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Elevating Human Consciousness: A Definition of Yoga

People generally speak of the definition of yoga in terms of what the word yoga means.

It is literally translated as 'yoke', meaning to 'join together' or 'to unite'.

But what are we joining together?

We are uniting the three fold Self:

  1. The Body,
  2. The Mind and
  3. The Spirit or Soul.

This very rudimentary definition of yoga then opens us to a vast world of deep potential, that we will explore here and throughout the entire website.

For when we understand that yoga is the union of Body, Mind and Spirit, we understand that everything is yoga!

Yes, everything! From eating to walking to sleeping to talking; if we do it with consciousness, we move closer to full union with ourselves and all that surrounds us. This is the basis of my yoga therapy practice.

Life can become a 24-7 Yogic Dance if you let it.

This was an aha moment for me when I realized this years ago, but without getting overwhelmed I want you to first understand that yoga is essentially a very practical set of guidelines on how to live. Should you choose to accept these guidelines, the balancing and healing effects of yoga will create your life's Happiness and Bliss!

Here is a definition of yoga from a great master, Yogi Bhajan:

"I will tell you about yoga in very simple terms: The human mind is potentially Infinite and Creative. But in practical reality it is limited. So a technical know-how is required through which one can expand his mind to bring about the equilibrium that enables him to control his physical structure and experience his Infinite Self."

The Definition of Yoga as Recorded by Patanjali

We will learn more about Yoga Origins in another article, however, it is useful to discuss a great sage by the name of Patanjali here.

Patanjali took the classical teachings of various schools of yogic philosophy and recorded them in what are known as sutras (short, thought-laden aphorisms).

He also devised a system known as the 8 Limbs of Yoga Practice. These 8 Limbs represent a precise definition of yoga that assists us in purifying our body, mind and spirit. This is the technology that assists our conscious growth and union.

Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga:

  1. Samadhi: awakening, absorption and blissful/ecstatic union in spirit

  2. Dhyana: deep meditation

  3. Dharana: One-pointed concentration

  4. Pratyahar: Synchronization of senses, thoughts and developing inner awareness

  5. Pranayam: control of breath or prana (life force energy)

  6. Asana: Physical Postures for health and meditation

  7. Niyama: observing daily practices designed to clarify the internal relationship to the Self. E.g. gratitude, acceptance, faith, reflection, etc.

  8. Yamas: choosing to practice moral restraint in external interactions. E.g. compassion, patience, honesty, forgiveness, non-judgement, etc.

A Faulty Definition of Yoga in the West

As you can see from the above explanation, yoga is much more than physical exercises known as asanas.

Yoga is not about perfecting the physical body, it is not about flexibility poses and it is not about tight yoga pants! Although all of these can be part of yoga, it is far from the bigger picture.

The definition of yoga in the west seems to have forgotten most of Patanjali’s sutras that enable us to merge our tri-fold structure: the Body, Mind and Spirit.

If your only experience with yoga at this point is the postures and flexibility exercises, then I encourage you to continue reading the various components on this website that will assist you in creating Your unique holistic yogic lifestyle.

Some suggestions to begin your 8 Limb yoga journey, depending on what you are drawn to learn, would be:

  • Dyana to develop dhyana

  • Healing Hands and Kirtan Kriya to work on pratyahar

  • Pranayam to ignite your pranayama practice

  • Mind Body Connection and Kundalini Awakening to experience Samadhi

  • Authentic Happiness and Reinvent Yourself to establish Niyamas and Yamas in your life

  • And don't forget to check out the Nutrition for Life and Healthy Living Tips sections for all round conscious living choices.

Blessings on your conscious Journey toward Wholeness; toward Oneness in Body-Mind-and-Soul!

Yours in Wellness,

Dr. Lisa

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