“Yoga allows you to achieve a sense of wholeness in your life, where you do not feel you are constantly trying to fit the broken pieces together. Yoga allows you to find an inner peace that is not ruffled and riled by the endless stresses and struggles of life. Yoga allows you to find a new kind of freedom that you may not have known existed”
BKS Iyengar Light on Life
The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit yuj, which means ‘yoke’ or ‘union’. Practising the postures and breathing with awareness develops harmony, bringing unity to the mind, body and spirit, and helping us to realise our true nature.
Many of the ideas underpinning yoga stem from a classical work in India – the ‘Yoga Sutras’ of Patanjali.
Patanjali lived in India over 2,200 years ago. A sage and a scholar, he wrote classical texts on Sanskrit grammar and medicine, as well as his Yoga Sutras, the first written statement of yogic philosophy. Before that, yoga followed an oral tradition, passed on personally from teacher to student.
In 196 succinct aphorisms, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras describe the working of the mind and emotions, and the path to fulfilment. In the first chapter yoga is defined as “the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind”.
Patanjali described the ‘eight limbs’ or stages of yoga. On this eightfold path the first two ‘limbs’, yama and niyama, offer guidance on a personal moral code, towards others and oneself.
The next two ‘limbs’, asana and pranayama, are the physical practices taught in our yoga classes: yoga postures and control of the breath. They give us the tools to look further inward.
The other four stages continue this inward search. Through withdrawal of the senses (pratyahara) and concentration (dharana), sustained meditation (dhyana) engenders ‘samadhi’, which is can be seen as freedom, self-realisation and enlightenment.
Mr. Iyengar talks about yoga as “meditation in action”. Yoga in practice combines all eight elements, helping us to explore further. Then we can go back into the outside world, exploring further that everything is interconnected.