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- Written by Lisa Horgan
“ Yoga is said to be the unity of breath, mind, and the senses, as well as the renunciation of all states (of finite existence)” - Maitri-Upanishad (6.25)
Yoga and its teachings have been handed down by word of mouth from teacher to disciple for centuries. In the past decade, yoga has exploded over here in the western world. It seems that yoga studios are popping up on every street corner, from hot yoga to goat yoga.
Contrary to popular belief, yoga is more than simply moving your body into fancy shapes. The word yoga itself means to connect, unite to ‘yoke’ and the connection we are looking for is a connection to oneself. Your true self- this may also be referred to as the soul connection. The idea is that this connection to our true self will give us the freedom to let go of earthly constraints and in turn attain ‘Moksha' which means liberation or freedom.
#1 Yama - Restraints, moral disciplines or moral vows
#2 Niyama - Positive duties or observances
#3 Asana - Posture
#4 Pranayama - Breathing techniques
#5 Pratyahara - Senory withdrawal
#6 Dharana - Focused concentration
#7 Dhyana - Meditative absorption
#8 Samadhi - Bliss or enlightenment
One of these limbs is the Asana. Asanas are the physical postures, and this is what we will mainly explore in this upcoming blog series.
Originally practised with the intention of being able to sit in quiet contemplation or meditation for hours with no physical pain. The asanas now act as a tonic for our modern world where most of us spend way too many hours sitting, hunched over a desk or in front of a screen.
A common misconception about yoga is that you need to be flexible in order to do it! I often get people who use this excuse as to why they don’t try it. My response is always the same “this is exactly the point” Whilst increased flexibility is one of the many side benefits of getting on the mat its not a prerequisite or even the goal. We practice yoga in order to nurture flexibility, not only in the body but also in the mind. You need to move your body in a mindful way, and do so consistently in order to build that flexibility.
Okay, so here’s the truth, you're not going to take your first yoga class and be cured of all your ailments, neither are you going to turn into the Dalai Lama overnight and be instantly calm and centred. There's a reason why we call it a yoga ‘practice’.
Every day we get the opportunity to show up on our mat and we practice, it won’t be perfect, there's no such thing. Equally, there’s no award to win and you can’t get it wrong.
We all have completely different bodies capable of different things. Think of yoga as a discovery of what yours can do rather than what it can’t.
For those of you who’ve never practised yoga before, I get it. Like anything new it can be intimidating going into an environment where people seem to know what they’re doing, especially in yoga. It's common to enter a room and see someone calmly standing on their head or bending over backwards to chat with the teacher, literally!
The good news is, you don’t have to do any of those fancy moves to benefit from yoga. The simple poses can make a huge impact on your health & wellbeing, and when practised overtime, can help you look and feel fantastic!
Rather than thinking of yoga as an exercise (although it certainly does condition the body!- hello cute yoga butt) think of it as time with yourself. Your time on your mat is sacred. When you think about your daily schedule, how much time do you really have completely to yourself?
Especially if you're a mother to young children, or have a demanding job- often there's always something external pulling for your attention. Claim this time on your mat for you and relish the opportunity to turn inwards, to connect to your body completely, to breathe, to be present.
We’re all so busy, the majority of the time our attention is elsewhere, on autopilot, fixating on imaginary future scenarios or mulling over past conversations that didn’t go as planned. The physical aspect of yoga helps to ground us, to pay attention, to truly be here, in this moment.
Don’t be surprised if the internal chatter becomes louder to moment you begin class, when we stop, physically, our mind's go into overdrive, especially if we’re not used to stopping. Bring awareness to it, refocus in the moment on the physical asana and the mind will, over time, begin to settle.
Lisa is a contributing writer for Truth Naturals. Her experience originating from being a certified holistic health coach, blogger and yoga teacher for 10 years. Lisa is extremely passionate about health and wellness, natural remedies and plant-based nutrition. You can find her on Instagram at @livesimplylisa