What is Yoga?

Yoga is a science that has been practiced for thousands of years. It consists of ancient spiritual philosophy, observations and principles about the body, mind and spirit connection, some of which is now being proven by modern medicine.

“Yoga is the restriction of the fluctuations of consciousness“
Yoga Sutra 1;2

“Restriction of these fluctuations is achieved through practice and dispassion”
Yoga Sutra 1;12

“Evenness (samatva) is called yoga”
Bhagavad-Gita 1;33

“One should practice Yoga for the purification of the self”
Bhagavad-Gita V1;12

“Yoga is an art, a science and a philosophy. It touches the life of man at every level, physical, mental, and spiritual. It is a practical method for making one,s life purposeful, useful and noble.”
BKS Iyengar Light on the Yoga Sutras

“The very essence of Yoga is the practice of asanas and pranayama. Purify the body first, attention to detail trains the mind to focus. Discipline is behind all paths to inner peace and freedom.”
BKS Iyengar Light on Life

“Only when we have truly found ourselves will we be able to live in peace, harmony and happiness in the world. This is what is sometimes called the sacred life”
George Feuerstein Living your Yoga

Hatha Yoga

Hatha Yoga is considered the name for general yoga, an all encompassing form. The word Hatha means Sun/Moon which implies balance is a goal we aim for.

The Hatha Yoga classes offer a breath-focussed, vinyasa (movement), physical approach that helps connect the student with their body, at the same time creating a quiet mind.

Like Iyengar Yoga, props are used in the classes to help tailor poses to the individual. And, alignment is emphasized to foster the best posture and movement. Every class has a relaxing period for reducing stress and centering the mind.

Iyengar Yoga

Iyengar Yoga places particular emphasis upon the precise and careful attention to physical alignment. It insists on balancing and integrating development, and emphasizes posture to develop strength, endurance and suppleness – physically, psychologically, mentally and emotionally. Iyengar yoga can be practiced by children and adults of different ages and levels of well-being. With the help of equipment such as chairs bolsters, straps, sandbags, weights and ropes, even those with limited flexibility or health problems can practice and benefit immediately.

Iyengar teachers are trained through a practice and assistance based apprenticeship process spanning 3 years, then face a demanding assessment procedure before Certification.

The Value of Yoga

The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit meaning, that is the uniting of the body, mind and soul. In practicing yoga we endeavour to work the body, sharpen the mind and create an inner feeling of peace and tranquility.

Yoga can help when you are feeling physically unwell or if suffering from a certain disability by alleviating the pain and improving the condition. Not only does the outer physical body benefit from the stretches and extensions of the postures by toning the muscles and leaving the skin feeling vibrant, but the inner body benefits too. The postures work on the internal organs which have the opportunity to be toned and massaged, and are therefore able to function more effectively and efficiently. The systems of the body are targeted too; the nervous system is soothed and calmed; the glandular system, regulated. After each class the whole body feels energized, oxygenized and is filled with healthy blood and yet there is also a sense of calmness and relaxation.

On a mental level yoga helps to improve concentration, allowing one not to lose focus of one’s intention. This is achieved through consistent and regular practice when concentration on body alignment and control of the breath generates energy throughout the body.

There is a higher moral or spiritual facet to yoga as well. Through its calming and healing influence comes the ability to listen, understand others and become more tolerant. This usually develops unconsciously when the intelligence of the mind and the action of the body work together to reveal a sense of self-awareness. A journey of self-discovery begins.

Philosophy of Yoga

The tradition of yoga is 5000 years old.

The word ‘yoga’ derives from the Sanskrit root (yui) meaning to yoke or unite the body, mind and soul.

Through discipline of intelligence, mind and emotions comes deliverance from pain, sorrow and delusion.

By overcoming the perils of desire, anger, greed, infatuation and pride, true harmony between the body and soul develops and will help one to reach self realization.

The obstacles which hinder us from achieving perfect harmony and reaching self realization were written down by Patanjali about 2000 years ago, in the form of the Yoga Sutras which are like rules or codes presented in aphorisms of which there are 194. They cover contemplation, practice, power, emancipation and freedom.

8 Disciplines of Yoga

The second chapter on Practice includes the 8 disciplines (limbs) of yoga. It is these 8 limbs that is the essence to which we aspire and particularly the third limb on asana (poses) that we focus on in class.

They are:

1) Yama (restraint) ethical life principles
2) Niyama (observance) self restraint and self study
3) Asana (posture) assuming pose and repose in them
4) Pranayama (energy control through breath restraint)
5) Pratayara (withdrawal of the senses)
6) Dharana (concentration of the mind)
7) Dhyana (meditation)
8) Samadhi (total absorption in the infinite)

Yoga is a holistic approach to health, (mind, body, spirit). When there is physical balance there will be mental balance.  Where there is breath control there is mental and body control.

Modern life brings stress which can create body restriction, anxiety, depression, restlessness and rage. The primary aim of yoga is to free the mind and body of confusion and stress and help to instil a healthier lifestyle. Practicing the asanas (postures) will best serve this purpose.

Recommended reading

LIGHT ON YOGA, B.K.S. Iyengar  ISBN 000 710700 5
LIGHT ON PRANAYAMA,  B.K.S. Iyengar  ISBN  1 85538 242 3
LIGHT ON LIFE,  B .K.S. Iyengar with John J Evans and Douglas Abrams  ISBN  13 978 1 59486 248 9
YOGA A GEM FOR WOMEN. Geeta S Iyengar,  Allied Publishers Limited