How would you answer the question, “What is yoga?” Even those unfamiliar with this practice have a preconception either from pictures or video or hearing ecstatic chanting repeating the names of Hindu deities. Within the 8 limbs of yoga there are universal truths that help us answer the question, “What is yoga?”
Yoga is by definition experiential. Do you remember your first few yoga classes? Re-discovering your body, all feet, knees, left and right, bending and rising, learning names of poses, all while trying to breathe? Yet with time and practice the deeper aspects of yoga begin to reveal themselves. The struggle is replaced with steadiness and ease, the movements more assured, balancing more centered, and breathing more controlled even in the most challenging postures. This third limb, asana, the physical postural practice, offers a pathway to the other teachings that guide us to living with more honesty, compassion and awareness.
Yoga is the exploration of our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels (koshas or sheaths), unified through conscious breath (pranayama), concentration (daharana) and courage. In the physical practice we activate the diaphragm (the main muscle of core stability), invigorate blood and lymph movement, and strengthen and align our musculoskeletal system. Among myriad benefits the postures are designed to bring awareness to the space between thoughts, activate our energy channels (chakras), and clear the physical and emotional clutter that stifles growth.
Regular practice deepens this internal awareness.
- Recognize the breath and let it open your eyes to find forgiveness of self and others.
- Meditation to hone skills of non-doing and mindfulness.
- Studying yogic scriptures and the chakra system for education and intention.
- Inspiration and self-understanding, herbal rejuvenation and basic ayurvedic practices to tonify and balance the supply of prana (air), tejas (fire) and ojas (water).
- Chanting to focus the mind, stimulate prana, feel calm and centered, and most importantly, to communicate with the divine spirit within ourselves and the universe – and to offer our efforts back through intention.
- Mantra to train concentration, listening skills and to interrupt mental and emotional habits.
- Prayer, ritual and sangha (community) for guidance, community/service, compassion, love, self-worth and celebration.
I practice and teach vinyasa yoga (nyasa “to place” and vi “in a special way”) – a series of breath-synchronized movements and postures sequenced to warm up, energize and open our bodies. This practice generates internal heat and stokes agni – the digestive fire that fuels metabolism, digestion and the immune system and detoxifies the body. If our internal fire is strong and the mind is calm, we are better able to adapt to life’s challenges. Yoga asks us to breathe in the courage to look inside, and to breathe out the acceptance to let go. As we open the physical body the truth of who we are and our infinite potential is revealed.
My aim with every class is to offer a joyful, enlivened and empowering sequence of postures that hopefully brings you to a deeper, more expansive and more compassionate place.