Yoga is an ancient and holistic science, philosophy and art-form. It’s one of the oldest systems of personal development in the world, and has evolved over thousands of years into several different ‘schools’ or styles. However, the fundamental intention is the same – to achieve union of body and mind, and experience a sense of universal oneness. Yoga involves developing our attitudes, actions, body, breath and mind towards this goal.
The foundations of yoga philosophy were written down in The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, approximately 200 AD. This sacred text describes the inner workings of the mind and provides an eight-step blueprint for controlling its restlessness so as to enjoying lasting peace. The core of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is an eight-limbed path that forms the structural framework for our yoga practice. We work with ethical principles, asanas (physical postures), pranayama (breath development), pratyhara (control of the senses) dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) to reach samadhi (union, or pure awareness).
In practical terms, as an antidote to our claustrophobic and busy modern lives, yoga can improve flexibility, strength, posture, circulation, concentration and self-confidence. It can also relieve stress, anxiety and depression. It can help us to build resilience and expand psychological tolerance of uncomfortable feelings. I think of it as a way of spring-cleaning the body and mind so that you can be more at peace in yourself.
For me, ultimately, yoga is about living fully – I practise yoga in order to live (I don’t live to practise yoga). To integrate the philosophy as I have felt it, to live with more purpose, more wonder and gratitude, more balance and openness, more kindness towards myself and others.
“A training of mind and heart so that we experience life with grace and equanimity. Insight arises from continual observation of the mind (citta) and attunement to energy flow (prana).”