Yoga, More Than Just Stretching  

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Yoga! It’s everywhere and everyone wants to be a part of it. From television to magazine ads, images of “yoga” abound. But, yoga is more than just a peaceful looking girl in spandex. You don’t have to be flexible to practice it, nor do you have to pretend you live in a bubble of bliss. Yoga is a path to self-discovery. The word yoga means union and is derived from the Sanskrit root “yuj” which means to “yoke, join, or connect.” The media portrays yoga as mere stretching and breathing, when in fact it is much more. Yoga is a science. It is a way of life. It is practiced for self-transformation. The physical poses practiced are called asanas. Yoga is made up of eight limbs, and asana is only the third. These eight limbs were written down by the great sage Patanjali. Yogis follow this eight limbed path so that they may one day connect to something higher than themselves.
The Eight Limbs Of Yoga

  • The first limb is made up of restraints called the Yamas: Ahimsa- non-violence, Satya- truth, Asteya- non-stealing, Brahmacharya- moderation in all things, Aparigraha- non-hording or non-attachment.
  • The second limb is made up of observances called Niyamas: Saucha- cleanliness, Santosha- contentment, Tapas- determination, Svadhyaya- self-study, Ishvara-Pranidhara- surrender to the infinite.
  • The third limb is Asana. The literal translation of this word is “seat.” Asanas are the physical poses practiced. Asana is used to bring stability to the mind and body, so the higher elements of yoga can be experienced.
  • The fourth limb is Pranayama. Prana literally means “life force” and yama means “restraint.” Pranayama refers to breath control.
  • The fifth limb is Pratyahara. The literal translation of this word is “sense withdrawal.” When you learn to control your senses, you are no longer ruled by your emotions.
  • The sixth limb is Dharana, which means concentration.
  • The seventh limb is Dhyana, which means meditation.
  • The eighth limb is Samadhi, which is complete absorption on the infinite.
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Practicing these eight limbs helps to remove physical and mental impurities and brings you closer to your inner conscience, so you can bring about change from within, rather than trying to change things outside of yourself.