Rarely is it a part of daily routine to take the time to remind oneself of the surrounding energies which affect us internally. The “yin and yang” that reside in all aspects in life, commonly exemplified as light and darkness, play a part in our internal well being. The consciousness of such a concept is seldom recognized in the busy and bustling lives modern people lead. Although some do not even subscribe to the importance of giving attention to this self-awareness, it affects those even still. Yoga offers grounding and awareness as a practice through physical activity.
Created by the sage Patanjail, the eight limbs of yoga are made from yoga sutras, or the foundational values of yoga. The eight limbs consists of yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. All of which have different functions in guiding the practicer of yoga or, the yogi, to reach inner peace and prosperity.
The soul is the “I” and “me” in all personal expressions. It inhabits our physical body through actions that it commands. It is the essence of why we live and touche every part of our life. Being present in one’s own body is the only way to become fully aware of this soul. Pranayama, or the nature of prana, is the limb which relates to the breathing process of yoga and is essential in bringing the practitioner into the present moment. For every movement the body makes in yoga, it is matched by either an exhale or inhale. Breathing is an involuntary action, but it is brought into being a conscience movement through focus and intention.
There is a deep mental concentration needed to perfect this process of breathing, therefore yoga practice usually begins with simply sitting and breathing. Meditation is the nature of prana, a discipline which has been lost by Western standards of yoga. It does not function as an aerobic physical exercise, and is therefore overlooked by those interested solely in the weight loss aspect of the practice. However, this is counterproductive in understanding what yoga is, as yoga began as sitting meditation.
About 5,000 years ago in India, movement was added to this meditation, thus the creation of yoga as we know it today. The nature of Prana is the simple understanding of this, and how yoga began its roots in breathing. Prana refers to the original principle of human life and the kinetic energies that guide the human soul through the cosmic journey of life; it is the “vital force.” Having an understanding of such a concept is beneficial to even those who wish to use yoga as a mode of weight loss, as it brings a purpose to the practitioner, a purpose beyond their aesthetic wants.
As an art form, yoga takes not only the dexterity of the body, but also the mind making it extremely difficult to master. However, all principles of dedication and discipline practiced by those who first began yoga, flow into our lives even in the modern era. The phrase “Namaste” said after all yoga sessions reenforces this concept that the practice is based upon. The concept that everything is united, and that when humans are at peace with ourselves internally and externally with light and dark, we are one. A belief exists that in each living organism there is a part of the universe that resides within them. Even in a small room of mats and yogis, when each yogi is breathing into that part which is considered cosmic, all the yogis in that space are one and thus Namaste is uttered at the end of the practice. Yet another example of why breathing is so important in yoga, some may be more flexible and strong than others, but each yogi can breath, and this is the connecting force.
This special connection between us and the ancient yogis who first mastered the eight limbs illustrates the visible truth of humans: we are looking for peace and tranquility within ourselves.