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Meaning of Yoga. Is it Meditation Or Exercise?


Exploring Yoga: Meaning, Types, and the Power of Niyama


In the serene mornings of traditional India, women create intricate patterns known as kolam or rangoli using rice flour, connecting dots with lines, much like the way we connect stars to form constellations. This simple act mirrors the essence of yoga – the art of aligning and connecting to unlock the boundless potential within. But what is yoga? Have you heard of “yamas” and “niyamas”?

What is Yoga? A Journey of Alignment

At its core, yoga signifies alignment. It’s about harmonizing elements, whether they are two body parts, two objects, or two concepts. In Indian astrology, when stars and planets align to create a favorable pattern, it’s referred to as “yoga.” Similarly, in social contexts, “yoga” signifies the convergence of seemingly disparate elements to achieve success.

The Many Dimensions of Yoga

Yoga takes on various meanings depending on the context. It can denote the alignment of mind and body or simply the coordination of different body parts. It might refer to the balance between front and back, left and right, or upper and lower body segments. For some, it represents the connection between an individual and society, while for others, it signifies the bond between two people, whether it’s between spouses, parents and children, teachers and students, or friends. In a spiritual sense, yoga symbolizes the connection between the devotee and the divine.

Diverse Paths to Connection

Yoga encompasses diverse paths to establish these connections. “Karma yoga” emphasizes connecting through action, aligning individual efforts with broader social objectives. “Bhakti yoga” focuses on emotional connection, be it with a person or a personal deity. “Gyan yoga” is intellectual in nature, while “hatha yoga” centers on the physical. “Tantra yoga” finds significance in rituals and symbols, weaving the sacred into the mundane.

Beyond Asanas: The Essence of Niyama

Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not solely about physical postures (“asanas”). Asanas come third in the eight-limbed path of Yoga, as described by Patanjali, following “yamas” or abstinence and “niyamas” or observances. Let’s delve into the second limb of yoga, Niyama.

Niyama: The Path of Inner Observance

Niyama, a Sanskrit term for duty or observance, plays a crucial role in yogic philosophy. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, he outlines five niyamas as part of the second limb of yoga. These practices focus on inner observance, applying ethical codes to one’s mind, body, and spirit, fostering a positive internal environment.

The five yoga niyamas are:

1. Saucha: Purification and clarity of mind, body, and communication. This acknowledges the impact of one’s external surroundings on internal purity.

2. Santosha: Contentment and acceptance of the world and oneself, free from cravings and suffering.

3. Tapas: Intense self-discipline and willpower, even in discomfort, for positive transformation.

4. Svadhyaya: Self-study and self-reflection, exploring one’s identity in the moment and connection with the Divine.

5. Ishvara Pranidhana: Surrender and contemplation of the Divine, dedicating one’s work to a higher power and transcending ego-driven desires.

Embark on Your Yogic Journey

Whether you’re a seasoned practitioner or a beginner, yoga welcomes all to align, connect, and explore their limitless potential. At Akshi Yogashala, we embrace yoga in all its dimensions, offering a supportive environment for your journey. Join us for a transformative experience, and unlock the best yoga teacher training in India. Your path to inner alignment and connection starts here.

ESSENCE OF YOGA Best YTTC 200 hrs Rishikesh



Essence of yoga

The history of Yoga dates back to time immemorial, and includes a huge body of scriptures. That scriptures navigate the human experience and how we may train the mind through the body, thereby achieving the union of “Yog” with the all that is. So what is essence of yoga?

To witness the self as a direct expression of all that is. And without attaching to experiences, remaining free from conceptions and ideas. Whilst being spontaneously joyous, spring forth with universal knowledge both verbally and non-verbally as a direct outer of the eternal wisdom of the universal. This can become quite esoteric and difficult to comprehend. But may also be simplified when taken in the pathways of everyday practical Yoga routines available to us in real and tangible teachings.

The simplest of these is arguable the Astanga 8 limbs of Yoga. Which teaches us how we may walk the path the renunciates (Yogis) do, while we are still living in the material and commercial world of modernity and stressors.

Applying teachings

In fact, when we take written teachings and apply them where we are, it is the immediate experience. And this experience provides a learning environment and incentive to change our worldview and view of ourselves in it. And thus, we achieve greater knowledge of ourselves and others, our inner and outer world. So what is essence of yoga?

The Ashtanga teachings include a simplification and elucidation of the core yogic path. This was created to simplify and find an accord between the varying schools of Yoga. So it can sometimes cause much confusion to the beginning practitioner or potential student.

To summarize those principles here are the core 8 limbs as recorded in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali:

1) Yama (ethical restraints) 2) Niyama (personal observances) 3) Asana (physical postures) 4) Pranayama (breath control) 5) Pratyahara (sense withdrawal) 6) Dharana (concentration) 7) Dhyana (meditation) 8) Samadhi (a state of unity)

The first two limbs consist of ethical and personal restraints and observances that lead us into more and more peace, thereby ensuring our practice may proceed with minimal obstructions. To go to the third step with no regard for the initial two is only going to create more challenges to your practice yielding the fruits your practice would otherwise provide. So it is best to adhere to the path of the ancient teachings in the acknowledgement that you will proceed more easily, and effectively through the path towards self realization and moksha, liberation and freedom from suffering for want of a better translation from Sanskrit.

The following are the breakdown of steps that make up the Yamas and Niyamas:

YAMAS (ethical restraints)

1) Nonviolence (Ahimsa) – doing no harm to oneself or to any living being or “From harming

ourselves and others to kindness and compassion for self and others”. 2) Truthfulness (Satya) – honesty and forthrightness without doing harm or “From lies and

half-truths to expressing our uniqueness and authenticity”. 3) Non-stealing (Asteya) – removing the tendency to look outwards for satisfaction or

“From theft to cultivating new skills and abilities”. 4) Non-excess (Brahmacharya) – being present to the divinity in life and not seeking more

or “From greed to appreciation and pleasure without excess”. 5) Non-possessiveness (Aparigraha) – freedom from desire to “own” or “keep” people,

status and material possessions or “From attachment to intimacy without possession”.

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NIYAMAS (personal observances)

1) Purity (Saucha) – continual clarification of our intent, thoughts, emotions and actions or

“Cleansing our bodies, our speech, our thoughts”. 2) Contentment (Santosha) – being at peace with the present state of awareness, internal

and external conditions or “Falling in love with our own life”. 3) Self-discipline (Tapas) – maintaining the drive and motivation to embrace eternal

change and create balance of “soft” and “hard” in ourself and practices or “Consciously choosing discipline and growth”. 4) Self-study (Svadhyaya) – to study the universal and small self, to also examine the

mind, its thoughts emotions and feelings arising in reaction to the external world, and learning the essence of our conditioned self to release this, so we may rest fully and completely in the expansive universal self and consciousness, or “Knowing the Self”. 5) Surrender (Ishvara Pranidhana) – to release control and embrace the progression

along the path as being like that of a river you have entered, carrying you downstream towards the ocean of enlightenment you release the need to struggle against perceived obstacles. This is essential for regaining faith in ourselves, and the outside world, embracing change and opening the heart and mind or “Paying attention to what life is asking of us”.

I trust that this brief explanation of the core principles in Yogic practice makes clear what was not before, and hides you along the path to union with truth, bliss, peace and consciousness.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

By Thomas Clayden Eckersley B.H.Sc

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Special discount available for Indians
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