What is yoga?

Guest blog by Richard Kravetz:  A wonderful Indian Swami I had the privilege to meet on my first trip to India talked about happiness and sadness as impermanent states and that we yearn for the former to remain and the latter to end. I believe that when these dips occur a spiritual connection can help to redress the balance and bridge the gap.

Yoga is a way of life and helps to achieve calmness of mind and equanimity. A yoga class can be a place of refuge from the chaos of everyday life, where you can spend quality time in a safe place. It can raise spirits and induce a feeling of well-being.

People are generally hard on themselves and suffer pain, stress, fear, and ailments that are undesirable but both yoga and meditation are powerful antidotes. You owe it to yourself to delve deeper and receive the goodness we deserve and need.

In Sanskrit, the term ‘yoga’ stands for ‘union’. A yogi’s ultimate goal is to be able to attain this ‘union’ with the eternal self with the help of the physical and mental exercises.

In the west yoga is primarily considered to be physical, but there is an increasing trend towards viewing yoga as a preparation for meditation (stillness of mind). Meditation is a wonderful practice where words have no relevance, and being present without distraction is the aim.

Regular meditators talk about experiencing a higher state of consciousness and a movement towards a blissful state or Samadhi – see below. In yoga there is a word “Sankalpa” which means an intention to change something in your life. If you concentrate on this during meditation it helps to sow the seed inside you and strengthen your resolve.

Yoga philosophy is a valid discipline of Indian metaphysics (Brahma Vidya). It is the result of human wisdom and insight into physiology, psychology, ethics and spirituality combined and practised over thousands of years for the wellbeing of human beings.

The knowledge of yoga and its practices was systemised by Mahirishi Patanjali who encapsulated them in his Yoga sutras known as the 8 limbs of Yoga.

  • Yama – eternal Vows, how we can be at peace with ourselves.
  • Niyama – observances, how we interact with the world.
  • Asanas – postures to keep the body strong, flexible and without tension.
  • Pranayama – breathing exercises, and movement of prana.
  • Pratyahara – movement of the senses towards silence.
  • Dharana – concentration and cultivating inner awareness.
  • Dhyana – sustaining awareness for meditation.
  • Samadhi – transformation, blissful state.

The essence of Samadhi is by cleansing the mind and controlling thought processes allows one to return to that primeval state, when the individual self was nothing but a part of the Divine Self. The aim is for the yogi is to be able to perceive the world in its true light and to accept that truth in its entirety.

Richard Kravetz is a British Wheel of Yoga teacher, who runs yoga classes in London for adults, workshops, weekend retreats and special needs classes for children and adults. Contact him at www.yogaforall-uk.com,  or visit: www.yogaforall-uk.com

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