Yoga: It isn't all about Asanas !

A great thing to know when starting practicing yoga, is to be fully aware of what "practicing yoga" includes. We often think it simply means getting stretchy, bendy on a mat for an hour or two and that's it but hold on ! Yoga is much more than that !

One great way to introduce in my opinion the extent of yoga in a simple manner is to use the 8 Limbs of Yoga as presented by Patanjali, an indian sage, in his yoga sutras (ancient texts made of short sentences being at the basis of yoga philosphy). Those 8 limbs in my opinion can be grouped in 5 bigger groups for better understanding.

//Principles of conduct

1. Yamas: principles of conduct on how you behave towards others (the left side of the tree below).

2. Niyamas: principles of conduct on how you treat yourself (the right side of the tree below).

Illustration by Rachel Sullivan

For those 2 first pillars i will go more into details in another post as i believe they are really interesting to implement in your daily life.

//Physical practice

3. Asana (translates in to seat) : the postures, the most known one. Through movement we search for our center, unifying the mind and body. Through the body we find ways to access the mind.

//Breathing

4. Pranayama (translates in to control breathing): "controlling" our life force through breathing. I already talked in a precedent post about Nadi Shodhana which is one of the many breathing exercise you can do. Breathing exercise are numerous and can address various purposes.

//Meditation

5. Prathayara (translates in to withdrawal of senses): taking a step back from our senses, the external stimulus, we gently bring our attention to what is happening internally (taking our attention to our breath for example). We take time to observe our limits, our strengths with no judgement, no control.

6. Dharana (translates as concentration): taking our mind to a single point of focus. After stepping away from external distractions (Prathayara), we now take a step back from internal distractions, the ones of the mind (the Monkey mind as described by Mingyur Rinpoche in below video), bringing our attention back to one single point.

7. Dhyana (translates as meditation): pure awareness. This concept is very close to the precedent one though one could see this as being the state where we remain aware without focus. Pretty advanced awareness i must say !

I really like this short video of Mingyur Rinpoche about meditation. Meditation can be done ANYWHERE, ANYTIME and can take only 3 minutes.

BTW If you wish to start and discover a bit meditation I recommend the app Headspace, that you can find on the app store. It has a one 10-days free program of 10 minutes daily meditation sessions. It is very well done and accessible.

//Nirvana !

8. Samadhi (translates into enlightment): pure consciousness, bliss, ecstasy, being one with the divine in unity. Something we can only experience when we feel a deep connection with all living things. It is described as a transcending state. The pinacle of yoga !