An Overview

Yoga is a traditional Indian discipline of great value for people today. As the ancient sages discovered, Yoga is a culture for the whole person through which one can gain and maintain a healthier body and mind.

Yoga pupils learn through a carefully graded and systematic programme of asana (posture). Pranayama (breath control) is gradually introduced. Yoga practice both relaxes and energizes. It brings vitality, flexibility, strength, concentration, self-confidence and mental calm. Practising Yoga helps you overcome stresses and strains, aches and pains and promotes a firm foundation of health and well being.

Yoga is suitable for all types of people and all levels of fitness.

The Benefits of Yoga

The stress of modern life makes us neglect our bodies’ leading to strains pain and illness. Yoga provides a way to restore the balance of vital energies and to reintegrate the body with the mind. This helps us to cultivate a harmonious way of living. With experience of better health we find that peace and spiritual contentment are within our reach today.

The practice of Yoga Asanas and Pranayamas has a very beneficial effect on the whole body. The joints and muscles are all toned and strengthened. The circulation, digestion and breathing systems are stimulated, which improves their functions and assists the whole body to eliminate toxins. Energy levels are increased and the ability of the immune system to resist illness improves.

Yoga Asanas are not simply gymnastic exercises. When properly performed they are a physical, physiological and psychological process.

The physiological effects of the stretches, extending, flexing and twisting movements can actually regulate hormone production. Asanas will stimulate a sluggish lymphatic system or pacify over active glands, thus helping to relieve many ailments and prevent suffering.

Yoga is a valuable tool for us to alleviate the strain of conflicting impulses in daily life. Feelings of frustration and alienation can escalate into mental illnesses like anxiety and depression unless we learn how to keep them in check. As our physical well being grows we become calmer and mentally stronger which brings a balance to the mind and a sense of freedom of spirit.

During yoga practice we develop the skills of mental focus and clarity, which mature naturally into deeper awareness and meditation.

The spiritual aim of yoga is Self-realization, a perfect integration of the physical body and the consciousness of the mind. This culminates in the merging of the individual self with the universal.

Yoga is a holistic approach to good health, which encompasses mind, body and spirit. As we follow a clear path we feel less like a victim of circumstance and become more optimistic. Negative feelings of doubt, fear and selfishness are naturally replaced by positive attitudes such as courage, faith and compassion.

Patanjali and the Eight Limbs of Yoga

The exact origins of yoga have not been proved, but records from over 2500 years ago show familiar postures and techniques of yoga being used by the ancient civilisation of the Indus Valley, now part of Pakistan.

Patanjali, a scholar of Sanskrit and Medicine as well as Yoga, codified the essence of Yoga teachings in his Yoga Sutras. Traditionally these aphorisms were learned orally and have only been written down with commentaries in later years.

Yoga was and still is more than a form of exercise. Like the Eightfold path laid out by the Buddha’s teachings, each of the eight parts of Yoga must be integrated into practice if one is to attain one’s full spiritual potential.

The ultimate goal of yoga is liberation from “Avidya” or ignorance of reality. The immediate task is to clear the mind from the impressions of our past experiences. Our conditioning clouds our judgement about what is pure or impure, what is impermanent or eternal what is real or unreal.

In the Yoga Sutras we learn that moral conduct (Yamas) and personal ethics (Niyamas) are required as well as rhythmic breath (Pranayama) and a perfected posture (Asana) if the quest for truth by meditation is to bear fruit.

Through the practice of the first four of the disciplines, (Yama, Niyama, Asana Pranayama) the student of Yoga refines the senses and cultivates deeper awareness. The latter four branches namely Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi are described as the internal quest and are integrated into the teaching of Asanas and Pranayama. As such, meditation is an experience unique to each person and not a technique, which can be taught directly.

site by Nick Long of Somerset Yoga