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ABOUT YOGA

"Yoga attempts to create a state in which we are always present - really present - in every action, in every moment"

T.K.V. Desikashar in 'The Heart of Yoga'

Yoga is rooted in ancient India. It is one of six Hindu darshanas or 'ways of seeing'.  The word 'yoga' is commonly translated as union.  This is often thought of as a bringing together of body and mind, and eventually through diligent practice on ones chosen path, a realisation of the interconnectedness of all things.

Revered Hindu text the Bhagavad Gita (6th-3rd century BCE) mentions four types of yoga; bhakti (devotion); jnana (knowledge); karma (action) and raja (concentration).  There are many paths because there are many personalities. Not all paths suit all people so we go with the one that resonates with us the best

 

Hang on a minute, I hear you say, I thought yoga was going to help me balance on my hands!  What's this got to do with me?  Yes it's true.  Most people in the west associate yoga with asana (posture) practice.  The asanas are part of the Hatha yoga system which emerged in the middle ages. The posture practices, along with pranayama (breathing techniques) were originally intended as preparation for the practice of meditation.  It is challenging to sit and face the workings of your mind directly so the practices of hatha yoga were an alternative way in.  The word 'hatha' can be split in two.  Ha referring to the solar masculine energy within and Tha, the lunar feminine energy.  Known as the yoga of 'force', hatha yoga uses techniques designed to actively unite these two energies leading to heightened states of consciousness.

Maybe you're thinking, but where does downward dog come into this? What about sun salutations?  Well there are many modern forms of hatha yoga which have a much stronger emphasis on asana. Most of these have really

only been around for the last century or less.  Ashtanga vinyasa, yin, Iyengar, power yoga, hot yoga......the list goes on.  Before you choose a class reflect a little on why you want to practice. What is your motivation? This will help you find a class that's right for you.

There are many benefits to be had from a regular asana and pranayama practice.  Many of us lead a pretty sedentary lifestyle.  Maybe we have to sit all day a desk staring at a computer,  maybe we have to move in a repetitive way, working at a check out or as a hairdresser for example.  Our bodies literally become stuck in these movement patterns, losing ease and lightness and freedom.  The range of movements explored in a typical yoga class can help get some of this back.   Yoga also gives us an opportunity to become intimately aware of our breath. We can learn a lot from this.  The quality of the breath reflects our state of mental and physical wellbeing. The wonderful thing is, whilst the breath happens automatically much of the time without us being aware of it, we also have the ability to control it.  We can use pranayama techniques to build energy or to settle and sooth an overstimulated mind and body. The breath is the key to our internal landscape.

 

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