Common Yoga Questions
What is the meaning of “yoga”?
Yoga means ‘to yoke’, or find union, between the body, mind and spirit. Often we are disconnected from our present experience, ruminating about the past, or anticipating the future. Rarely are we in an open and present state when the thinking mind can settle and we can be acutely aware of the limitless potentials of the present moment. The thinking mind can become calm and settled when we focus on the breath and body as they are anchors to the present moment. In this focused state we experience peace and serenity, as the mind and body merge, the indwelling spirit is realized.
Do you have to be flexible to practice yoga?
Many people have a belief about yoga that they must be flexible already in order to practice, but this simply isn’t true. We focus on bringing awareness to areas that need to release, and with that attention and patience, we can safely open the body so we can move with ease and grace. Just as important as flexibility, we will develop strength and postural alignment that will support our health.
Is yoga a religion?
Yoga is not a religion. Yoga sometimes interweaves other philosophies such as Hinduism or Buddhism, but it is not necessary to study those paths in order to practice or study yoga. The philosophy in which yoga originates began in India an estimated 5,000 years ago. Patanjali, who wrote the Yoga Sutras, describes a system of yoga called Ashtanga Yoga, or the Eight Limbed Path. These scriptures provide a framework for spiritual growth and mastery over afflictions of the physical and mental body. The Eight Limbed Path of Ashtanga Yoga may be viewed as a guide to attain liberation, and yet it is very personal and non-dogmatic discovery. It is not necessary to surrender your own religious beliefs to practice yoga; indeed yoga may compliment one’s religious path.
What is the ‘Eight Limbed Path’?
Patanjali, in the Yoga Sutras, describes yoga as ‘the ability to direct and focus mental activity’. As a path to enlightenment, the Yoga Sutra outlines in detail the steps to attaining liberation, or union with cosmic consciousness. The ‘Eight Limbed Path’ is listed in the Sutras II:29 as below:
- Yama (restraints, including non-harm, honesty, non-stealing, moderation, and non-coveting)
- Niyama (disciplines, including cleanliness, contentment, purity, study, and surrender to Higher Self )
- Asana (steady posture, or posture easily held)
- Pranayama (regulation of breath or life force)
- Pratyahara (withdrawal from the senses )
- Dharana (concentration)
- Dhyana (meditation)
- Samadhi (union with cosmic consciousness)
What does Om mean?
Om, or AUM, is the primordial sound, the single-syllable mantra that is traditionally chanted in yoga classes. It is considered to be the Universal Hum, or the vibration of all things.
Chanting the sound of the Universal hum can help to still the thinking mind, and in this calm and spacious state, where the fluctuations of the mind are resting, the ancient yogis knew what scientists today are telling us–that the entire universe is interconnected. Everything that exists pulsates, creating a rhythmic vibration that the ancient yogis acknowledged as the sound of Om.