Yoga: More Than Just an Asana Practice

When most people think of yoga, they think of the asana practice of yoga. The physical practice of stepping on your mat and moving from posture to posture to strengthen, lengthen, and create space in your body. But… Yoga is more than just an asana practice.

The asana practice is only 1/8th (or 12.5%) of what a yoga practice truly entails. In yogic philosophy, there are eight limbs (or parts) of yoga and the physical practice of asana is not even #1 (in fact, it’s number three!).

Triangle Pose

 

I think a lot of people miss out on the greatness of yoga because they assume that to be a yogi, you have to be a really flexible contortionist. That really breaks my heart, because I know the healing and the self-actualization that occurs with a complete yoga practice, one that encompasses all eight limbs.

What are the eight limbs of yoga?

  1. Yama (Universal Moral Codes)
  2. Niyama (Personal Observances)
  3. Asana (Physical Postures)
  4. Pranayama (Breath Control)
  5. Pratyahara (Withdrawal of the Senses)
  6. Dharana (Concentration)
  7. Dhyana (Meditative Absorption)
  8. Samadhi (Englightenment)

It is with these eight limbs of yoga that we can learn to live a more mindful, conscious, enlightened, and blissful life. These limbs were outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras more than 1,700 years ago. Today, they still hold so much weight and value in how we live our lives.

What do they all mean?

Here’s a high level download of the 8 limbs of yoga:

Yamas

The first limb of yoga is the yamas or the moral code by which all beings should live their lives. They deal with our integrity and our moral (+ ethical) compass. The yamas are often described as our external observances, in other words, how we interact in the world. There are five yamas.

1. Ahimsa: nonviolence

2. Satya: truthfulness

3. Asteya: non-stealing

4. Brahmacharya: moderation

5. Aparigraha: non-possessiveness

Niyamas

The second limb of yoga is the Niyamas. Like the yamas, the niyamas are observances, but the niyamas are internal or personal observances. The niyamas are disciplines that we place into our own lives. There are five niyamas.

1. Saucha: cleanliness

2. Santosha: contentment

3. Tapas: self-disciplines

4. Svadhyaya: self-study

5. Isbara pranidhana: surrender to God/the divine

Asana

The third limb of yoga is Asana. Yogis believe that your body is simply the vessel that contains your soul/spirit, so it is imperative to care for your vessel. With the discipline of a physical practice, yogis are able to create not only a stronger body, but also a stronger mind + spirit.

Vinyasa - One-legged Dog

 

Pranayama

The fourth limb of yoga is Pranayama. This is breath control or breath work. In Sanskrit, Prana means “life force” or “life energy.” Yogis have long believed that your breath is your life force, and the ability to control it and master it can rejuvenate + elongate your life.

Pratyahara

The fifth limb of yoga is Pratyahara. This limb is based around the withdrawal of the senses. It is taking a step back and withdrawing our awareness from the outside world. When we take the focus off of external stimuli, we are able to look inward and objectively understand our reactions to the world. I like to think of Pratyahara as the ability to control your reactions and not let external disturbances (sounds, events, circumstances) get underneath your skin. You withdraw and do not let external stimuli have power over your inner peace.

Dharana

The sixth limb of yoga is Dharana or concentration. Dharana is the concentration of the mind on one focal point. It is a practice of intense focus. When we are able to concentrate fully on one thing, we are able to quiet the mind. This is an integral limb of yoga, because without the ability to find intense focus, we will be unable to move forward to the next limb of yoga, meditation. Dharana is like the prerequisite to meditation. Once you are able to control your focus, you will be able to meditate.

Dhyana

The seventh limb of yoga is Dhyana or meditation. Dhyana is the meditative state in which you still the mind + body. This may sound similar to Dharana, but the difference is that with Dharana, you are intensely focusing, and with Dhyana, you release the control and focus. In Dhyana, you are reach a state of awareness without focus. You are fully in the present moment. Your mind is quiet and you have reached a spiritual and mindful stillness.

You simply “are.”

Samadhi

The eighth and final limb of yoga is Samadhi. Samadhi is enlightenment. It is reaching the highest level of consciousness. Samadhi is often explained as a state of pure bliss or ecstasy. In Samadhi, you transcend the Self and you realize that interconnectedness of all things. Oneness. Peace. It is this peace that is truly what most of us are looking for in life — in a deeper fulfillment and meaning of life. It is the culmination of all eight limbs to reach the final point of bliss.

Now that you have a better understanding of what a complete yoga practice entails, I hope you re-think being (or becoming) a yogi.

Xx,

Leta

P.s. Still not sure on stepping on your mat and calling yourself a yogi? Read about the life lessons I’ve learned from yoga and maybe you’ll reconsider.

New Moon Workshop Recap

On Saturday, February 17th I hosted my first ever yoga workshop. The workshop was themed around the February new moon. If you’re new to the lunar cycle and phases of the moon, the new moon symbolizes a new beginning. It is the perfect time to get grounded, find clarity in what you want, and set intentions.

Here’s a recap of the new moon workshop.

The guided meditation

The meditation was a visualization practice. I asked my girls to visualize what they want their life to look like one year from now. No dream too big. Nothing too far out of reach. The dream job, the dream pay, the dream friendships + relationships, the dream condo, the dream car. And I wanted it in detail. The exact title of the job, the exact salary, the names + faces attached to those relationships + friendships, the look of the condo, down to the countertops, the color of the car… interior + exterior.

Then I asked these women to visualize themselves in this life. Really in it. How does it feel? What are the emotions you have in that life? Do you feel happy? Free? Abdundant? Goddess-like? Empowered? Fearless? Safe? Stable?

The intention setting + journaling

After the meditation, we moved on to the journaling portion of the workshop. These women had a chance to visualize this dream life — the life they want to manifest. The life that they have the power to create for themselves. I had them write it ALL down… to the smallest detail. From there, I asked them to break down the timeline. In this lunar cycle, “what are some intentions that you can set to help you manifest this life?” Manifestation without action… isn’t manifestation at all. It’s a dream without a plan.

Once intentions had been set, I spoke on the need to nourish… to show up for ourselves… to fill our own cup first. Because who can you show up for if you don’t show up for yourself first? We created an “Alignment Toolbox” — a list of things we can do to nourish our mind, body, and soul to keep us in alignment with our Highest self. This list was comprised of the things that make us happy — that sometimes we don’t allow ourselves to make time to do (i.e. reading a book, taking a walk, sleeping in, massages, workouts, yoga classes, nightly skincare).

These women were now equipped with a list of things to pull from whenever their love tanks were closing in on ‘E’. This is a list that I had them promise themselves they would utilize when they knew they needed it. It is often when we are too busy to do things that fill our cup, that we need to do them the most. There’s a quote that says, “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour.”

The yin yoga flow

The yin sequence is where the cohesion happens. Where all of the thoughts, intentions, and visualization have the time to sink in. To marinate. It was a 75-minute beautiful, meditative practice complemented with a serene instrumental Spotify playlist ending in an 8-minutes savasana.

The energy in the room was incredible. It was calm, yet palpable. Meditative, yet creative. While these women looked inward, I could feel the great vastness of the dreams they desired to manifest.  The new moon workshop was everything I could have hoped for. Not just for me, but for the women in attendance.

Is this an event you’d like to partake in? Would you want me to host this new moon workshop monthly? I’m already in the planning stages for monthly workshops to happen in the Chicagoland area + beyond!

Xo,

Leta

P.s. If you’re ready to get your yoga on — check out my article on the 4 Things Every Beginner Yogi Should Have.

The Aster Yoga Mat

I got a new yoga mat! If you do yoga, you know how important it is to have a quality mat. Mats vary in material, thickness, and grip. A great quality mat can mean the difference between a solid grip during your practice or sliding around the mat and a density that affords you to be comfortable on your mat versus feeling like you’re laying on a hard floor.

I’ve been on the hunt for a beautiful, durable, and quality mat to step up my yoga practice and I finally found it – The Aster, by Yellow Willow Yoga.

Aster Mat by Yellow Willow Yoga

Yellow Willow Yoga, a small brand based out of Sydney, Australia that launched last summer, focuses on the cohesion of beauty and performance in their mats. (Like, obviously… I’m dying over the tonality in this pink floral print!) The Aster is not only a vibrant printed mat, it is a two-in-one mat + towel combo! The mat has a suede-like top layer that acts as a towel ensuring solid grip during even the sweatiest of flows. The thickness of this mat is perfect. It is dense enough to be easy on my knees and joints, without being too thick and impairing balance.

Yellow Willow Yoga mats are made from natural rubber and recycled materials. This means that all of their mats are free of latex, silicone, toxic glue, PVC and phthalates! These luxe mats are 100 percent biodegradable. And also 100 percent machine washable. Yes, you read that right. You can throw this baby in the washing machine and hang to dry. Hello, convenience!

Yellow Willow Yoga Mat

If you have been looking for a showstopper of a yoga mat – then you are in luck! You can find Yellow Willow Yoga mats in-store and online at Nordstrom Rack. These mats typically retail at $98, but right now you can snag one here for $78.

Happy flowing, loves!

 

Xo,

Leta

 

P.s. Don’t forget to check out my favorite oils to use while I flow!