Yoga is an ancient, holistic and self-empowering practice. Its theoretical basis, originating some five thousand years ago, is a tried and tested science and philosophy which uses a variety of approaches to restore and maintain health, enhance well being and also offer a powerful tool to guide us on a journey of personal and spiritual growth.
Yoga means union. Its central purpose is to unite our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual selves with our true nature or soul enabling us to experience the limitless life energy that is the very core of our being. Patanjali, the great sage responsible for formulating The Yoga Sutras, describes the way to do this as being able to, “still the thought waves of the mind.” Over time the ways and means in attaining this goal have steadily developed and varied in direction, but all can be categorized into one, if not more, of the four main paths of yoga.
1 Bhakti Yoga - The Yoga of devotion, worship or focused Love.
2 Jnana Yoga - The path of spiritual study, knowledge and wisdom
3 Karma Yoga - Union through selfless service, working or acting without seeking reward.
4 Raja YogaPatanjali’s - Royal path, union through meditation. Reached via the eight limbs of Yoga.
Patanjali sets out the principles and practices of yoga with eight steps to liberation. Not only do these encompass the physical practices of Hatha Yoga, we are commonly familiar with in the west, but Patanjali teaches that we need to change the way we habitually think and act. Within the eight limbs of yoga he offers guidance on how to relate to ourselves, other people and the world around us, encouraging us to understand and develop ourselves. In essence he teaches mindfulness.
1. Yamas - Moral observances.
Ahimsa (non harm)
Bramacharya (conservation of energy)
2. Niyamas - Personal observances
Svadhyaya (study of spiritual books)
Isvara Pranidhanam (Self surrender)
3. Asana - Posture
4. Pranayama - Breath development
5. Pratyahara - Withdrawal of the senses
6. Dharana - Concentration
7. Dhyana - Meditation
8. Samadhi - State of Union
Hatha Yoga is concerned with the physical aspect of Yoga. ‘Ha’ meaning sun and ‘Tha’ meaning moon represent the positive and negative energy flows of the physical and subtle bodies. The purificatory and cleansing practices of Hatha Yoga mainly consist of asana (postures) and pranayama (breath development) which aim to balance and regulate these energy flows preparing the practitioner for meditation. The preliminary to Raja Yoga
A PLETHORA OF BENEFITS
- Increases muscle strength and flexibility
- Improves cardiovascular endurance
- Improves balance and co-ordination
- Increases confidence, self esteem and develops positive attitude
- Relieves stress and tension
- Rejuvenating, increases vital energy
- Promotes a relaxed and calm state of mind
- Tones the body and offers a glowing complexion
- Generally encourages a more mindful, positive way of living.