Over the next few articles, I'd like to inspire you to use yoga. In particular, three types of yoga: asana, pranayama, and karma yoga. Whether you're a practiced yoga student, just curious, or somewhere in between, I'll always bring you something new to consider.
Did you know that there are actually eight “limbs” of yoga? I primarily focus on asana and pranayama. This is because they're great, yet simple, ways to practice stilling the mind and body.
In addition, karma yoga, while not technically one of the eight limbs, is a great way to work on the ego. Karma yoga is more of an overall mindset in yoga that focuses on helping others.
I've found that it's wise to use many tools, both eastern and western, to unite with the Divine. Doing this gives you a broad foundation and hastens your pace. Just having some familiarity with these three forms of yoga will serve you in innumerable ways throughout your entire life.
Yoga Means “Union”
The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit root word “yug,” which literally means to yoke or unite. Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years, originating in India in approximately 200 CE. It was written down in the sacred Hindu text, The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali.
Yoga is a set of practices that are designed to bring the human to enlightenment. This is done through union of the body, mind, and spirit with the Divine.
Not only is yoga spiritual, but it also has practical benefits! Medical science has measured and acknowledged that yoga lowers blood pressure and results in less cortisol stimulus. In addition, karma yoga brings an attitude that not only elevates our consciousness, but also our mood. Medical science has proven how mood impacts the health of our body.
Typically, today when we hear the term “yoga,” most people think of what I call "secular" yoga.
While still wonderful and healthy, there's usually no spiritual undertone to the secular version. They're primarily body postures with sometimes a bit of breathing instruction added. This type of yoga's usually done in group classes with a teacher at a gym or following a video in the home. Classes offered at a yoga studio with a yoga instructor are more likely to bring the spiritual aspect to the poses.
Even still, all of this secular yoga falls under only one limb of yoga—asana. There's MUCH MORE to yoga!
The Eight Limbs of Yoga
On my spiritual path, I've used both secular and spiritual yoga. The results have been so spectacular for me that I'm driven to share a few of them with you.
First, let's look at the larger context of yoga. The path of yoga includes eight parts (or “limbs"):
- Yama: Universal morality
- Niyama: Personal observances
- Asanas: Body postures
- Pranayama (and Mantra): Breathing exercises, and control of prana
- Pratyahara: Control of the senses
- Dharana: Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
- Dhyana: Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
- Samadhi: Union with the Divine
I love how William J.D. Doran, artist, Yoga instructor, and certified life coach, describes the path or practice of yoga,
“The practice of yoga is an art and science dedicated to creating union between body, mind, and spirit. Its objective is to assist the practitioner in using the breath and body to foster an awareness of ourselves as individualized beings intimately connected to the unified whole of creation. Upon practicing all eight limbs it becomes self-evident that no one element is elevated over another in a hierarchical order. Each is part of a holistic focus which eventually brings completeness to the individual as they find their connectivity to the divine."
It's helpful to understand the bigger context of any spiritual practice we're considering. However, there's no rule that says we have to eat the entire menu!
I encourage Tree of Life Sanctuary’s Your Path~Your Spiritual Satisfaction colleagues to first experiment with asana, pranayama, and karma yoga. If any of these resonates strongly and pulls them deeper, then I tell them to go for it.
In the upcoming articles, I'll offer one yoga practice each for asana, pranayama, and karma yoga. I encourage you to experiment with them as you will. It's also totally worthwhile to try yoga practices that you learn from other organizations. You're your own best guide in choosing where to explore.
Either way, expand your comfort zone and stretch yourself to try something new. Sit, breathe, be still, stay awake, and be of service. Your Divinity awaits you deep inside in the Silence.
Ready, Set, Action!
As always, I invite you to explore these topics in your own unique way, by yourself or with others. Share with me about how it's going and what blocks you're running into. You can use the comment section below, or for more privacy, email me at [email protected].
I've devoted my life to the uncovering of my Divine self. Because of the blissful results, I'm committed to supporting fellow seekers in the uncovering of their Divine self. One way I do this is through Your Path~Your Spiritual Satisfaction group coaching program that I created. It includes a self-assessment on the topics I've discussed in this article.
If you'd like to learn more about it, please join me and the Tree of Life Sanctuary coaching team in one of our regular complimentary information webinars. Click here to learn more.
Written by Laura Abernathy