Yoga is a science, art, and philosophy that originated in India some 5,000 years ago. The word “yoga” itself means to join or yoke. The practices involved in doing yoga are designed as a means to bring union with the different aspects of the self – mind, body & spirit. About 2,000 years ago a man named Patanjali is credited with collecting and codifying the writings of this philosophical system into a revered work called, The Yoga Sutras. As outlined by Patanjali, the practice of yoga consists of eight limbs or stages, and is commonly referred to as the “eightfold path”.
The current trend is for people to start with the yoga-as-only-exercise stage. This is the third limb or asana and it is logical as you have to have a body to meditate and how can you sit for long periods of time to meditate if the body is not in condition? B.K.S. Iyengar says it this way, “how can you have peace of mind, when there is no peace in the body”? However, being there is a mind-body connection, asana practice could be described as meditation in action or a way of training the mind to pay attention by keeping it in the present moment. In How to Know God, a sutra translation by Christopher Isherwood, he states, “The aim is to achieve an effortless alertness, in which the body is perfectly steady and yet perfectly relaxed.” Even the simplest of poses when done correctly begins this inward search for clarity of mind. Again Mr. Iyengar says, “Do not underestimate the value of asana. Even in simple asanas, one is experiencing the three levels of the quest: the external quest, which brings firmness to the body: the internal quest, which brings steadiness of intelligence; and the innermost quest, which brings benevolence of spirit”.
Prospective students need to know that yoga is for everyone and can be practiced by anyone. New students need to learn what they can do as well as what not to do. Start at the beginning, learn the basic poses, and go from there. Study with a knowledgeable and experienced teacher so you learn to do the poses correctly and to modify them if necessary. The rest is the result of your willingness to practice. Chapter 1, verse 14 of the sutras says, “Practice becomes firmly grounded when it has been cultivated for a long time, uninterruptedly, with earnest devotion”.
New to yoga?
- Wear comfortable workout clothing that allows you to move and stretch freely with knees preferred bare.
- Avoid excessive jewelry and any perfumes/cologne.
- Recommended not to eat a large meal 2-3 hours before class.