Andalusia yoga photo

Yoga Moves You!

Yoga is humanity’s aspirin, with no contraindications and no harmful side effects; it can be prescribed for all. Taken regularly, the benefits are life changing. Relief begins as soon as we do.

Yoga is a way of living. Through its practice we will discover our true nature, that of peace and compassion. By living by the principles of yoga, we will be released from unhelpful, unreal patterns of behaviour and will naturally move towards contentment.

Yoga is tailor-made and we choose our form. It is fitted to the reality of where we are now, anywhere being the perfect place to start. It is not exclusive or painful or impossible, it is as easy as sitting still and listening to your breath.

Yoga sits comfortably with all manner of life styles so long as it shares our time. On our busiest days we may not find time for all our practices, but if we can make time to breathe deeply and be present in that moment, then we are practising yoga.

Yoga is the union of the mind body and spirit .The Yoga path combines the physical practices of asanas or postures, breath control and sattvic or harmonious diet (for your body and mind) with the practice of self-awareness, observation, meditation and the study of yoga philosophy.

The path of yoga guides us towards a clarity of understanding which allows us to see what we truly are. It releases us from the many misunderstandings that encumber our lives. It removes the mental boulders that blocked our journey and caused us dissatisfaction.

Our yoga journey equips us with an insight that allows us to read our past experiences as parables and so make sense of our wrong turns. We recognise our misunderstandings and bring about changes in our attitude that will overcome them. We become aware that our egos conjure our mental obstacles and once we can see things from a different perspective, those obstacles, like clouds, evaporate.

Over two thousand years ago, the various philosophies and practises of yoga were presented by sage Patanjali in his set of aphorisms called the ‘Yoga Sutras’. In this, Patanjali describes the eight limbs or disciplines which form the Yoga path. We aim to practice these disciplines and by doing so move towards a mind place of ease and contentment.

Yoga has 8 Limbs or paths which lead us towards a calmer easeful way of being…

The Yamas

Yama is the first limb; it guides us in ethics, right attitude and truthfulness, towards ourselves and all others. We learn to look inwards through self-examination, to ‘check-in’ with ourselves and not spin ourselves a line but be authentic and true to ourselves.
Yama is divided into five attributes.

Sattva: Truth

The first, Sattva, teaches us to be true to ourselves. It is a revelation and relief once we understand that so much of our discontent is optional. Our negative attitudes can be un-thought once scaffolded by philosophical understanding.

Ahimsa: Non-Harm

The second attribute Ahimsa translates as non-injury. This is expressed through friendly, thoughtful consideration of all others and ourselves. We practice non-injury in our actions, speech and thoughts. An example of this would be when we notice our unspoken judgement on others, we let these thoughts go, before they take wings and become a gripe. This process of self-examination replaces useless harmful thoughts with tranquillity of mind.

Asteya: Non Taking

We practice the third attribute, Asteya, the principle of non-stealing. Desire for something not belonging to us causes discontent and dissatisfaction. We should not take advantage of situations in order to gain something which we are not entitled to.

The practice of ‘controlled responsible behaviour’ as described by TKV Desikachar relates to Brahamacharya, non-lust, the fourth attribute. This will allow us to free our energy to move towards our goal of truth. This does not mean abstinence from a loving physical relationship, but guides us to be controlled about our physical relationship, not be controlled by it.

Aparigraha: Not Wanting

The final principle of Yama is Aparigraha; this is concerned with not wanting what we don’t have. We learn to accept only what is necessary and to be content with that.

The Niyamas

The second limb of the yoga path is that of Niyamas, this is concerned with personal discipline and relates to our attitude towards ourselves. There are five principles of Niyama.

Saucha: Cleanliness

The first principle is Saucha; this is concerned with inner and outer cleanliness, caring for our hygiene and our environment. We maintain our inner purity of mind and body by eating a pure wholesome diet, regularly practicing asanas and pranayama.

Santosha: Contentment

The second principle is of Santosha, translated as contentment. A commentary in the Yoga Sutra says “Contentment counts for more than all sixteen heavens together”. We learn to be content with what we have and, what we don’t have. The moment we are content with the way things are, we are at peace.

Tapas: Discipline or Consistency

The third principle is of Tapas. It is described as austerity, but not in a way that causes us suffering. It is more the case of having self-discipline which helps us to move forward towards our goal.

Svadhyaya: Self Inquiry

Next is Svadhyaya, which translates as self-enquiry. Anything that helps us to understand ourselves is Svadhyaya. This may be through the study of yoga and other inspirational texts. It can also be achieved through self-enquiry or learning from inspirational teachers.

Ishvara-Pranidhana: Constant thought of Pure Consciousness

The last of the Niyamas is Ishvara-Pranidhana, which translates as constant thought of God, or God consciousness. This is seeing or awareness of pure consciousness in everything. I see this as being constantly aware of our amazing universe, nature, and our huge potential to love and give love.

Asanas: Postures

The third limb of the yoga path is the practice of asanas or postures. The practice of asanas connects the mind body and soul through the focus of posture and breath. We aim for our posture to combine two important qualities, Sthira – steadiness and alertness, and Sukha – to remain comfortable. TKV Desikachar says that without these qualities there is no asana. In order to achieve these qualities we remember the attitude of Santosha, to accept ourselves just as we are. With this acceptance as our foundation, we will naturally and comfortably practice our postures, gradually progressing without any ego motive to tie ourselves in knots physically or mentally.

Pranayama: Breath Control

Pranayama the fourth limb of the yoga path is described in the Yoga Sutra as “first and foremost awareness of the breath” It means to stretch or extend that which is infinitely everywhere. The quality of our breath influences our state of mind and vice versa. When we practice pranayama we focus our attention on the breath, we listen to it and feel it. It frees our minds from blockages, leading us to greater clarity. On a physical level, extending the inhalation and exhalation energises all the systems and increases vitality. Pranayama creates mental peace and draws us into meditation.

Pratyahara: Without distraction

The fifth limb is concerned with Pratyahara. This describes our mind as not being attracted by sensory stimulus, we disengage the connection between our mind and senses and our senses ignore what is going on. Pratyahara is almost automatic when we meditate, it just happens as a consequence of our focus on the object of our meditation.

Dharana: Focus

The sixth limb is Dharana, focusing of the mind on one point, to the exclusion of everything else. The point of focus might be internal such as a mantra or an external object. This one pointed focus of Dharana naturally flows into the seventh limb of yoga which is Dhyana.

Dhyana: Meditation

At this stage a total connection is made between the mind and the object we are focused upon.  Our mind becomes full with that object, that is all there is. This state is meditation.

Samadhi: Oneness

The goal of our yoga journey is Samadhi, the eighth limb. At this point we are unified with universal consciousness or god consciousness. We realise our oneness.
The path of yoga is not one of stepping stones, where we have to cross one to reach another; it is a holistic evolution of our mind body and soul which grows in simultaneous symmetry in relation to our practice.