Yoga Mind & bodywork for Health and Transformation

Philosophy of yoga

One of the most taught and quoted texts on yoga of ancient India is the Yoga Sutras, written by the sage Patanjali. In these terse aphorisms he outlines a system called Astanga Yoga (not to be confused with the currently popular dynamic hatha yoga style), which consists of eight (astha) progressive stages or 'limbs' (anga) of yoga:

1. Yama  -  Abstentions
2. Niyama  -  Observances
[1 & 2 are basic codes of conduct of daily life and include such things as truthfulness, non-violence, non-stealing, sexual continence, cleanliness, contentment, self development, spiritual awareness]
3. Asana  -  Postures (see above)
4. Pranayama  -  Breath control for increasing vital energy
5. Pratyahara  -  Controlling emotions by ithdrawing attention from the pull and push of ephemeral sensory pleasure and pain
6. Dharana  -  Concentration, keeping the mind focused on one point
7. Dhyana  -  Meditation, absorption in a state of higher consciousness
8. Samadhi  -  Bliss / Enlightenment

The modern Sivananda Yoga tradition describes five basic principles of yoga: 

  1. Proper Exercise (Asanas)
    Our physical bodies are designed to move. If our lifestyle is sedentary and we do not exercise then weakness, imbalances, misalignments and dis-ease quickly ensue and early degeneration sets in. Proper exercise should be enjoyable in order to be truly beneficial for the body, mind, emotions and spirit. The asanas produce not only physical benefits, but also balance the emotions and are mental exercises in concentration and meditation. Yoga is a tool, which teaches us how to care for and make the best possible use of our bodies. It shows us that each individual body is different and unique in terms of flexibility, strength, stamina and balance. A posture or style of practice that is good for one may not be appropriate for another.

  2. Proper Breathing (Pranayama)
    The breath is our primary source of energy. A major benefit with yoga practice is that it teaches people to be more aware of poor breathing habits, particularly in stressful situations, and to breath better, so less tension will accumulate in the body. Pranayama exercises teach us how to use the lungs to their maximum capacity and how to control the breath and thus enhance energy levels. Proper breathing should be slow and rhythmic. This increases vitality and mental clarity.

  3. Proper Relaxation (Savasana)
    The art of relaxation is an essential part of keeping the body and mind healthy. In relaxation the body gets a chance to heal, replenish and repair itself. In our stressful modern lives many people unwind with strong exercise, alcohol or drugs and do not even sleep properly. Thus they are constantly living on reserve and rarely give themselves the chance for truly restorative rest.  Yoga brings relaxation on the physical, mental and emotional levels. After a yoga session one feels both relaxed and energized for the rest of the day. If you feel tired, stiff or agitated, the practice needs to be adjusted. This is the guide as to whether your practice is right for you

  4. Proper Diet
    Food is our secondary source of energy and provides us the ingredients for building and repairing our bodies. It also contains the chemicals, which profoundly affect our mind and emotions. A yogic diet consists of eating with awareness, choosing food, which is ecological sound, has the most positive, beneficial effect on the body and mind and in the right quantities. This is to derive maximum nourishment without overloading or stressing the system. One should always finish eating before feeling full. The Sivananda tradition advocates following a lacto-vegetarian diet and avoiding foods, which over stimulate the body and agitate the mind. 

  5. Positive Thinking and Meditation (Vedanta and Dhyana)
    We become what we think about! The ancient yogis recognized that we create our lives with our thoughts. Learning to master the body is a path to learning to master the mind. When we master our minds we master our lives. Meditation is well known to improve concentration, mental focus and power, to bring peace of mind, emotional balance and spiritual awareness. Meditation is beneficial for everyone, especially those with a hectic, stressful life. It gives us a space in which we can detach from the daily details, see the big picture, gain perspective and insight into what is important in life and the true nature of being.
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