Did you know that our Asanas, or Yoga postures, are only one element of what Yoga practise is all about?
The final aim of Yoga is to help us reach happiness by stopping our suffering. But as we know happiness can be some times a bit elusive. There are internal and external factors that affect us and can take us out of balance. The path of Yoga give us tools to conquer our minds, bodies and spirit to live in harmony with ourselves and our environment.
Yoga is a 5000 years old science. It was practised in India in different ways and it had no orderly set rules. The same as it happens when trying to learn a language without grammar, learning a practise such as yoga without rules and a method wold be very difficult.
About 1700 years ago, just a few years after Christ, a sage called Patanjili took in his hands the task of organising what Yoga is and he wrote it down. He created the Yoga Sutra. Sutra means thread and it explains how to follow the method in order to achieve enlightenment or Samadi, which will ultimately bring peace and happiness.
Patanjili’s Yoga Sutra, describe an eightfold path is called ashtanga (hence our Asthanga yoga practise), which literally means “eight limbs” (ashta=eight, anga=limb). These eight steps basically act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. They serve as a prescription for moral and ethical conduct and self-discipline; they direct attention toward one’s health; and they help us to acknowledge the spiritual aspects of our nature.
At this point I want to emphasise that Yoga is not a religion. It invites us to follow rules and moral standards to live better but ther is no punishment if you choose a different path. No good or bad. Just an option.
Yoga Sutra is made up of 195 aphorisms (sutras), or words of wisdom. If you are interested on reading about it, I recommend ‘Four Chapters on Freedom: Commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’, which you can buy in Amazon.
The eight limbs are: Yama, Nyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.
Two of these you will recognise from class: Asana – postures and Pranayama, breathing exercises.
The Yoga Sutra is not presented in an attempt to control behaviour based on moral imperatives. The sutras don’t imply that we are “bad” or “good” based upon our behaviour, but rather that if we choose certain behaviour we get certain results. If you steal, for example, not only will you harm others, but you will suffer as well.