Yoga: A Practice and a Way of Life
by Cecile Thomson
Yoga, a universal system of well-being and unification of body, mind, and spirit is based on nature and rooted in over 5,000 years of refinement. It is a practice and way of life for all ages, conditions, and needs. Yoga energizes, renews, and deepens our connection to our vital energy (prana). Some of the benefits of yoga are:
- Increased muscle tone and stamina
- Core strength
- Stress reduction
- Better sleep
- Improved concentration
- Lower body fat
- Better circulation
- Stronger immune system
The word yoga, derived from the Sanskrit root “yuj” means “to yoke” the individual self, or Soul (Atman), with the universal Soul (Brahman). Yoga is an Indian philosophy which was systematized by Patanjali in his classical work, the Yoga Sutras.
Patanjali described the eight aspects of yoga as limbs of a tree and as the means of complete mastery of the self. These eight stages are as follows:
- Yama (ethical disciplines)
- Niyama (self observation)
- Asana (yoga poses or postures)
- Pranayama (control of vital energy—breath)
- Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses)
- Dharana (concentration of the mind)
- Dhyana (meditation)
- Samadhi (the state of joy and peace)
Through consistent practice of postures or asanas the individual learns to implement these eight aspects to discipline the body and mind in order to reach self-realization. The various styles of yoga, likened to a forest filled with trees, ultimately share the same goal of unifying the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the human being. A few of the many types of yoga are:
Hatha Yoga helps us realize our potential for health and self-healing through the practice of physical postures and awareness of the breath. Ha (sun) Tha (moon) refers to the opposition of movement of energy in the body. It awakens the student to a much greater sense of the body's energy flow and utilization of the breath to bring the positive and negative energy flows within the body into balance. Hatha yoga appeals to the individual seeking a more meditative or restorative experience.
Ashtanga Yoga, which takes its name from the eight limbs of yoga (above), has been developed by K. Pattabhi Jois of Mysore, India. The practice consists of specifically sequenced postures and focused breathing techniques designed to intensify internal heat, and to detoxify and cleanse the body of impurities.
Vinyasa is a flowing style of yoga which integrates breath and movement, inner and outer alignment, strength and flexibility.
Both Vinyasa and Ashtanga involve a series of postures called sun salutations. Utilizing the breath, the postures are fluid and weight bearing; they sculpt muscle, build core strength, and increase tone and flexibility. These yoga practices create heat, provide a great workout, release stress and tension, and result in feeling both relaxed and re-energized.
Ashtanga and Vinyasa practices involve challenging physical routines which appeal to the fit person or those desiring to improve fitness quickly. In all types of yoga the poses can be modified to suit the practitioner's level of skill and ability.
Cecile Thomson is well-known in Saskatoon where she has been teaching yoga for 15 years. She has recently opened Renew Yoga Fitness Healing (626 Broadway Avenue) which offers Hatha, Ashtanga, and Vinyasa yoga. She is also trained in Pilates and practices Reiki, a form of energy healing, and is available
for Reiki treatments by appointment. Telephone (306) 343-YOGA (9642), www.renewyoga.ca. Also see the colour display ad on page 12 of the 11.6 March/April
issue of the WHOLifE Journal.