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Yoga: From Ancient Practice Still Prevalent In Modern Society

1108 words - 5 pages

The discipline of yoga originated in India 5,000 years. Creating a connection between mind and body is the ultimate goal of this tradition; the word yoga actually means “union of the individual self” (Iyengar 14). Millions use yoga to strengthen their bodies, and ease their minds. In America especially, the practice of yoga has become a trend, made popular especially by hollywood elite. But unlike other dangerous trends perpetuated by celebrities, yoga garners substantial benefits. More energy, reduced stress, and a stronger and more flexible body are only a few of the many positive effects. Yoga is an ancient tradition that yields tremendous benefits for those who practice it today.
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The eight limbs are steps that an individual takes when he or she incorporates yoga into their life. The steps lead to the “ultimate goal of Astanga Yoga, that of emancipation of the self” (Iyengar 29). An individual must embrace each step fully, before reaching Astanga Yoga. The first two steps “yama, or general ehtical principles, and niyama, or self- restraint, prescribe a code of conduct that molds individual morality and behavior” (Iyengar 29). Yama itself has five principles: nonviolence, freedom from avarice, truthfulness, chastity, and freedom from desire. The next two steps are asanas, and pranayama, which are the postures and breathing techniques employed in yoga. Together, asanas and pranayama help “discipline the body and mind” (Iyengar 29). Pratyahara is next; it involves detaching oneself from the external world. Then there is dharana, concentration, and dhyana, prolonged concentration. It is these last two steps that allow an individual to achieve samdhi, the final aspect of the eight limbs. Samadhi is attained “when you lose the sense of your separate existence...nothing else remains except the core of one’s being: the soul”(Iyengar 29).
Once an individual has completed all eight steps, he or she can access their “chakras.” In order to achieve perfect physical health, a person must activate the body’s chakras: coils of energy located along the spine (Iyengar 36). A chakra is not a tangible form of matter, it is only noticeable through the effects it has on the body. Yogic sages teach that there are 11 chakras, which, when awakened through asanas and pranayama, generate energy that circulates though the entire body. Energy is spread through nadis, or channels. Since one of the main goals of yoga is the awakening of divine energy in every person, the accessing of chakras is a very important aspect of any yoga practice.
Similar to the body, the mind is categorized into five stages of being. The first three stages are negative: kshpita, mudha, and vikshipta, or disturbed, stupefied, and distracted. Kshipta and vikshipta both represent a mind that is hyperactive, unable to shut out external disturbances, and reflect. Mudha, on the other hand, represents a sluggish, lethargic mind (Iyengar 38). It is the final two stages of the mind that are the desired states of being. Ekagra is a tranquil state...

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