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Introducing Yoga
by Faith Hunter


Editor's Note from
Brooke Nisbet: You may keep hearing that yoga goes beyond asana (poses) and beyond the yoga mat. Faith Hunger, RYT, gives us a brief overview of the true meaning of "yoga". She breaks it down into the 8 Limbs of Yoga and the 7 Paths of Yoga. This will give you a better idea of "yoga"...in a nutshell.


Yoga is as old as civilization. It is said to stem from the oral traditions of Yogis, where knowledge of Yoga was handed down from Guru (spiritual teacher) to Sisya (spiritual student), all the way back to the originators of Yoga called "the Rishis," who first began investigation into the nature of reality and man's inner world. Early Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are universally accepted as constituting the written foundation of the Yoga tradition.  Among these, the Yoga Sutras provide the basis and inspiration for most of today's yoga traditions.

In its continuous evolution, Yoga has come to represent not only the ultimate goal, but also the many practices, techniques, methods and ways that move you toward that goal of peace and harmony in your life. Yoga represents the study, path and the means to proceed toward the following core concepts: the union of opposites; the effect the outside world has on the body; the yearning for and seeking of a form of liberation; the merging of the individual consciousness with the Universal consciousness; and the interest of discovering and attaining your true self.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

The varied philosophies and methodologies of Yoga itself were clearly and methodically brought together and presented by the sage Patanjali in his set of 196 aphorisms called "The Yoga Sutras," written some 2200 years ago. The Sutras bring together all the various strands of theory and practice from all sources of yoga and present them in one concise, integrated and comprehensive text. How all the aspects interrelate and form part of the whole body of yoga are clearly elucidated. There are 8 disciplines to yoga as presented by Patanjali (thus ashtanga yoga, or the 8 limbed path) which must be practiced and refined in order to perceive the true self- the ultimate goal of Yoga:

1. Yama - universal ethics: non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, sexual restraint and non-acquisitiveness

2. Niyama - principles of self conduct: purity, contentment, intense dedication or austerity, study of self and scriptures, and self-surrender

3. Asana - practice of the postures

4. Pranayama - breath control

5. Pratyahara - withdrawal and control of the senses

6. Dharana - concentration

7. Dhyana - meditation

8. Samadhi - state of higher consciousness where the sense of self (ego) dissolves in the object of meditation and the individual self exists in its own pure nature

The Paths of Yoga

There are said to be 4 main paths (Margas), according to the Bhagavad Gita, by which to reach the ultimate goal of Yoga, which is "Kaivalya." There is the Path of Knowledge (Jnana Marga) in which one learns to discriminate between what is real and what is illusion; the Path of Selfless Work (Karma Marga); the Path of Devotion (Bhakti Marga); and the Path of Control of the Mind (Yoga Marga) where all the activities of the mind and consciousness are studied and brought under control. From these have come the various Paths of Yoga which include:


*Raja yoga - mastery of the mind and senses in Samadhi; essentially the advanced aspects of Patanjali's ashtanga yoga

*Hatha yoga - cultivating ones energy to arouse Kundalini primarily by means of asana and pranayama

*Mantra yoga - reciting sacred syllables to reach perfection

*Laya yoga - absorption in god to experience ultimate bliss

*Bhakti yoga - absolute devotion to god to achieve the ultimate goal

*Karma yoga - selfless work without thought of personal reward

*Jnana yoga - knowledge cultivating the discrimination between spiritual reality and the illusion of the material world



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About the Author 


Faith Hunter is a certified and registered yoga teacher and the owner of Shakti MindBody Studio located in Washington, DC. She has taught yoga in New York City, DC, Louisiana, California, and Spain. Currently she produces a FREE yoga podcast called "faith hunter yoga: all the way LIVE!"  You can find it at http://faithhunteryoga.wordpress.com. To learn more about Faith, visit her at www.faithhunter.com







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