This post is dedicated to explaining that Yoga is not solely Asana (posture) practice. Asana is only one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. I will keep this as “quick to the point” as possible and by the end of it you should have a very basic understanding on what Yoga Practice is.
Before we begin, I introduce to you Patanjali (pictured above). Patanajali is the compiler of the Yoga Sutras (compiled from the Yoga teachings found in the 4 vedas), an important collection of aphorisms on Yoga practice. Within the Yoga Sutras contains Patanjali’s Eight Limbed (Astanga) Yoga Practice. These Eight Limbs are a practical guide to one’s personal development to achieve harmony of the mind, body and spirit which leads to enlightenment (Samadhi).
Here are the Eight Limbs explained in point form.
1. Yamas (5) – Your relationship with others
• Ahimsa – Non-harmfulness (in both thought and actions)
• Satya – Truthfulness (relative) as it can be heard (thinking before speaking)
• Asteya – Non-stealing (material and immaterial)
• Brhamacharya – Faithfulness in interpersonal relationships – Seeing the Eternal Consciousness in all
• Aparigraha – Non-greed
2. Niyamas (5) – Your relationship with your self
• Sauca – Cleanliness (both inner and outer)
• Santosa – Contentment with what you have and who you are
• Tapas – Self-restraint and discipline (body, speech and mind)
• Svadhyaya – Self-reflection
• Isvara Pranidhana – Link with the highest (ie. Nature, values of intergrity, religion, etc.)
3. Asana – Postures must be practiced in a way that creates attention (but not tension) and ease (without laziness). This balance is called sattva. Any position where you can be (asana) focussed and comfortable with attention but not tension is Asana.
4. Pranayama – The control of breath. Breath is regulated with the aim of strengthening and cleansing the Central Nervous System and increasing one’s life energy.
5. Prathayhara – Withdrawing the senses. Focusing internally so much so that you are no longer distracted by the external environment.
6. Dharana – Concentration. Tying the mind to one place of attention.
7. Dhyanam – Meditation. Stretch the contents of your mind to focus on one object OR once you have chosen your direction, to extend (stretch) your stay.
8. Samadhi – As if you are not even there, only the qualities of the object upon which you have been meditating exist. This results in total absorption (union) with your object of meditation.
You now have a starting point to learning about what Yoga truly is. With this said, it does not mean that you need to practice all of the Eight Limbs in order to say that you do Yoga. However, it is good to know that there is more to Yoga than Asana practice and that postures are only one part of the whole. I leave you with one final important thing to acknowledge about Yoga – you do not need to change for Yoga, but along the way Yoga may change you.