Asana is a Sanskrit term which is often translated as “posture” or “pose.” Asana can also be translated as “a steady, comfortable seat,” particularly for the purpose of meditation.
Many people equate asana with the act of performing fancy, advanced poses. However, anyone of any level of experience can practice (whether beginner, intermediate, or advanced). Individual asanas can also be modified to suit all practice needs and desires.
In the contemporary world where many of us are perpetually on the go, practice can slow us down and help us bridge disconnections between the body, mind, and breath. It can also be practiced to increase strength and flexibility, improve balance and core strength, and bring a sense of mindfulness into our everyday lives. Scientific research is also suggesting that a regular practice can provide the following benefits ~ Relieving chronic pain, teaching you to control your respiration, improving sleep and self-reported quality of life and reducing anxiety and depression.
As interpreted by Chopra and Simon, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga are:
Law of Pure Potentiality: Since you are an unshakeable part of what exists in the physical world, you are also infinitely creative, limitless and eternal.
Law of Giving and Receiving: You must give and receive to experience love, abundance, and anything positive you wish to reverberate through your existence.
Law of Karma (Cause and Effect): Every action generates a returning reaction. If you choose positive actions that bring forth happiness and success, you will, in turn, receive such energy. If you choose negative actions that bring forth pain or suffering, they will boomerang back to you.
Law of Least Effort: By harnessing your energy and offering no resistance, you allow your actions to be motivated by love, tapping into the infinite power of the universe as you do less, yet accomplish more.
Law of Intention and Desire: When you quiet the mind and introduce your intentions through pure potentiality, you galvanize the universe into action, allowing your desires to manifest with ease.
Law of Detachment: Everything, at this moment, is happening as it should be. There is no need to resist or force. Simply intend for everything to unfold as it should, take the action that’s necessary, and allow the results to happen.
Law of Dharma: By expressing your unique gifts to serve others, you will experience unlimited love, abundance, and true fulfillment in your life.
“Yoga’s history has many places of obscurity and uncertainty due to its oral transmission of sacred texts and the secretive nature of its teachings. The early writings on yoga were transcribed on fragile palm leaves that were easily damaged, destroyed or lost. The development of yoga can be traced back to over 5,000 years ago, but some researchers think that yoga may be up to 10,000 years old old. Yoga’s long rich history can be divided into four main periods of innovation, practice and development.
Pre-Classical Yoga The beginnings of Yoga were developed by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India over 5,000 years ago. The word yoga was first mentioned in the oldest sacred texts, the Rig Veda. The Vedas were a collection of texts containing songs, mantras and rituals to be used by Brahmans, the Vedic priests. Yoga was slowly refined and developed by the Brahmans and Rishis (mystic seers) who documented their practices and beliefs in the upanishads, a huge work containing over 200 scriptures. The most renowned of the Yogic scriptures is the Bhagavad-Gîtâ, composed around 500 B.C.E. The Upanishads took the idea of ritual sacrifice from the Vedas and internalized it, teaching the sacrifice of the ego through self-knowledge, action (karma yoga) and wisdom (jnana yoga).
Classical Yoga In the pre-classical stage, yoga was a mishmash of various ideas, beliefs and techniques that often conflicted and contradicted each other. The Classical period is defined by Patanjali’s Yoga-Sûtras, the first systematic presentation of yoga. Written some time in the second century, this text describes the path of RAJA YOGA, often called “classical yoga”. Patanjali organized the practice of yoga into an “eight limbed path” containing the steps and stages towards obtaining Samadhi or enlightenment. Patanjali is often considered the father of yoga and his Yoga-Sûtras still strongly influence most styles of modern yoga.
Post-Classical Yoga A few centuries after Patanjali, yoga masters created a system of practices designed to rejuvenate the body and prolong life. They rejected the teachings of the ancient Vedas and embraced the physical body as the means to achieve enlightenment. They developed Tantra Yoga, with radical techniques to cleanse the body and mind to break the knots that bind us to our physical existence. This exploration of these physical-spiritual connections and body centered practices led to the creation of what we primarily think of yoga in the West: Hatha Yoga.
Modern Period In the late 1800s and early 1900s, yoga masters began to travel to the West, attracting attention and followers. This began at the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago, when Swami Vivekananda wowed the attendees with his lectures on yoga and the universality of the world’s religions. In the 1920s and 30s, Hatha Yoga was strongly promoted in India with the work of T. Krishnamacharya, Swami Sivananda and other yogis practicing Hatha Yoga. Krishnamacharya opened the first Hatha Yoga school in Mysore in 1924 and in 1936 Sivananda founded the Divine Life Society on the banks of the holy Ganges River. Krishnamacharya produced three students that would continue his legacy and increase the popularity of Hatha Yoga: B.K.S. Iyengar, T.K.V. Desikachar and Pattabhi Jois. Sivananda was a prolific author, writing over 200 books on yoga, and established nine ashrams and numerous yoga centers located around the world.
The importation of yoga to the West still continued at a trickle until Indra Devi opened her yoga studio in Hollywood in 1947. Since then, many more western and Indian teachers have become pioneers, popularizing hatha yoga and gaining millions of followers. Hatha Yoga now has many different schools or styles, all emphasizing the many different aspects of the practice.”
The literal translation of the word “yoga” from Sanskrit (which is recognized as the original language of yoga) is “union.” And that’s an apt basis for defining yoga as we know it today; bringing together the mind and the body by use of the breath.
Insight Yoga is a style of yoga designed by Sarah and Ty Powers that combines elements of different principles and philosophies of Buddhism, yoga and psychology. The foundation of Insight Yoga is to combine both active and passive yoga postures with breath work, meditation, mindfulness and self analysis to attain peace, tranquility and harmony with the self and the universe. The core teachings are based on developing the physical and subtle body, the mind, the heart and on understanding relationships.
Maharishi Ayurveda (MAV) is an alternative name given to the Maharishi Vedic Approach to Health, or MVAH. This is also sometimes known as Maharishi Vedic Medicine.
Maharishi Ayurveda is an alternative approach to health and medicine that was created by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1980s. A high degree of importance is given to the use of positive emotions, as well as to the role of the person’s consciousness, in their overall health.
The holistic approach that is embraced in MAV covers a wide range of practices which tie in with the lifestyle and philosophical outlook of many yogis. A yoga practitioner who understands their own body and how to look after it will be able to get the maximum benefit out of this approach to health by using it to shape their physical practice.
Surya bhedana is a Sanskrit term that means “piercing the sun,” from the words, surya, meaning “solar” or “sun,” and bhedana, which means “piercing,” “separating” and “causing to flow.”
The term refers to a yogic breathing exercise, or pranayama, that involves breathing in through the right nostril only. For this reason, surya bhedana is usually translated as “right nostril breathing.” It is most often practiced with the left nostril closed off by the ring finger of the right hand with the forefinger and middle fingers resting between the eyebrows. The exhalation is usually through the left nostril.
Lion’s Breath is a type of pranayama (breathing technique), used to release stress and tension from the body and mind. Although Lion’s Breath is generally practiced in simhasana (Lion Pose), it can be performed in any comfortable and stable position, whether seated or standing. The breath involves a forceful exhalation from the back of the throat, whilst extending the tongue from the mouth and rolling the eyes upwards. This gives the practitioner a fierce, lion-like expression, which alongside the roaring sound of the breath gives this pranayama its name.
Lion’s Breath is an energizing technique with both physical and mental benefits. It stretches the muscles and stimulates the nerves in the face, thereby relieving tension and improving circulation. It is also a warming breath, helping to increase internal fire in preparation for asana (postures). Lion’s Breath opens the Visuddha chakra, an energy centre in the throat, not only boosting confidence and the ability to utilize one’s voice, but simultaneously calming stress, anger and disquiet in the mind.
Antaranga is a Sanskrit term meaning “internal,” “inner” or “inside.” Antaranga yoga, therefore, refers to the inner path. It is typically associated with the last three limbs of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, or Ashtanga yoga – dharana, dhyana and samadhi. These yogic practices together are referred to as antaranga sadhana (spiritual practice or spiritual discipline). Sometimes, pratyahara, the fifth limb, is included as well. In contrast, the first four limbs are called Bahiranga yoga and include asanas and pranayama.
Antaranga cetana is the concept of internal consciousness, which the yogi experiences during meditation. In this state, there are no thoughts or external sensory perceptions.
Krama is a Sanskrit term meaning “succession.” This can denote a step-by-step progression or a sequence of events.
In yoga, this word is most commonly used to refer to vinyasa krama. Vinyasa krama is an asana practice that flows with the breath and takes a sequential approach in order to achieve a specific goal or intention. Typically, this goal is a more advanced or complex asana. Often, this type of yoga is referred to simply as vinyasa, or flow yoga.
It is said that vinyasa krama practice is beneficial because it helps students to align themselves with the flowing and evolving nature of the universe, rather than being caught in the mindset of seeing each asana as a separate event that’s disconnected from the rest of the practice.