So What Exactly Is Yoga?
By Mike Bennett Kripalu Yoga Teacher
What exactly is Yoga is the question in the back of the mind of thousands of beginning yogis and potential yogis. Is Yoga a religion? Is it a cult? Is it an exercise regimen?
The meaning of the word Yoga means to yoke or union. Yoga is the harmonizing or union of the mind, body, and breath as a tool for personal growth and healing.The goal of yoga is the quieting of the chatter of the mind and to bring one back to an open minded and well-balanced healthy state of being. How can Yoga possibly do something that profound and great? Yoga is a practice built on eight steps or stages each building on the previous and preparing us for the next that act as guidelines to building a life that is full of Happiness, Health and Love.
The first step on the path is practicing five character building restraints, universal practices similar to the Golden Rule “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You”
- Non-injury/Non-violence to yourself or others
- Truthfulness to yourself and others
- Non-stealing from yourself and others, not just material possessions but intangible things such as time, effort, and attention
- Practices That Lead You Back To Source/Spirit/God meaning reading philosophy or scriptural texts, prayer, meditation
- Non-Attachment to people, places, things, concepts, and ideas
The second step is practicing character building observances based on self discipline.
- Cleanliness of the heart,body, breath and mind
- Contentment is being happy with where you are and what you have in life without complacency
- Uplifting Discipline is being deeply rooted in a practice that is not always easy and sometimes requires you to walk through the fire and strengthen your body, mind, and character
- Self-Study is getting to truly know yourself, the greek philosophers said there was no greater yield than knowing thyself to understand the nature of the human being.
- Trusting Life everything works out in the end and if it hasn’t worked out yet it’s because it’s not the end, life has a plan for you but you have to interact with that plan and take action
The third step is what people think of the most when they think of yoga and that is the practice of physical postures. The physical postures are meant to build self-discipline and strengthen the body and mind in order to maintain the seat of meditation.
The fourth stage is breath control, practicing breathing techniques designed to gain mastery over the connections between body, breath, mind, and emotions.
The fifth stage is making the conscious effort to withdraw from the outside world to prepare for meditation. The practice of being aware of, yet detached from our senses while directing our attention inward.
The sixth stage is the initial stage of meditation, practicing focusing attention on a chosen single point of concentration.
The seventh stage is the intermediate stage of meditation is the uninterrupted flow of concentration being able to maintain attention without a single point of focus for at least 12 inhales and exhales without the mind wandering. At this stage, the mind has been quieted, and in the stillness it produces few or no thoughts at all.
The eighth stage is the advanced stage of meditation. At this stage, the meditator merges with his or her point of focus.It can be described as a state of ecstasy an experience of bliss and being at one with the Universe. Peace.
Everyone’s yoga practice is different and unique to them, but we all strive to be happy and healthy beings and this path is one prescription on how to achieve a life that is full of happiness, health, and love.
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