Yoga is a system of philosophy that originated in India 5000 years ago that is focused on the attainment of enlightenment and the liberation of one’s self from those burdens that can have adverse effects on the mind, body, and spirit. The practice of yoga was brought to the Western countries, like the United States, after it gained popularity because of the many touted benefits.
However, most teachers of the philosophy place the most emphasis on the physical poses and less on the meditation aspect. Yoga and Pilates have both become favourite additions to the fitness routines of many people around the world, and for a good reason, which is why people are learning about yoga and its many benefits for the mind and body.
To find a comprehensive introduction to yoga basics, including a glossary of yoga terms and an introduction to favourite types of yoga and basic poses visit www.yoga.about.com. There are also many other sites that feature a compilation of essays and articles about yoga including information about yoga, exercise, mind-body workouts, healthy eating, and exercise tips.
Learn about yoga from a beginner’s perspective about meditation, yoga cleansing methods, pregnancy yoga, and other yoga techniques to improve your health at www.healthandyoga.com. The first impression many people have of yoga, is that to practice it, one must comfort their body into impossible uncomfortable positions, but this just isn’t true. Yoga focuses on the breath with each posture, which is an essential component of the healing applications of yoga, and yoga as an alternative therapy.
To learn more about yoga, from its origin to how to benefit from it, visit www.hinduism.about.com. Beginners can also find a wealth of yoga information such as frequently asked questions and answers about yoga practice, including the mysterious chakras, or primary energy centres in the body, and what yoga postures activate them at www.yogabasics.com.
In addition to yoga exercises for body and mind, many online retailers like www.yoga.com, carry products for yoga, massage, homoeopathic medicine, meditation, and practice, as well as demonstrations of stretches and strategies to help you strike the perfect pose. The benefits of yoga are many, and if you haven’t tried it already, you owe it to yourself to liberate your soul and reach the next level of enlightenment, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Anyone can do yoga, at any age, and in most any physical condition. Vinyasa move with the breath.
1. Talk to your doctor and explain what type of yoga poses you intend to practice. Show your doctor pictures of the poses for illustration. Your doctor may rule out specific poses if you have high blood pressure, glaucoma, a history of retinal detachment, or heart disease. Make sure you follow your doctor is recommendations.
2. Find a yoga class that best fits your abilities. Talk to prospective teachers, and decide whether or not you can handle a program before you sign up. Itís very important to take it one step at a time. Try a few beginner classes before you attempt more vigorous classes. Don’t move ahead too quickly. Allow your body to adjust to your exercises.
3. Listen to your body and be aware of your physical abilities. You don’t want to hurt yourself. Make sure the instructor understands your level of experience and any limitations you may have. Don’t allow anyone to push you ahead too quickly. Remember, this is supposed to be fun and relaxing.
4. If you can’t find a class that meets your needs, you can always practice yoga at home. There are many books, programs, and tapes available to help you get started. Search for the best products on the Internet and read reviews. Talk to others for recommendations.
5. Why not try private lessons? You can book some one-on-one sessions with a teacher in your area. Most yoga instructors offer private classes or can help you design your own program. This is an excellent way to get started. You can always take group lessons or practice at home after you have had private lessons and learned the basics.
6. Find a yoga buddy. It is nice to practice with someone, and it will help reduce injuries. It is also a great way to keep up your enthusiasm and interest.
7. Eat lightly before practice. Wait at least two hours after meals before yoga class or workout. An empty stomach is best, but don’t let yourself get too hungry to think. You won’t be able to focus on the poses or enjoy yourself during the relaxation or meditation exercises.
Now it’s time to grab your mat and a towel and get the most out of your yoga exercises.
The life of a modern business person is a stressful one, and there is always so much to do. It would take a pretty compelling set of reasons to convince a successful business person (or even an unsuccessful one) to add something else to an already packed schedule, so why would he even think about regular Yoga classes. In this article we examine the three main benefits of Yoga and how they apply to the busy business person.
Benefit Number One: Physical Health
All business-mans ultimate goal is to become wealthy isn’t it? Have you ever heard the saying that your health is your wealth? Believe me it is true. No matter how much money you have you cannot benefit from it if you are dead and personal health is often neglected in today’s busy corporate world. But the question is not whether one can afford the time for exercise to become healthy; it is whether they can afford not to. Health is a shifting scale – you are not either healthy or dead. It’s important to think about how much your level of health affects your work. A healthy body will allow you to concentrate more, work harder and increase the time you spend productively.
Yoga is the perfect way for a businessperson to look after their physical wellbeing. Because the exercises are so incredibly low impact they can be performed even by the most out of shape person, and the more regularly they are performed the better that person’s health will become. Yoga is a very efficient method of releasing tension and stress. During a workday certain blockages develop around the body, and many of our vital organs do not get the full amount of oxygen and nutrients that they need to function at peak efficiency. Yoga stretches different muscles groups in certain ways that will lead to these blockages being released and the blood flow bringing the bodies organs all the oxygen and nutrients they need.
Yoga’s health benefits are both immediate and long-term. In the short term blood flow is increased and the body functions better because it is achieving the nutrients it requires. Tension is also released from muscles and the bodies lymphatic system is able to more effectively deal with waste products. In the longer term these will be ongoing benefits and the digestive system will also function more efficiently, which has innumerable health benefits. The general balance, co-ordination and flexibility will also be greatly enhanced.
Benefit Number Two: Mental Health
Have you ever considered the importance of a breath? We know that when someone stops breathing, they die, and even this simplistic understanding should tell us how important it is to breath. But breathing correctly is often ignored. It is vital not only for the numerous health benefits, but also for the strong mental advantages it allows us.
Yoga sessions will usually begin with a standing, breathing exercise. The simple process of taking in a deep breath and releasing it slowly is incredibly calming and the basis of the breathing exercises that are a vital backbone to the Yoga discipline. The key to this breathing is that it draws our attention to the one simple action of breath. We become acutely aware of the life giving benefit of a deep and controlled breathing cycle and can achieve a level of calmness that we often don’t seek out in our everyday lives. That calmness itself is a stepping-stone to achieving focus.
The ability to focus is probably the single most crucial primary skill in a work environment. There is always so much going on around us and so much that needs to be done that it is difficult to focus on the single task we are doing because of the multitude of things ‘in the back of our mind’. Regular Yoga teaches techniques to quickly clear the mind of all these other distractions and then focus our mental efforts on a single task. It is also a great provider of personal discipline. The self-discipline that is learned from focusing on the body and becoming master of oneself is a crucial benefit of Yoga.
Benefit Number Three: Happiness
Happiness is a goal that is often sacrificed in the short term in exchange for some mystical point in the future when everything will come together and be okay. Yoga doesn’t move you any closer to that mystical time, but because you develop such a strong sense of self and connection with yourself, it is common to become more content with your current situation. You will find that the more you practise Yoga the more you will be comfortable spending time alone as well as amongst other people. Your sense of self worth will increase and you will perform better in social situations. This is perhaps the most important gift that Yoga will give to you.
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Many people are first drawn to Yoga as a way to keep their bodies fit and supple. Others come seeking relief or help for a specific ailment like tension a Backache. Whatever your reason is, Yoga can be a tool in giving you both what you came for and more.
Though the practice of Yoga is closely associated with ancient texts, beliefs, and values, it also yields benefits useful for people’s practical daily lives. Here are some reasons why more and more people are practising Yoga:
1. Yoga relaxes the body and the mind. Even in the midst of stressful environments, Yoga helps control breathing and clears the mind of cluttered thoughts, leaving only deep physical and mental refreshment.
2. Yoga can help normalise body weight. For people who are either overweight or underweight, Yoga Exercises can help achieve the desired weight. The principles of balance and moderation in physical activity and diet under Yoga can also lead to a healthier lifestyle.
3. Yoga improves your resistance to disease. The postures and movements in Yoga massage the internal organs, enhancing blood circulation and functionality, thus, lessening the risk of illness.
4. Yoga increases your energy level and productivity. For as quick as 20 minutes, Yoga can replenish the mind and body with the precious energy needed to respond to daily tasks and challenges.
5. Yoga leads to genuine inner contentment and self-actualisation. Meditation -one of the aspects of Yoga- focuses the mind, taking it away from the distractions of the highly-materialistic world and leading it to genuine happiness.
Yoga is a method of learning that aims to attain the unity of mind, body, and spirit through these three main Yoga structures: Exercise, Breathing, and Meditation. The exercises of Yoga are designed to put pressure on the Glandular Systems of the body, thereby increasing its efficiency and total health. The body is looked upon as the primary instrument that enables us to work and evolve in the world, a Yoga student; therefore, treats it with great care and respect. The Breathing Techniques are based on the concept that breath is the source of life in the body. Yoga students gently increase their breath control to improve the health and the function of both body and mind. These two systems prepare the body and mind for Meditation, making it easier for students to achieve a quiet mind and be free from everyday stress. The regular daily practice of all three parts of this structure of Yoga produces a clear, bright mind and a strong, capable body.
Chair Yoga can easily work in harmony with most physical rehabilitation prescriptions. Many physical therapists have knowledge of Yoga or are teachers of Yoga. Many doctors, physical therapists, and medical professionals recommend Yoga to patients who are making a “come back.”
Yoga gives these patients the strength to move ahead, when many would be discouraged. The comebacks that I have personally witnessed are inspiring to me as a Yoga teacher. Over time, I have seen come backs from strokes, heart attacks, and car accidents.
It touches me that they thanked me for teaching them Yoga or Chair Yoga.
The courage to go on came from within their minds, but Yoga became a significant part of their lives. As a Yoga teacher the inspiration was mutual and made me feel helpful. After all, being of help, and being appreciated, are prime motivations for teachers of any subject.
Muscle tone is a result of stretching and flexing any muscle group. Active muscles display themselves on anybody that chooses to use them. This is also a good way to relieve oneself of anxiety, stress, tension, and prevent depression. Like the other benefits, previously mentioned, this results in whole body health. A healthy body does, indeed, compliment a healthy mind.
For those clients who are confined to a chair, it is wise to include some form of a weight bearing, or weight resistance, exercise program. For those who can stand, Chair Yoga is another weight bearing exercise that will stimulate bone building.
With progressive weight resistance, you use free weights or machines, but with Yoga you bear your own body weight. The end result of these exercise programs would be increased bone density and prevention of Osteoporosis.
Seniors spend more time alone, than any other age group. Sometimes, we all need a little solitude, but too much solitude can lead to depression, in some of us. Living life like a monk is not for everyone.
Chair Yoga classes offer a social activity that helps to stimulate the mind and body in a positive way. This becomes an uplifting activity that participants look forward to. Regular attendance, and socializing in Chair Yoga classes, is a healthy activity that leads to building strong relationships.
It also exposes seniors to the many activities that are going on within the community center. Participants of chair Yoga classes are exposed to whole health and gain a nutritional education as a member of a senior, community, or wellness center.
Lastly, all participants in Chair Yoga classes learn to relax and quiet the mind, through breath awareness, meditation, stage-by-stage relaxation, a combination, or another method. The end result being that these Yoga students can control their minds, focus on the good things in life, and prevent depression.
Flexibility is considered to be a “by product” of Yoga practice, but in the case of Chair Yoga, it is often “down played” or taken for granted. Since most Chair Yoga enthusiasts are seniors, the true value of flexibility is mobility.
When you consider that mobility for seniors can be the difference between dependence and independence, flexibility is now of extreme value.
The following is an observation I have made after working with groups from assisted living complexes, adult day care centres, nursing homes, and seniors centres. The average mobile senior citizen is much more flexible in the hips, spine, wrists, and shoulders, than his or her dependent counterpart.
Just crossing the legs can be difficult for the clients I work with in a nursing home. Students in Chair Yoga classes learn a variety of exercises that will “free up” many of the major joints. Many students also remark how pain, from a variety of ailments, is much more manageable, after practicing Chair Yoga.
Increased range of motion makes a difference, when reaching for anything. It also helps to prevent injuries that can occur from strain or a possible fall. If a senior falls, there is certainly the potential that the results could be life threatening.
Chair Yoga offers a significant number of balancing exercises. Although balance can be affected by medication, inner ear problems, and more, many seniors show much improvement in balancing their bodies within weeks of their first Chair Yoga class. Therefore, flexibility and balance are a significant part of an injury prevention package that can improve, or enhance, the quality of life for seniors. This fact has been realised by seniors who flock to Chair Yoga classes on a daily, or weekly, basis.
Most of us realise that physical conditioning is not the only factor involved in dependence. There are a number of disabling diseases that can affect any one of us and have nothing to do with lack of flexibility. Lack of flexibility is not the single overriding factor involved in independence for seniors.
However, it is a fact that less mobile, and frail, seniors will become confined.
Hence, most seniors should make an effort to stay flexible, for what is ultimately their own dignity at stake. You could look at your physical condition as an insurance policy for independent living. After all, who really wants to impose on their children or relatives for the sake of existence?
We have all heard the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Those words are extremely profound, when thinking about correcting poor posture and alignment. It takes years to create poor alignment.
Therefore, poor posture cannot be corrected in a single day. A more appropriate saying, when thinking about posture and alignment might be, “The leaning tower of Pisa cannot become straight in a week.”
However, improvements to posture can be made through Chair Yoga exercises and through daily “posture awareness.” In my classes, I refer to posture awareness as “homework.” It usually draws a chuckle from students, but they also know that class time is the time to learn and practice Chair Yoga together.
Time away from the Yoga class is when you put the principles you have learned, in motion, and adapt them into your lifestyle. I cannot promise Chair
Yoga is a “cure all,” but you will see improvements in every aspect of your life. However, practicing your homework separates the fantastic success stories from those who see some modest improvement.
So, what is posture awareness? This is taking the time to be aware of your posture, on a daily basis. The first thing you want to do in order to open your awareness is look at your side profile in a mirror and any photographs of yourself. At this point, look at your spine from top to bottom.
Do you see slumping, forward tilting of the neck, or extra large curves? Your spine should be aligned so that it is fairly straight at all times. During a number of daily activities such as: Standing, walking, reading, eating, sitting, lying, typing, and more, you should make a conscious effort, to keep your head and back straight.
Now, we can all remember a schoolteacher who preached, “Keep your back straight,” but now we know that he or she was absolutely correct. Take the time to adjust your spinal alignment, from this moment on, and every time you can remember to do so.
If possible, you should also attend any workshops about Chiropractic and
Orthopedic medicine. Educate yourself about your body, your spine, and your choices. You can usually find these workshops and many more valuable meetings at your local senior centre. These workshops are usually free, you are under no obligation, and it makes for a good “Fact finding mission.”
The alignment and posture principles, you learn in a Chair Yoga class, can be as simple as, “Pain or no pain.”
In comparison to many forms of exercise, the benefits of Chair Yoga far outweigh the risks. The therapeutic exercises work the body, from head to toes, to the best of any client’s ability.
Therefore, the method used, addresses the whole body in a single routine.
This is an amazing feat, for a low-impact exercise program, where the average session lasts 45 to 60 minutes. The following information will highlight some of the many benefits of regular participation in a Chair Yoga
Increased circulation is a result of movement and every body part that can move is used in a typical Chair Yoga class. For many of us, we think of cardiovascular heath first, and this is right fully so, but Chair Yoga helps many other forms of circulation, within the body, as well.
To sit still for days on end, we invite diseases of many kinds. Diabetics need movement to keep sugar levels in “tolerance zones.” Chair Yoga also has routines for the feet, toes, hands, and fingers, so there is no part of the body left out. Due to this whole body approach, the immune system is also stimulated by regularly attending Chair Yoga classes.
The many movements, bending, and twisting, in a regular Chair Yoga session, stimulate the elimination of toxins, within the body. Every time you bend the waist in one direction or another, the stomach aids in digestion and the lower back is gently stimulated.
Now, back to cardiovascular benefits – There seems to be a lot of confusion about what is classified as aerobic exercise. One of the definitions for aerobic exercise is: Any exercise that would increase circulatory and respiratory ability. When the heart and lungs have to work harder to keep up with the body’s need for oxygen that is aerobic.
In fact, gardening and housework are also aerobic exercise that most seniors routinely do. This is not to say that gardening and housework are complete health maintenance systems, but they do burn over 200 calories per hour, for the average person, and meet the aerobic definition.
Much of this mentality stems from the “No pain – No gain” era. Most of the original advocates of this theory are now “nursing their own wounds” and practicing gentler forms of exercise. After all, none of us are immortal, and the body can only take so much abuse over time.
May I remind anyone, who is left standing, from the No pain – No gain era, that walking is also classified as aerobic exercise. So, whether you walk or run a mile, aerobic benefits are gained and significant calories are burned.
Treating anxiety and panic disorders can be more difficult than you would think. When I first was diagnosed with chronic anxiety, I figured that I would take anxiety medicine that would be it. In reality, however, it can be a little bit more difficult than that.
There are many different kinds of anxiety medications, you see, and not all of them will be right for you. Some anxiety medicines can cause fatigue, while other ones might not be powerful enough.
If you are starting anxiety medicine, expect it to take a while for you to get the dose just right. Don’t get me wrong most anxiety medicines will help right away. I remember when I first started on Xanax medicine. It was the first medication that I tried, and it works wonderfully. Until that point, I had been so paralysed by anxiety attacks that I hadn’t been able to leave the house in about a week. As soon as I took the anxiety prescription, however, I started feeling better. The very same day, in fact, I was able to walk around a little bit.
Still, there were side effects. The dose I was on was pretty high, so I couldn’t really work on it. I tried a lot of different treatments after that. Herbal anxiety medications helped me somewhat, but they were not quite strong enough. What ended up helping actually was a combination of therapy, anxiety medicine, and changes in my lifestyle. The causes of anxiety are complex, and the solutions are often complex too. Anxiety medicine is almost always part of the solution, but it is only one part.
In the long run, one of the most important things for me was participating in an anxiety support group. Anxiety isn’t necessarily something that you will have to deal with your whole life, but it can take years to get over. Support groups have the advantage of giving you a community of people suffering from the same condition to talk to.
You can give each other helpful tips, be there to lean on when things get tough, and even network with each other. It can be a great place to meet friends since you already have something in common. Best of all, you can learn tips on different anxiety medicines and treatments from other people. This can greatly decrease the time it takes for you to get your treatment to work just right.
When I first visited KP Jois house in late 1995 I did so with the desire to study classical Ashtanga Yoga. I interviewed him closely what sort of yoga he was teaching and he affirmed that it was indeed Patanjali’s yoga. That made me sign up with him. In the following years we Ashtanga yogis often sniggered at the Iyengars because we smugly thought we had it over them. Already the name of our yoga showed that it was a true, authentic and ancient form of yoga, whereas theirs was a yoga named after a modern person, it’s founder. But this initial hubris was long ago replaced by a questioning of what Ashtanga today is, and what it should be.
What classical yoga actually is?
The term Ashtanga refers to the stanza II.28 in the Yoga Sutra, where yoga is called eight-limbed. In his commentary on the Yoga Sutra I.1, Rishi Vyasa says, yogah samadhih, i.e. yoga is samadhi. What he means is that the first seven limbs of yoga are ancillary yoga and only the eight limb is true yoga. And this does not mean that the seven limbs are the process and the eight the result. No, it means that the first seven limbs are the preparation and samadhi is both the process and the result. For Vyasa goes on to say that there are two types of yoga, samprajnata and asamprajnata yoga. You may know these two words as the names of the two types of samadhi, cognitive samadhi (samadhi with cognition of object also called objective samadhi) and super-cognitive samadhi (samadhi beyond cognition of object or objectless samadhi). With calling these samadhis ‘yoga’ Vyasa again affirms that only samadhi is true yoga but he also shows that the objective samadhi (with its seven types) is the process to the state of objectless samadhi (of which there is only one, the final samadhi).
The Yoga Sutra then goes on to devote almost 100 of its stanzas to samadhi. That is more than half of the 195 stanzas. This fact should make it clear that yoga mainly deals with samadhi. Samadhi is not something that comes about spontaneously or mysteriously but objectless samadhi comes about through the detailed, technical process of the seven objective samadhis.
Taking the birds eye view we could call the seven objective samadhis ‘yoga stage two’.
Prior to the seven objective samadhis the first seven limbs are practised, which we could call ‘yoga stage 1’. Apart from the first two foundational stages involving ethics yoga stage 1 involves asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana and dhyana. For the purpose of this article I will now try to summarize these limbs of yoga in short, simple sentences. More comprehensive descriptions I have given elsewhere.
Yogic asana is not just sitting with your back, neck and head in a straight line but it is the process of taking your body through the process of a whole range of yogic postures. These postures are accommodated by focus on breath, mudras and focal points during which some aspects of the following limbs are anticipated and trained. Through such practice we ready the body, breath and mind for formal sitting practice.
Pranayama, the fourth limb, is not just Ujjayi breathing but a sitting practise in which you perform alternate nostril breathing using mantra and visualisation until the breath has been made long and subtle (dirgha sukshmah). Only then internal and external kumbhakas (breath retentions) with maha-bandha (simultaneous use of all bandhas) are applied.
Being established in pranayama, yogic meditation (the combined process of pratyahara, dharana and dhyana) is a formal yogic sitting practise in which the breath is extended and the mind focussed on sattvic objects including mantra, chakras, kundalini, divine images and sacred geometry. In this whole triple process of yoga stage 1, i.e. asana, pranayama and yogic meditation ancillary aspects such as kriyas and mudras play an important role. Another important aspect of yoga is bhakti. So is the term ishvara pranidhana (devotion to the Divine) mentioned by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra four times.
This process is described in the so-called Yoga Darshana, i.e. the philosophical school of yoga, which consists of the Yoga Sutra and its attached tradition of commentaries and sub-commentaries. In the Sutra none of the techniques of the lower limbs were described but only the effect or result achieved through their correct practice. So devotes the Sutra only 3 stanzas to asana, four stanzas to pranayama, one stanza to pratyahara and a few to dharana and dhyana. For brevity the author of the Sutra focused only on samadhi and it was left to yogic texts compiled in the following centuries and millennia to fill in those gaps.
While there can be conflicting opinions on what limbs were emphasised when one thing can be said for sure: there is no evidence in classical texts whatsoever that the mere practice of postures was at any time considered Ashtanga Yoga.
Some problems with contemporary “Ashtanga Yoga”
In the light of all of the above we have to ask ourselves whether the name Ashtanga Yoga is correctly used to describe the asana-sequence and vinyasa based system handed down by the now disgraced KP Jois. We must sincerely ask ourselves whether Jois’ yoga is not in fact Ekanga Yoga, one-limbed yoga.
One of the core-tenets of yoga is the dis-identification with the body. The fifth klesha (forms of suffering) listed by Patanjali is abhiniveshah – fear of death. It is produced by identification with the body. Also the first klesha, avidya (ignorance) arises by identifying that what is eternal (purusha- the consciousness) with that what is temporary (the body). Patanjali’s yoga aims at decreasing identification with body. The more one dis-identifies with the body one’s sense of self can expand and spiritual experiences can come about.
Different to that modern Ashtanga culture seems to actually increase identification with the body. It’s linear, top-down delivery through sequences of postures seems to have the effect that the value and sense of self of a person is defined by how many postures and series they can perform. This has made the style very popular with Western students as it plays into the Western mindset of acquisition. Posture and series can be acquired like real estate or academic degrees.
The obsession with gymnastic levels of performance of asanas in contemporary Ashtanga Yoga goes hand in hand with a neglect of higher limbs practice. Young people who enter Ashtanga are regularly brain-washed away from higher limbs practice with the nonsense statement that you need to have conquered certain number of series of postures before you can start. There is no evidence of anything of the like in any yogic text. It is an idea that has been entirely invented in the 20th century, possibly as recent as the 1960’s or 70’s.
The dark side of overemphasising the limb of asana is that students then tend to over-practice it. They tend to become zealous, ambitious and fanatic about their asana practice. This overemphasising asana and the resulting ambition seems to me the number one reason for injuries in modern Ashtanga Yoga. If third series will open the Pearly Gates for you, you better go at it with a vengeance. If students are told they need to conquer second or third before they can practice the higher limbs, they tend to practice with such despair and aggression that they develop a lot of wear and tear in the bodies. I have never seen this in students who were established in pranayama and meditation adjunct to their asana practice. Many people come with a thirst for spiritual experiences to yoga. If the techniques such as pranayama, pratyahara, dharana and dhyana are then withheld, students are desperately trying to wring out of the body what the body was never designed to give. This leads to injury.
This self-violating and self-abusing tendency in modern Ashtanga Yoga, however, is completely in conflict with Patanjali’s teaching for he says in sutra II.16 heyama duhkham anagatam, i.e. ‘future suffering is to be avoided’. Or in simple words, don’t hurt, flog and abuse yourself.
I will go on now to discuss a few arguments that are regularly posted to defend the Ashtanga-status of KP Jois’ yoga.
Have not a few third series students been taught pranayama and therefore the whole system can be called Ashtanga yoga?
Pranayama is not to be limited to a small elite of students who have achieved a ridiculous, Olympic-gymnast level of asana proficiency. It is to be taught to all students who have become proficient in a sitting asana such as Virasana. For me pranayama probably was the most beneficial part of yoga to learn. Even more so than asana. Why would that be withheld from 99% of practitioners who will never be able to master dozens of advanced asanas?
And then what about the other incredible aspects of yoga that Jois has never taught at all? What about the whole gamut of pratyahara, dharana and dhyana? It is these techniques that give you spiritual experiences. It is these methods that quench your spiritual thirst. It is these aspects of yoga that can truly change your life and possibly our society as well.
Aren’t Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, and Dhyana not already present in the Asana practice? Is not everything already happening on the mat? All yogic limbs contain the same structural elements. When practising meditation or pranayama we assume an asana such as Virasana, Siddhasana or Padmasana. But by doing so we would not say that we have practised the limb of asana sufficiently. Similarly, when we are practising the full course of yogic asanas we are integrating pranic and mental aspects of yoga such as focusing on the breath (structural element of pranayama in asana) and drishti and bandha (structural elements of dharana in asana). But by integrating these structural elements of pranayama or dharana into asana this does not mean that “pranayama or dharana are now sufficiently practised”. They are only introduced through their structural elements to prepare for their true practice and to make asana more efficient. T. Krishnamacharya stated that to get the various benefits of yoga, the respective limbs have to be practised. That is asana for physical benefits, pranayama for pranic benefits and meditation for mental benefits. Asana practice, which includes ujjayi, bandhas and drishti, is the ideal preparation for a formal sitting practice of pranayama, dharana, etc, which should then also be made up of yoga’s structural elements. But in order to practice them and derive their benefits a formal siting practice must be engaged in.
Can asana practice by itself if done in a self-reflective mode teach you so much that it by itself constitutes yoga?
I’m not saying that you couldn’t get self-reflective by practising asana. You can. Of course you can learn a lot about yourself by practising asana. It is great that some students found some form of wisdom simply by continuing their asana practice over a long period.
But this is not what the classical process of yoga is about. For you can learn about yourself through almost any activity continued over a long period in a self-reflective mode. Such as playing an instrument. Or painting or sculpting. Or bringing up your children, being in relationship with a partner, caring for somebody, gardening, landscaping, tending to animals, or building houses. But this is still not yoga as the ancient yogis created it. We would not call being in a relationship or parenting yoga simply because it taught us about ourselves. Or maybe we do and maybe this is exactly our problem today. For I have read phrases such as “the yoga of relating” and “parenting is the new yoga”. It’s great that we can learn through parenting and relating but can you see how the term yoga is today so de-valued and neutered that almost anything-yoga-goes?
Following this train of inquiry I conclude that the modern Ashtanga Vinyasa method is in dire need of re-integration into Patanjali’s eight-limbed path. If this was not to happen the term Ekanga Yoga may more aptly describe its current make-up