Why practice yoga? People need to overcome the negative effects of stress. We need to create space in our minds and hearts to heal ourselves of the pain and suffering we endure and inflict upon others when we cannot control our mind. One great way to create this space is through meditation. Practicing yoga can help the body/mind to create the stillness needed to generate this space. Creating other healthy habits like modifying patterns of sleep, dietary changes and other lifestyle adjustments can all contribute to this healing. Fairview Yoga can offer assistance to persons who are ready and willing to do this work in order to heal themselves.
The type of yoga I teach can best be described as Raja Yoga. By this I mean it is a balanced physical practice that focuses a great deal on awareness and mindfulness. The name Raja Yoga is often translated as Royal Yoga and has been used variously over the last millennium, but in modern times was used by Swami Vivekananda as a retronym that equated this form of yoga with the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. These are scriptures thought to be the first written treatise of the ancient practice of yoga circa 200-400 CE.
The Yoga Sutras describe an 8-fold path toward freedom and enlightenment. The path is as follows:
- Yama – Restraints (non-violence, non-stealing, non-lying, non-indulgence, non-greed)
- Niyama – Observances (cleanliness, austerity, contentment, self-study, unshakeable faith)
- Pranayama – Yogic breathing
- Asana – Yoga Postures
- Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the senses
- Dharana – Concentration
- Dhyana – Meditation
- Samadhi – Liberation
This 8-fold path suggests an order of doing things, in that we would start with the yamas and niyamas to begin creating a mind free of conflict and a basic goodness upon which one can build the strength and vitality generated by breath and body work. We would then create the peace of mind that comes with letting go of clinging to sensual pleasures and then work to gain control over the mind for focused concentration, meditation and eventually attain liberation.
Though there is some utility in this hierarchical arrangement, in reality we practice all of these things as we go and each practice can move us in the direction of growth in different ways and at different times. Most of us experience glimpses of liberation that can inspire us to stay on the path, if we don’t become disappointed when the vicissitudes of life and one’s mind take us on another roller coaster ride. It is important to let go of desires and expectations and to find simply an openness to whatever comes.
If we can remain steadfast in our practice, we will enjoy equanimity. Maintaining a practice is, however, an ongoing challenge for many of us, myself included. That is why a community of like-minded individuals who can support one another to stick with it can be indispensable.
Explore these different practices as you go. Take a few minutes before you embark on your asana practice to listen inwardly to the quiet inner voice that is your true self and knows exactly what you need. Play with the breath exercises and discover the transformative power of simply creating a little more space within your being. Let go of the need to rush through life, constantly in search of the next thing. Practice stillness. In those quiet, still, empty moments you might remember who you really are and realize that you are the love you’ve been seeking. In my yoga class you will experience many such moments of inner focus, stillness, relaxation and on a good day, bliss.