most communities these days we are fortunate to have trained excellent teachers and sacred spaces to begin or continue to explore our lives through Yoga. It’s an exciting time to have Yoga fully augment what so many speak of as being intense times, full of stress. Yoga works. It de-stresses the human mind and organism and heals. It always has and always will.