The word ‘yoga’ has become synonymous with asana practice, particularly in the West where it is regarded as a holistic exercise that promotes strength, flexibility and relaxation. But are you practicing real yoga if just performing asanas? The simple could be no.
Yoga is an ancient tradition originating from India and dating back thousands of years, long before the birth of many religions. In Hindu philosophy, Shiva is seen as the first yogi and guru.
Yoga literally means to merge or to join, and this refers to the union of the mind, body and breath. Mind = meditation, body = asana and breath = pranayama. While most yoga classes will incorporate roughly ten minutes of pranayama, these two elements are of significant importance to the practice of true yoga and must not be overlooked.
Pranayama lies at the heart of yoga and is the expansion of life force through the control of the breath; it acts as a bridge between the body and the mind. It is a skilled activity that often requires daily practice in order to realise its true value and benefits and practitioners must be dedicated to mastering this element of yoga.
Meditation is a tool to centre the mind’s potential energy and promote a way of living in which one is not pulled by external forces, frustrations and difficulties that life puts in the way of truly living. It is a way of becoming detached from the external influences of the outer world and helps us to explore the inner world of the mind and unravel our thoughts.
Through the practice of yoga, the rhythm of the mind is conquered and the body is controlled, thus opening a doorway into the inner spirit, creating equilibrium, good health, peace and tranquility. So the next time you roll out your mat, try to incorporate all three elements of yoga into your routine in order to try and reap all the benefits of this wonderful practice.