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.

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 – find here rencontre nationale du transport public site de rencontre serieux luxembourg see post http://jeremiahstaproom.co.uk/?violeta=list-of-top-dating-sites-in-the-world&b4c=5e site de rencontre ado timide dating agency windsor berkshire lieux de rencontre en gironde dating stanley planes flowchart conjugaison rencontrer au passé simple 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!

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Life in Alignment

It’s a phrase commonly used in yoga, to be “in alignment.” Of course, when your yoga instructor is talking about being in alignment, (s)he is trying to make sure your body is in the proper form in a posture to avoid risk to injury and ensure that you are receiving all of the benefits of the posture. I love this term because it can also be adequately used off of the mat. (As I’ve learned many lessons from the mat can be). You can live your entire life in alignment. In fact, I hope that with this post, you start living your life in alignment.

Living life in alignment means that you are living each day in agreement with your heart and soul. It means that from the moment your eyes flutter open in the morning, every thought, every breath, every action is in line with your truth and your Highest self.

It isn’t easy. I believe it is human nature for us to resist the happiness that alignment can bring us. Many of us live our lives from a place of fear versus a place of love. This pushes us out of alignment.

To be able to live your life aligned with your truth, you need to know what your truth is. How can you discover your truth? Ask yourself a few questions:

  • What do I value in this life?
  • Who am I at the very core of my being?
  • When am I my truest self?
  • What kind of person do I aspire to be?
  • What do I want to be remembered for?
  • What do I aspire for people to feel after they have interacted with me?
  • What causes and belief systems do I stand for and speak to?

Write those answers down. Put those words on to paper. Make them real. See them. Visualize them. This will help you wrap your head around your truth. It will help you actualize these truths into existence.

Now that you understand who you are at your very depths, it’s time to live in alignment with your truths. This means you think, act, speak, and believe in accordance with the answers that you wrote down.

Maybe you value kindness: living life in alignment with that truth means that you will make a conscious decision to think kind thoughts, to speak kind words, and to do acts of kindness. It also means taking a step back when you think, speak, or act out of alignment. Reflect on those situations, what drove you to break from your truth? How can you address it the next time you may be put in that situation?

Maybe you stand for self-love: this means that you need to live each day giving yourself the love that you deserve. This can be done by eating well, exercising, self-care, and speaking sweet nothings to yourself. It also means calling yourself on your bullshit and holding yourself accountable on the days that you aren’t giving yourself love. Self-love also actualizes when you take a step back from situations that aren’t contributing to your Highest good. For instance, you can’t say that you love your body, then only fuel it with garbage food and drown yourself in alcohol each weekend. That is not living life in alignment with your truth.

It’s not a simple change. It’s actually really hard. And it can get messy, because you have to take a good, hard look at the “why” behind your own thoughts, words, and actions. But once you do this, you find that life seems to flow. When you’re in alignment with your truth and you’re living each day in accordance with these truths… the right people, places, and opportunities find their way to you naturally. Instead of forcing yourself down paths not meant for you, you find yourself falling into the flow of living. Once you live a life aligned, mind-body-soul, you won’t ever want to go back.

Xo,

Leta

P.S. There is so much more to come on this! I’m actually working on my very FIRST e-book workbook titled Life In Alignment. I can’t wait to release it in 2018!