7 March 2014
I love doing and sharing yoga!
Yoga and belly dance are great compliments for each other: both use movements anyone can do (sometimes with modifications) to strengthen the body while also deepening the spirit. The posture is very similar in both, and this concentration on good posture allows energy channels to open and flow within the body.
While not quite a panacea, practicing yoga can provide great benefits to your body, mind, and spirit, regardless of your size or level of experience. More than just practicing postures, it can open you up to a more fit physical body and a more open and flexible mind. Practicing Pranayama and Meditation will quench your spirit and give you so much more energy and enthusiasm for living.
If you’re interested in consultations or private lessons, please contact me!
The Yoga Process
Below is a brief synopsis of the Eight Limbs of yoga, written for the yoga teacher training program I did a few years ago. The Eight Limbs are the traditional way that yoga is taught, beginning with the most outward part of the self: our interactions and relationships with others. You might be surprised to learn that Asana practice — that which is generally referred to as “Yoga” in the west — is the third Limb rather than the first!
Thankfully, at least from my experience, you will benefit from any of these practices regardless of where you start — although I’m sure some purists would shudder to read this. Still, I feel it’s best to practice them all, and in the order given. At a minimum, this is good food for self-reflection:
1) The Yamas (self-restraints on behavior):
- Ahimsa: “harmlessness” – nonviolence, compassion. This includes having compassion for oneself.
- Satya: “truthfulness” – living your truth in congruity with the Eight Limbs. Learning to listen to your inner voice.
- Asteya: “nonstealing” – not appropriating the material, time, or wishes of others without their expressed consent.
- Brahmacharya: “self-restraint” or “right use of vital force.” This Yama has historically been translated as “sexual restraint” or “abstinence.” This could also be translated as “seeing the divine in everything,” and therefore not exerting manipulative behavior over people and things. Manipulative behavior can take the form of, for example: sexual manipulation, social expectations, peer- or power-pressure, or taking advantage of those less fortunate (With thanks to yogini Julianne Rice for this definition).
- Aparigraha: “not hoarding or collecting” – non-attachment. The realization that change is the only constant in the universe. In accepting this we can let go of the obsolete physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual items in our life while making room for new items.
2) The Niyamas (self-observances):
- Saucha – purity, cleanliness. Respecting yourself and your personal surroundings.
- Santosa – contentment. Being satisfied with what you have.
- Tapas – self-discipline, purification. Burning away doubt, laziness, etc.
- Svadhyaya – self-study. Observing and being honest with yourself; self-improvement.
- Isvara Pranidhana – surrender of separation, surrender to the divine.
3) Hatha Yoga – Physical poses or asanas, which tone and strengthen the body and therefore strengthen our personal connection and deepen our understanding of ourselves.
- Pranayama – Breath/Vital Force Control; this increases our conscious use of Prana, the vital energy of the universe.
- Pratyahara – Removing one’s consciousness from the sensate world; taking refuge in the self.
- Dharana – Concentration on one point; one-pointed awareness of an object outside of the self.
- Dhyana -- furthering Dharana: awareness of the relationship/connection between the object and self.
- Samadhi -- furthering Dhyana: no difference between self/Object; Union.
The synopsis above is merely a drop in the bucket. I am always happy to learn and teach more about anything related to yoga.
Please do remember that nothing replaces an actual yoga teacher. It is best to take classes with someone you enjoy, and extend your practices at home. Like dance, yoga is a physical activity that involves some risk, so please make sure you work with a qualified person.
P.S. If you’re interested in further research on this fascinating subject, I suggest the following:
Yoga is Youthfulness – my favorite yoga studio, where my mentor Tom Abrehamson works — he’s an excellent teacher! I substitute for him fairly regularly at Yoga is Youthfulness.
Yoga Journal – both the website and the magazine are great resources.
The Wikipedia site on Yoga Nidra, a sleep/healing yogic technique.
Yes: Yoga Educational Seminars – Joyce Anue is a great teacher; I received my yoga teacher training through her organization.