What everyone should know about Yoga
Written by Caroline Hecker
Yoga is a term often used nowadays. Some people think yoga is simply a workout other connect it with some weekend wellness centers. But what is the actual meaning of yoga and whats its true essence?
Yoga describes a system for your body, soul and mind which was first written down in the vedics 5000 years ago. The simple word “Yoga” comes from “Yui” which means “putting things together”- unite them. It is a way of uniting all the different layers of your body, a union of individual consciousness and the universal consciousness. To achieve this state of inner and outer harmony, the old rishis, wise men(“seekers”), wrote down so called “Asanas” (static positions). These “Asanas” they based on the bodypositions of animals which they noticed when observing pure nature. “Asanas” affect the body and mind complex, the different body systems (Digestive, Circulatory, Endocrine, Skeletal, Musculatory, Nervous, Reproductive, Excretory system), deeper states of awareness, awakenings of kundalini (Dormant creative energy), release prana (vital energy). Moreover the rishis wrote down the ”Kriyas”(movements), and different meditation methods.
A very old path and one of the most known is “Ashtanga Yoga”: the eight folded path. It was described in the “Yogasutras”, by the influential and famous Yoga teacher “Patanjali”. The path starts with the two steps: Yama and Niyama- these are the ethic roots for everyone who wants to start practicing Yoga. When you manage to live according to these five universal ethical principles (Yamas) and five rules of personal conduct (Niyamas), you are ready to learn the first Asana. The next step of the path is “Pranayama”(Sanskrit for “life force”)-it describes the control of energy by conscious breathing. It teaches you different breathing techniques which you have to practice on a regular basis in order to balance body, mind and soul and to get closer to your higher consiousness. Once you integrated that, you reach step five, which is “Pratyahara”- the drawing back of senses. This is the first step on your way to meditation. It is a separate discipline with the aim to bring all your senses to a standstill. It rests the nervous system and collects the mind- it is a preparation for the state of concentration which you need in order to get into meditation. Once you learned to withdrawal your senses you are prepared to practice “Dharana”, the sixth stage, describing a willful concentration of the mind on one object. “Dharana” is followed by “Dhyana”, meditation. There are several ways to meditate, meditation as such describes the focus of ones mind for a period of time- in silence or with the aid of chanting. There are also active meditations like dancing or shaking meditation. If you managed all these seven steps, you have the chance to get into the eight step, the state of Samadhi, which is enlightenment.
Although Yoga is often associated with Hinduism, it is not a religion, but a philosophy or a way of life, which can be practiced by people of all religions as well as by atheists. Also some people confuse Yoga with an exercise that requires you to be very flexible and strong- Yoga is for everyone, it is not about being sporty. If you are not flexible or strong-perfect! Yoga will get you there! Though the Asanas seem to be a very physical practice- and they are- the main process of yoga is happening inside. It is about union of us all and your inner self and the relief of suffering.