The art and practice of yoga is so much more than physical exercise – even our Asana (physical practice) is so much more than doing a posture for a physical benefit. I’m perplexed by practitioners who only seek a better pose or a more advanced pose – they are missing the point entirely. On our mats, yes, we are doing this physical practice – but you have the opportunity to work deeply into areas within your body and consciousness – peel back layers, heal – in physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual ways. You work to still the chaos in your mind and calm your feelings to hear the voice at your heart center. In this way, you learn to listen to God – you start to do what you are supposed to do, not what your egoic mind or your erratic feelings are telling you to do. That is why I enjoy a methodical asana practice, same sequence every time and we hold a posture – you have the time to get into the posture, open up the body, still the mind, and do inner work. It’s methodical and peaceful – there is an ebb and flow to the work, rhythmic like life itself.
I was a complete mess of a person prior to undertaking my yoga practice. I was defensive, random, scattered, unpredictable, moody, and had more inner turmoil than I care to contemplate. My thoughts and feelings had the best of me – always and forever…..until I integrated yoga as a way of life. Obviously I am human and sometimes outside circumstances, thoughts, and feelings get the best of me – but there are no words to describe the inner peace, discipline, love, compassion, and stillness I feel and the connection I have with God because of my yoga practice. Because of yoga it is very easy for me to know what to do in my life – purposefully and with intention. It isn’t just on the mat – and what I do on the mat isn’t just a physical exercise. Yoga is a systematic process of spiritual unfolding. A yoga practice teaches us how to integrate and heal our personal existence, as well as harmonize our individual consciousness with God.
If you liked this, you may also enjoy: Yoga and Self Transformation.
I copied and pasted the text below from an article I found on About.com.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga
While the physical component of yoga is certainly of importance, it is only one of the eight traditional limbs of yoga practice, all of which have meditation on God as their purpose. These are the eight limbs of the complete yoga system as they are found in the famous yoga textbook known as the Yoga Sutras, written by the sage Patanjali in circa 200 B.C. Briefly, they are as follows:
1. Yama: These are five positive ethical guidelines (restraints, or abstinences) that include non-violence, fidelity to the Absolute, non-stealing, truthfulness and non-attachment.
2. Niyama: These are five positive behaviors, including cleanliness, contentment, self-discipline, self-study and devotion to God.
3. Asana: These are the actual physical exercises that people usually associate with yoga. These powerful poses are designed to give our bodies strength, flexibility and energy. They also contribute to the deep sense of relaxation that is necessary in order to lovingly meditate on the Absolute.
4. Pranayama: These are the energizing breathing exercises that produce vitality, overall health and inner calm.
5. Pratyahara: This is detachment from the ever-present fluctuations of life. Through this practice, we can transcend all the trials and sufferings that life often seems to throw our way and begin to see such challenges in a positive and healing light.
6. Dharana: This is the practice of power ful and focused concentration.
7. Dhyana: This is devotional meditation on God, designed to still the agitations of the mind and open the heart to God’s healing love.
8. Samadhi: This is blissful absorption of one’s individual consciousness in the essence of God. In this state, the yogi experiences the direct presence of God in his or her life at all times. The result of samadhi is peace, bliss and happiness without end.
These eight limbs together constitute the complete system known as classical Ashtanga Yoga. When yoga is diligently practiced under the guidance of a well-trained spiritual teacher (guru), it can lead to liberation from all illusion and suffering.