The different practical yoga tools consist among other things of a variety of physical positions (asanas), breathing techniques, and methods for deep relaxation, consentration. All these prepare us for going deeper into stillness and to balance the gross/physical to the subtle aspects of our being.
Yoga is a vast and deep tradition and body of knowledge, and the experiences must come forth through practical experience.
Even if many associate yoga with yoga positions these days, there is so much more to explore, study and discover.
Yoga practice may lead to balance in different levels, and make us conscious about what has been in the unconscious.
Yoga is Universal and for everyone
The universal principles of yoga include all, and people from different cultural and religious backgrounds and traditions are practicing yoga all over the world.
Different yoga practices
The various yoga practices and yoga tools consists among other things of the practice of yoga positions (asanas), breathing techniques, meditation- and relaxation techniques. The yoga tradition also includes philosophy and guidelines to reflect upon and practice in life. The practice of yoga can be included in every aspect of our life; as we grow in our practice and deepen our understanding the different aspects of yoga and life in general will come together. There may be no difference between "yoga", our yoga practice, and life itself.
Yoga is a practical knowledge
It is through practicing the tools of yoga that we can experience and discover how the yoga tools work in us, and what "yoga" is for us. What intention we have by doing yoga practice is naturally up to everyone, and the various methods of yoga have something to give everyone, and challenges us in different ways.
Yoga for health, wellness and balance
Through the physical practice of asana and breath we can experience increased strength, flexibility and balance in the physical as well as in energetic body. The positions, breathing and concentration techniques work on us at different levels, from the gross to the more subtle aspects of our being. The breathing exercises and relaxation methods can help us to to allow a more peaceful state of mind, presence and deeper rest.
Yoga for spiritual discoveries and transformation
Through study and self-inquiry we may be able to change and transform our way of life and living that does not serve, or to allow the unconscious or habitual patterns in mind, body and spirit to become conscious. Yoga practice can or may be a tool of transformation as well as therapy.
Yoga practice is a lifelong learning path, with constant new insights and experiences.
Every day is always new. If we allow ourselves to grow and be students all the time,
the path of yoga and it's practices is a endless source of learning and discoveries.
Eight limbed yoga path - Ashtanga Yoga in Patanjali´s Yoga Sutras
Ashtanga yoga means eight limbs yoga, and is described in Patanjali´s classical text Yoga Sutra.
These limbs can serve as guidelines in our yoga practice, and help us navigate in the yogic path in a healthy and balanced way. These limbs are highly challenging as well, the deeper we go into the more subtle aspects of the practice and living. The limbs serve as a structure for us on what to observe and contemplate upon in our life.
Through the practice and observation of the first four limbs, over a long time and with appropriate effort and study, we may experience the next four limbs gradually or spontaneously, and at various levels. Some of this is also described in the ancient texts, even if only experience can give true insight.
We find these limbs to be a beautiful tool and guidance for those who want to explore the practice of yoga both on the yogamat and in life in general.
We can listen within our heart when we study and practice, what these limbs mean to us. These eight limbs and teachings as well as any teacher or scripture, can point in a direction for us. But we have to explore and experience from our own heart and find the answers from within. This way we allow ourselves to experiencem as well as integrate what we learn and discover in our own life and being.
Here is a simple overview of what the eight limbs can be about;
Yama - ethical guidelines
Ahimsha: loving kindness, or non-violence at all levels of life. Non violence in thoughts, words and actions, inwards towards one self, or outwards to the world we live in, people, animals and nature. This is the first most important, as well as challening yama in yoga practice.
Asteya: to accept only what is given voluntarily
Bramacharya: moderation, to take care of our energies.
Aparigraha: to not take more than we need.
Niyama - to work towards
Shaucha: Purity, simplicity, in our inner and outer living.
Santosha: To be happy and content with what is.
Tapas: Clearing the blockages from the gross to the subtle. To “burn” impurities. Yoga asana or pranayama practice can help with this.
Svadhyaya: Reflection, observation, reading texts and philosophy that lifts you up and gives new insights.
Isvara pranidhana: to let go, surrender
Asana - the practice of yoga positions
In the ashtanga vinyasa yoga system in the lineage of Krishnamacharya it is emphasized to use breathing techniques (ujjay), energy locks (bandha) and focal points (dhristi) together with breath - movement (vinyasa).
Through these practices we also practice the following limbs, like pranayama, pratyahara and dharana. In this practice it is emphasis/underline by the teachers that it is no difference between the Patanjali´s eight limbed path and this practice; and in this to especially be aware, explore and practice as best as we can the Yama and Niyamas; to include these limbs in the practice of yoga and in our life.
Pranayama - Breathing techniques
The bridge between the outer and the inner practice, and the physical and mental/spiritual body
Pratyahara - Drawing the senses inwards
Dharana - Concentration
Dhyana - Meditation
Samadhi - Union
Copyright All Text and Images Johanne Melkevoll