As I blogged earlier, I am taking an Advanced Yoga Class Series. I have finished Level 1, and am in Level 2. I have learned a lot: about myself, about yoga, about life. My “mates”, or class mates, are a remarkable group of people, and we have created within our class, a safe space. It is amazing how much we trusted one another…right away. The group and teacher definitely have good chemistry, or energy, however you want to look at it.
One thing I have learned is that I am farther along the yogic path than I realized. I am familiar with most of the philosophy, though our class on the Chakras was particularly interesting. I like empirical proofs, and the Chakras actually have an interesting location as they are aligned with the spinal cord. Of course, chiropractors believe that the spine is the integral system of the body, and that the nerves running from the spine affect particular organs. The Chakras are energy centers of the body, each having an effect on certain parts of the physical, and emotional/spiritual body. (Check out treenuh yoga online).
Yoga is thousands of years old, and has grown into several traditions. I don’t want to give a big yoga lesson, but I find it fascinating that the chakras, or energy centers, are aligned along the spine, at nerve centers. The yoga belief system is based upon the Yoga Sutras, (c. 350-450 CE) written by Patanjali. It is believed that Patanjali, the founder of Raja Yoga (Classical yoga), was aware of Buddhism. In his 29th Sutra (sutras are rules, or “laws”) Patanjali discusses the Eight Limbs of Yoga. The Eight Limbs refer to how a yogi conducts her/his life, much as the Buddhist Eightfold Path leads to Enlightenment, and the 10 commandments of Jewish origin and tradition, also adopted in Christianity, give a code of conduct to one’s life. The Eight Limbs were written in Sanskrit, an ancient language. The First Four Limbs are (I don’t want to overwhelm you with all Eight in one blog!):
- Yamas (The five “abstentions”): Ahimsa (non-harming to others or to self), Satya (Truth, non-lying), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (control of one’s senses and desires), and Aparigraha (do not covet).
- Niyamas (The five “observances”): Shaucha (cleanliness of body, soul and mind), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (simple and plain living), Svadhyaya (study of the Vedic scriptures, and Ishvara-Pranidhana (surrender to the divine, whatever one perceives that to be). (Yoga is inclusive and can enhance any religion.)
- Asanas: Asanas are yoga poses, including the “seat” of meditation.
- Pranayama (“Suspending Breath”): Prāna means the breath, “āyāma”, to restrain or stop. The breath brings in the life force to the body, and pranayama is the control of one’s breathing.
Yoga is a practice, and people can do only the poses, or only meditation, and still be doing yoga. Breathing exercises and control is pranayama. However, Yoga can also be a way of life. And as I said, I am farther down the path of yoga than I originally believed.
Meditation is also a core practice of yoga. Basically, meditation is concentration on one object, sound, mantra, etc. I have a preference for meditation of sound. I cannot sit still in silence…I have to hear noises…water, waves, birds, chimes. I like chants, music, and the Tibetan Singing Bowls, but I have realized I have found a meditative state in nature as well. The goal of meditation is to achieve “bliss”…I have found the feeling of “bliss”, absolute joy and contentment, in my activities in nature, in my role as a mother, and in the creative processes. I think everyone “meditates” in their own way, call it prayer, song, worship, joy, a physical activity….one doesn’t have to just sit and meditate to achieve that overwhelming feeling of bliss. It goes by other names as well, euphoria, a high, ecstatic, rapturous, on cloud nine. (Why is Cloud 9 better than Cloud 8, does anyone know?).
We had a class the other day which I am still “digesting”…on nutrition and yoga lifestyle. I’ll blog about that at another time. I have been searching for a change of lifestyle, and had already begun, but now I have other nutrition practices to put into consideration. I am “off” of aspartame (a terrible chemical in sweetners which turns to formaldehyde in your body, yuck!). I am trying to eat mostly whole foods, meaning not processed. If it has more than 5 things in it (you know, fructose, corn syrup, salt, preservatives, folic acid, blah blah blah), it is over processed. It is possible to find foods that are not over processed, but you have to really look. And the middle of the grocery store is not the place to look.
Anyway, my journey into yoga is having many benefits in my life, but it still includes my sense of humor! Enjoy this little yoga video! To be continued!