What is Yoga?

Since my website is about how to use Pilates and yoga to recover from injury and achieve wellness, let’s answer the question What is yoga?

The Beginnings of Yoga

Anywhere from 1,700 to 2,200 years ago, Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras. The Sutras probably existed in oral tradition before they were transcribed, and it is widely accepted that Patanjali is the compiler, not the author, of the Yoga Sutras. This means that yoga has actually been in practice for more than 1,700 years.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali outlines eight limbs of yoga. In a to-do list order, they are:8 limbs of yoga according to Patanjali

  1. Yama-moral and ethical codes of conduct (external)
  2. Niyama-recommended habits for healthy living (internal)
  3. Asana-physical postures
  4. Pranayama-breath energy regulation
  5. Pratyahara-withdrawal from/control over the senses
  6. Dharana-concentration
  7. Dhyana-profound meditation
  8. Samadhi-the state of superior consciousness

This indicates that the very first Yama is the very first thing you should do, and successfully practicing this Yama will open the door to furthering your yoga practice.

The Philosophy of Yoga

Yoga is one of the six types of Indian philosophy. In Indian philosophy, God (or the Supreme Universal Spirit) is in and around everything, and each human is a part of God. In this way, the philosophy of yoga lends itself to work well with many organized religions including (but not limited to) Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Taoism.

The Yoga Sutras are important to tell you how to practice yoga. The Bhagavad Gita is a collection of stories to help explain the philosophy of yoga. Both of these are interpreted. It is important to read samples before buying a book. Buying a dry translation will leave you bored. Buying a flowery translation might leave you disengaged. Read samples to find the right translation for you.

Yoga Today

forearm handstand with angular legsWhile yoga is still practiced as a religious philosophy by some, it is not essential to get the benefit of yoga postures. Although living by the principles of the Yamas and Niyamas will bring you happiness, stress reduction, and health, there is nothing to say that you must do them in order to achieve an outstanding down dog.

In fact, many people who enjoy yoga do not consciously practice it as a religious outlet. They enjoy yoga for the physical workout that it brings and the happiness and openness they feel after their practice.

There are many books about the practice of yoga (in terms of doing the postures). In order to find the best book for you, it is important to know about the different types of yoga, and we will discuss that next week. The types of yoga we will be discussing are Anusara, Ashtanga, Bikram, Hatha, Hot Yoga, Iyengar, and Vinyasa.

What other questions do you have about yoga? Let me know in the comments below.

If you are interested in customized Pilates and yoga sessions, fill out the Medical History and Waiver, and I’ll contact you.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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