AIMS OF YOGA
“The practice of yoga aims to overcome the limitation of the body. Yoga teaches us that the goal of every individual’s life is to take the inner journey to the soul. Yoga offers both the goal and the means to reach it.”
- BKS Iyengar
The practice of yoga doesn’t only make the body strong and flexible. It also improves the functioning of the respiratory, circulatory, digestive, and hormonal systems. Yoga also brings emotional stability and clarity of mind. The practice is a journey to self-realisation.
Practicing asanas revitalises the body. What is an asana? It could be loosely translated into pose, or posture, however, it is much more than that. It involves a thoughtful process at the end of which a balance is achieved between movement and resistance; a state of flow. Just as a goldsmith heats gold in fire to burn out its impurities (that which no longer serves you), likewise, asanas, by increasing the circulation of fresh blood through the body, pure it of the diseases and toxins that are the consequences of an irregular lifestyle, unhealthy habits and poor posture. I cannot express enough how mindful yoga has made me of my posture. Mid-conversation with friends I will suddenly become aware of my tendency to slouch in a lazy manner. As if by second nature, this mindfulness aids in correcting my posture. Regular practice of stretches, bends, twists, and inversions – the basic movements of asanas – restores strength and stamina to the body. Whilst moving through asanas the objective is to synchronise the movement with the breath. One movement in unison with an inhalation, followed by the proceeding exhalation and asana. Through this harmony between breath and movement we become mindful, and completely present in the moment.
Presence is an art difficult to master in an often chaotic, busy common day, and perhaps a clutter of habitual mind-traffic. The kind that doesn’t serve you, and Earth by extent.
MIND & BODY
The body and the mind are in a state of constant interaction. The turmoil of daily life brings stress to the body and the mind. This creates anxiety, depression, restlessness and rage. Asanas, whilst seemingly appearing to deal with the physical body alone, actually influences the chemical balance of the brain, which in turn improves one’s mental state of being. Removing the clutter within the mind affecting the clarity of one’s perception.
What does yoga do to my brain?
“When your brain becomes accustomed to a well-worn neural path, it becomes a habit, such mindlessly looking at your phone when you’re bored. New neural paths form in the same way and repeated activation makes these paths bigger and stronger. By reinforcing positive behaviours, yoga gives us the tools to break thought and emotional patterns that no longer serve us. This allows the choice of healthier patterns when challenges arise, making yoga a powerful practice for our mental health and wellbeing.”
- Ann Swanson
Science of Yoga: Understanding the anatomy and physiology to perfect your practice – Pg 193
If the science of yoga is what you’re looking for, there will be more to come on this topic in the proceeding blog post, “the science of yoga.” Stay tuned.
The four stages of yoga
The primary aim of yoga is to restore the mind to simplicity, peace, and tranquility. To free the mind of confusion and distress. This order and calm comes from the practice of asanas and pranayama (breathing). Yoga asanas integrates the body, the mind, the intelligence, and, the self. The first stage is the practise at the level of the physical body. The second stage is when the mind learns to move in unison with the body. The third level occurs when the intelligence and the body become one. The final stage is the state of perfection. In this stage the self, or soul, is introduced. This frees the body and integrates it with the soul in the journey from the finite to the infinite. The body, mind, and self become one. At this stage, asanas become more meditative and spiritual. This may be termed “dynamic meditation.”
Exercise is the most common reason why people first decide to practice yoga. However, for those who continue to practise, the spiritual side often becomes more important. Whatever your reason for trying yoga, time on the mat will undoubtedly lead to actualising, cultivating the best version of yourself.