A Light Reading on the History/Philosophy Behind Yoga

When did you first discover yoga? How has it changed the way you perceive the world? Did you know you were onto something after your first class? A few classes?

Sri Pattabhi Jois is quoted as saying,

“Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory.”

It’s true. You’ve got to step onto a mat, breathe and move to experience the effects of yoga.

But do you know how rich in history and philosophy the practice is?

Yoga is believed to be between 2000 and 5000 years old, and there are different ‘branches’ of philosophy it stems from.

One philosophy widely applied today is the eightfold path as detailed in the Yoga Sutras. The Yoga Sutra is a short (and dense) book about living our yoga. It lays out a path for right living, plus tools for working with the mind. In fact, two of the branches are asana (yoga pose) and pranayama (breath control/retention) – two things you do every time you come to yoga class.

8 Limbs of Yoga:

  1. Yamas (moral restraints)
    1. Ahimsa (non-harming)
    2. Satya (truthfulness)
    3. Asteya (non-stealing)
    4. Brahmacharya (moderation)
    5. Aparigraha (non-hoarding)
  2. Niyamas (observances)
    1. Saucha (cleanliness)
    2. Santosha (contentment)
    3. Tapas (discipline)
    4. Svadhyaya (self-study)
    5. Isvara Pranidhana (surrender)
  3. Asana (yoga poses)
  4. Pranayama (breath control/retention)
  5. Pratyahara (turning the senses inward)
  6. Dharana (concentration)
  7. Dhyana (meditation)
  8. Samadhi (becoming one with object of meditation)

A lot to take in, right? Use these concepts as a stepping-off point of deepening your practice. Svadhyaya is a great place to start.

When you come to your mat pay attention.

  • How do you move?
  • What do you think when you’re trying to be still?
  • How often do you judge yourself?
  • What habits are working for you?
  • Which ones are not?
  • Taking a closer look at ourselves is a practice in Svadhyaya.

Stay tuned for more in-depth articles on the 8 limbs, and other topics here on the Grass Roots blog.

Until we see you on the mat, Namaste …

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