The Essence of Yoga: Why Asana Is Only a Small Part of the Equation

7-Steps-to-a-Life-Long-Yoga-Practice-Youll-LoveAs a yoga practitioner, you are part of an ancient tradition that dates back at least 5,000 years and has produced great spiritual and philosophical geniuses who have provided answers to some of life’s biggest questions. Questions such as, “Who am I?” “Where did I come from?” “Where will I go after this?” and “What should I do while I’m here?”

The understanding that yoga is in fact a complete science is often taken for granted in a world that focuses mainly on the physical postures and how to master them. If we travel into yoga’s past, perhaps we can remember what this ancient technology was originally designed for—the integration of the mind, body, and soul with the Divine.

Yoga Teachings

Classical yoga connects back to Raja yoga and Patanjali, the teacher of the eightfold path. The foundations of yoga’s philosophy were written down in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras in approximately 200 AD. This ancient yet practical text describes the inner workings of the mind and provides a blueprint for controlling its restlessness so as to enjoy lasting peace.

Upon practicing all eight limbs of the path it becomes evident that no one element is elevated over another in a hierarchical order. Each is part of a holistic focus that together brings completeness to individuals as they find their connectivity to the Divine. Because we are all uniquely individual, a person can emphasize one branch and then move on to another as they round out their understanding. In brief, the eight limbs of yoga are as follows:

1. Yama: Universal morality (societal codes of conduct)

2. Niyama: Personal observances (personal codes of conduct)

3. Asana: Body postures (yoga poses)

4. Pranayama: Breathing exercises and control of Prana (breath)

5. Pratyahara: Control of the senses (Savasana)

6. Dharana: Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness (present-moment awareness)

7. Dhyana: Devotion and meditation on the Divine

8. Samadhi: Union with the Divine

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