Yoga–Just Another Way of Getting a Good Workout, Right? NOT!
Note: This is a repost from my former blog site. I wanted to share it with you here as a little food for thought before I launch into an exploration of the eight limbs. Enjoy!
What do you think about when you hear the word yoga? I’d venture to say that most people envision somebody twisted into exotic looking postures, looking perfectly peaceful and serene as they do amazing feats of balance, strength, and flexibility. When they think of yoga class, they might imagine a bunch of people moving from pose to pose accompanied by new agey music, following the guidance of an instructor in tight little black pants. If asked about the benefits of yoga, they might reply, “You get flexible. You get strong. You get to look at a bunch of hot girls and guys sweating all around you in all kinds of different positions…”
What many people don’t know is that the physical postures of yoga comprise one limb of an eight-limbed path called Astanga Yoga or Raja Yoga, considered to be the supreme or royal path. It is believed that all of those eight limbs together can lead practitioners to the attainment of universal oneness, as they return to awareness of their own true nature.
The path of yoga is meant to inform and transform one’s daily life, so that little by little one can move beyond the illusion of struggle and chaos, and find stillness in the midst of all of the activity that life asks of us. It is in this stillness that we come to remember who we really are, and we realize that all is well. We can breathe, and relax, be at peace, and en-JOY our lives. It is from this peaceful, joyful place that all of our actions and decisions can benefit ourselves and the people around us, and ultimately the whole world.
As a yoga teacher I try to weave aspects of the eight limbs into my classes so that when my students leave, they have an understanding of themselves that extends beyond their bodies. It’s a crying shame, in my opinion, for students to walk out of a yoga class saying to themselves, “Wow, my body is tired. That was some great exercise,” and then just go on about their normal daily lives the way they were before the class.
Please join me in the coming weeks as I explore the eight limbs of yoga in greater depth. In an effort to illustrate how this ancient path is as applicable to our lives today as it was for the ancients who discovered its riches, I will draw upon the writings and teachings of various yogis and yoginis who have walked the path themselves, and who have experienced first-hand the deep transformation that yoga brings to body, mind, and spirit.