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From the Physical to the Philosophy

A Deeper Yoga Practice Awaits

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by Lara Ward, ERYT500, LMT

Practicing yoga is often seen as the ritual of unrolling a mat, centering through smooth, deep breathing, raising arms and hearts to the sky for that glorious elongation of the body as one prepares to tone and stretch for an hour or more. All capped with the reward of fabulous, deep relaxation. But there’s so much more for those ready to continue beyond the physical practice.

From Asana to Philosophy

Asana – the physical practice of postures that everyone understands to be “yoga” – is a beautiful and healthy practice and essential to the complete yogic teachings. In today’s techno-sedentary world, people need and often crave the physical benefits of yoga movement and breathing. Asana is a fabulous yoga practice and where many people begin yoga with no need to understand how much more is below the surface. Some learn that there are many other yogic practices and philosophies and may eventually come to a larger view of yogic living. It can be a resource for life’s major questions and provide insights as well as a defined path to achieve Samadhi – a state of ecstasy, enlightenment and oneness.

Yoga Sutras

The foundational ancient text is the Yoga Sutras, a book of four chapters with 196 one-line versus from approximately 400 A.D. It provides the step-by-step knowledge to experience enlightenment through ashtanga – the eight limbs of yoga. Pantanjali’s sutra 1.2 explains that yoga is Yogas chitta vritti nirodhah – the stilling of the changing states of the mind. It explains the importance of all the eight limbs of yoga and how continued practice leads to the many stages of enlightenment and brings on mystical abilities. For some practitioners, studying this book maybe a lifelong endeavor. For others, it’s a quick flow down the path of exposure. Either way, it tends to change students’ view of yoga and is the next step on the path to explore and delve deeper.

Bhagavad Gita

Another traditional philosophy book is the Bhagavad Gita. It’s a foundational book for the major concepts of yoga and meditation including dharma (duty), karma (service), jnana (wisdom) and bhakti (devotion). In this inspirational book, the hero, Arjuna, refuses to embark on a civil war. This philosophical dilemma is understood to illustrate centuries’ old common man and the personal battles waged within daily. It often helps students understand the deeper concepts of themselves and how to manage the challenges of everyday life within the yogic traditions.

Getting Started

Deepening one’s understanding of all of yoga’s eight limbs and philosophies is a wonderfully eye opening and life changing experience. A copy of the Sutras or Bhagavad Gita is a good place to begin a study. Others may wish to search out a local yoga studio or teacher offering workshops or ongoing classes beyond asana to find support from an experienced practitioner for a personal journey to peace and enlightenment.

Lara Ward is a eRYT500 and the director and founder of Lotus Gardens Yoga School and a 25-year master teacher who has trained more than 375 yoga teachers. Ward will be leading a Yoga Philosophy study module on select weekends beginning April 8 at Yoga Center of Collinsville (YCC) at 10 Front Street in Collinsville (Canton.) Join Ward for a free meet and greet session to learn more and to tour the YCC studio on March 4 at 1 p.m. For more information, text or call 203-837-0122 or visit LotusGardensYoga.com.

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