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Derivation Of Limbs Of Yoga
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Yoga means union. In simple words, it can be defined as the union of body, mind and soul. Yogis have organised the science of yoga into a systematic eight fold path called Ashtanga Yoga. It is not a technique or a form of yoga. The word ‘ashtanga’ is derived from ‘ashta’ and ‘anga’ which literally translates to eight rungs or eight limbs. The eight rungs include yama (self-regulation), niyama (observances), asana (posture), pranayama (breath regulation), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (state of perfected concentration or meditation).
YAMA AND NIYAMA
The two rungs define the basic ethical codes of life. They are similar to a list of rules and regulations that a school would hand out upon registration. They are concerned with the personal discipline of the student or the practitioner. Yama includes satya (truthfulness), ahimsa (non-violence), asteya (non-stealing), aparigraha (non-hoarding) and brahmacharya (walking in awareness of the higher self). Brahmacharya should not be misunderstood as celibacy. One who remains true to himself and practices non-violence, non-stealing and non-hoarding naturally walks with a sense of awareness of the higher self.
Niyama means observances which include sauchya (cleanliness), santosha (contentment), svadhyaya (self-study); tapa (austerities) and ishvar pranidhan (surrender to the source).
Yogis have devised various cleansing techniques such as tratak (gazing), jal neti (nasal cleansing), agnisar kriya (activating the digestive fire), shankaprakshalana (cleansing of the intestines) to name a few. It is essential to keep the entire body clean from the respiratory tract to the tail end of the digestive tract in order to keep the mind clean. Contentment is a feeling of being grateful for one’s present. Self-study is an inquiry into one’s thoughts, feelings, habits and perception. Austerities help train the senses for the internal journey of yoga. Surrender to the source means surrendering either to the higher self or a belief.
Asana means posture. Asan literally translates to seat or a mat. Asana also means no hope. There are 8.4 million postures which are divided into cultural postures, postures for relaxation and meditative postures. Refer articles, Understanding Yoga Sutras- part 1 and part 2 in tabloid! on 2nd April and 9th April for detailed understanding of asanas.
The word pranayama is comprised of prana and ayama. Prana means ‘vital energy’ or ‘life force’. Although closely related to the air we breathe, it is more subtle than air or oxygen. Pranayama utilizes breathing to influence the flow of prana in the energy channels of an individual. In addition to influencing the quality of life, the length of life is also dictated by the rhythm of the breath. Those who breathe in short, quick gasps are likely to have a shorter life span than those who breathe slowly and deeply. On the physical level, this is because the respiration is directly related to the heart. A slow breathing rate keeps the heart stronger and better nourished and contributes to a longer life. Deep breathing also increases the absorption of energy and contributes to general wellbeing.
There are several techniques of pranayama such as anulom vilom (alternate nostril breathing), bhastrika (bellows breath), ujjayi (psychic breath) , sheetali (cooling breath), seetkari (hissing breath), brahmari (humming bee breath) and plavani (floating breath) to name a few. I will cover the techniques along with benefits in the upcoming articles.
These four aspects – yama, niyama, asana ans pranayama fall under bahiranga yoga or external yoga where the practices are visible on the outside.
Do read Limbs of yoga – part 2
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