Please submit an essay about the practical use of Yogic philosophy in your classes. You can base your essay on the modern use the Yoga Sutras in today’s environment.
By researching the “sworn testimony” you will get a lot of different wording statements varying by geographical location; the essence is that they all end with the wording “…I will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” The basis behind this statement is that the truth can be distorted by merely reporting some of the facts. And this is something that can even happen unintentionally since there is a possibility of making mistakes in our everyday judgment. Bare in mind that each one of us, can only realize the truth from his own perspective and this is directly related to the way each one of us perceives things. So yes, it’s possible for each perspective to carry a certain element of truth in its equation. Where is the problem? When the perspectives, as mind consciousness systems, fight over one another for a belief while neglecting the physical evidence that exists. Everybody is entitled to an opinion but how many opinions does it really take to form the whole truth? Don’t just think – practice and find out!
Yoga is not a religion but a philosophy. Yoga is the union of the mind, body and spirit; all levels interconnected within one breath. It’s not about a specific style of Yoga or a specific body type but the inner process that takes place within each practitioner. It starts from inwards by understanding and exploring own self and consequently moving outwards and realizing how the self is interacting with the rest of the environment. It’s all about awareness; how and why everything around us is acting and reacting, what responsibilities each one of us has and hence how do we influence this greater picture by shaping our relationships.
And Yoga is for everybody. There are benefits for all ages and types of people. You don’t have to join a cult or anything else and it doesn’t come with a belief system; Its up to you to decide which Yoga style is best for you or what is your purpose in Yoga and Life accordingly. Yoga practices may vary depending on a lot of factors, like the style of Yoga, the teacher and even the group level of the class. You don’t have to be necessarily young, healthy or already flexible to start practicing. It’s a fact that the body will become more flexible practising Asanas but this is not a necessity.
The purpose is not to become flexible or to stretch as far as the person next to you. It’s the process getting there and Yoga is an individual process for each one; All you have to do, regarding the Asanas, is to stretch your body up to the extend you are not harming it. Your body knows better than your mind and it will warn you if you push too much. It’s a fact; some classes are more physically demanding and others are designed for specific needs containing more restorative poses, or specifically custom lessons for pregnancy or people with specific injuries or illnesses.
Having said that and although everybody is eligible for practicing the Asanas, bear in mind that Asanas are classified into 2 groups each one having different difficulty levels. And although flexibility and age will ease the practice of more complicated Asanas, don’t forget that Asanas are merely one component of the Yogic methodology. The majority of the people believe that Yoga is the Asanas; they either don’t know the whole philosophy behind Yoga or they are just interested for the physical aspects. There is nothing wrong with that since everybody has free will, but the truth is that Life does not relate only to the body but concludes the mind and spirit as well. Yoga also acts as a stress reliever and as an anti-depressant. Bear in mind that a conscious breath is way different that an unconscious one; Practice Pranayama as a method for controlled breathing or practice meditation to understand how our thoughts influence and control our happiness creating thus a more deeper relationship with yourself and yoga.
Maharishi Patanjali within the Yoga Sutras described 8 limbs where all of them operate together for a complete practice incorporating philosophy into one’s daily life. The word Sutra translates to “strand or thread” and refers to a series of teaching that are threaded together like pearls on a necklace. Patanjali compiled the Sutras after taking into consideration yoga’s older tradition; a collection of 196 short verses and aging approximately 2,000 years old, but its wisdom is timeless. The first word of the first verse is “Atha” which translates into “Now” meaning that, all that matters is that we begin here and now to live and practice with greater self-awareness and presence.
All you have to do is to remain present without inner and outer distractions and pay attention to the moment. To be “in the moment” is that moment where your total awareness is present and you are merely observing without judging.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras consists of eight limbs; these steps act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. The first four limbs relate on refining our possibilities, gaining mastery over the body and developing an overall awareness of our true self. The remaining four limbs deal with the senses, the mind and attaining a higher state of consciousness. It’s an ongoing process where each step prepares you for the next; a personal system of monitoring and controlling the mind body and spirit. One shouldn’t look at the 8 limbs as a requirement but merely as a guide for a lighter, happier, healthier and more peaceful Life. After all, each one’s process is a personal process.
The 8 limbs of Yoga are:
Describes the ethical relationships we should have with our environment and that the relationships we build and share with every body else should have the following characteristics: non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, non-excess and non-possessiveness.
Describes the ethical relationship we should have with our self in terms of self-discipline and spiritual observances. The niyamas are more intimate and personal and have the following characteristics: cleanliness, contentment, discipline, self-reflection and high power.
Asana is the practice of physical postures with a combination of breathing techniques. The grounding that asanas provide together with the controlling of the breath can enable you into remaining focus to the present moment. This combination will calm the mind preparing you for the next limbs.
This stage concerns breathing techniques designed to gain awareness over our breath, which connects the body, mind and spirit. It concerns the control and direction of the breath within the organism with the purposes of healing where conscious attention can be directed to diseased parts of the body. Slow, deep and abdominal breathing can lead to meditative states of consciousness; Pranayama is itself a form of meditation.
Relates to the withdrawal of the senses; once the mind is focused then senses will follow. During this stage we consciously draw our awareness away from the external world or outside stimuli and thus directing all our attention internally. It’s a great opportunity to observe our self with no judgement.
Having drawn our attention to ourselves now we can deal with the mind. If we have developed successfully our concentration through the last three stages, now we can slow down the thinking process by concentrating on a single mental object; Could be that of chanting a mantra, gazing at an image or whatever each one is more comfortable with. An extended period of concentration purifies the mind, which can also lead to meditation.
Meditation is the next frontier since concentration is achieved. Although these two can be seem similar, they are not. Dharana practices one-pointed attention and Dhyana is ultimately a state of being without focus because the mind has already been quieted so the “stillness” produces few or no thoughts at all.
Samadhi means, “to merge” and concerns the final stage where the mediator comes to a profound connection with the Divine leading to a state of peace. It’s a state where the body and senses are at rest yet the mind is alert; it’s a union of One’s true self with Life; when Atman connects with Brahman.
Integrating all limbs into a Yoga class can be quite challenging considering the time limitation for each class; how much time are you going to spend on philosophy and how much time on pranayama, meditation and asana? A good idea would be that, for each class a reference point can be given to each limb as lessons progresses over time. By this way classes can become more interesting and practitioners can digest small bits of wisdom more easily.
A teacher should offer to his students the wisdom of the sutras and encourage them to practice the application of these limbs and notice any changes they may bring into their life experiences. His role is merely to open their minds to personal contemplation and not to tell them what to think. A Yoga teacher is a guide, who teaches you to eventually become your own teacher. So, students from their perspective should not just attain classes every now and then but should be taking home and applying what they have learnt in class. Because in the same breath, the students are merely a reflection of the teacher; if the players of a team are negligible then how does this reflects to the coach of the team?
A home practice can only take up to15 minutes and its up to you to decide the time and place. Having no time is just an excuse, so try the following: Put your phone on airplane mode, and set a timer for 15 minutes. Roll out your mat, lie down and spread hands and foot wide to the edges of the mat and close your eyes. Now, think about the idea of “now” and ask yourself the following: What do I need right now? What does my body want right now? Listen in stillness and silence for the answer to arise. By the end of the timer who knows, you may find the answers we were looking for. The worst-case scenario is that where nothing happens – you just relaxed for 15 minutes. How does it feel? When was the last time you relaxed intentionally and spend some quality time with your real you?