When I first began practicing yoga I thought it was a purely physical affair. However, I later learnt I was wrong. Ashtanga yoga defines the 8 limb path (Ashta = 8, Anga = Limb) for yoga as described by Patanjali who lived about 150BC in India and is still a world-renowned scientist. The 8 limbs of yoga each relate to one of the following:
Yamas – How you treat others, self-restraint through directing your energy, death of the ego. There are 5 vows for Yama (non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, understanding sexual energy, and non-possessiveness)
Niyamas – Self-discipline, regularity and mastering your instincts. There are 5 observances within Niyama (purity, contentment, simplicity, meditating on the self, and surrendering to the divine within you)
Asana – The postures we practice in a class to enable us to open up the body and to be able to stay in a steady, comfortable and blissful posture to aid practice of the following limbs
Pranayama – Breath and prana (energy) control, becoming more aware of the gaps between the breath to assist in coming into a state of no mind
Pratyahara – Moving attention inside, withdrawal of the senses to external distractions so we can deeper understand ourselves; the mind becoming fit for concentration
Dharana – Meditation, contemplation, singular focus with an uninterrupted flow of concentration (retaining concentration on one object)
Dhyana – Meditation, there is no object, only awareness, knowledge of the true self (contemplation)
Samadhi – Where the mind goes beyond the subject. The state of ecstasy, where you merge with your focus point and feel a profound connection with all that is.
Practising yoga asana allows us to play out life on our yoga mat as the intertwined series of simple and subtle actions and events which all layer up to build a beautiful and multi-dimensional play. By breaking down these layers 1 by 1 we can then understand and feel how each individual part works as well as how it connects to the whole; thus illustrating to us how simple everything can be when viewed from certain perspectives. Many of the yogic texts say and I believe that we are on this Earth and in this Universe to live, play, learn, grow and love; inevitably to again return to the formless and therefore making it really important that we make the most of this life and conquer any fears or life-limiting factors we can to Live Our expression of Life as Fully as possible.
Yoga is for everyone to try, explore and play with; regardless of age, body shape or ability.
As you can see, yoga is more than a physical affair, it is a science which allows you to unfold the mind and go deeper than you could ever have imagined.