Yes, yoga does have eight limbs. One limb for each aspect in the yogic system. These eight different appendages are called: yamas, niyamas, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana & samadhi.
I am going to, briefly, identify each limb one by one so that you can get a better understanding of the full system of yoga. Western teachings/classes normally only focus on 1, 2 or 3 parts of the eight-limb system, namely the postures, breathing and some stillness techniques.
While there is no true order for understanding, the limbs do build upon one another and lead us to the goal of yoga: peace, truth and unutterable joy.
My journey in yoga began over 30 years ago when I signed up for my first yoga class.
I began the practice of yoga out of curiosity. After graduating college and relocating, I was on the lookout for an exercise class. A friend told me about a teacher in town who was excellent in the field of yoga. Hmmm, yoga. Well, I’d been a modern dancer and appreciated all types of movement classes in the past…
Initially I remember being very skeptical about the class’s slow tempo and the teacher’s mellow voice. Mostly, I could not believe that I didn’t get off my back for one full hour. But, after my first session with Donna Barbaro in 1985, I knew that yoga was more than it appeared. For starters, I was sure that I had grown 6 inches taller when I walked out of class that day. And on my way home, I didn’t have a care in the world. I felt a true sense of peace and contentment. All that stretching and lengthening really had an effect. I was hooked!
Looking back, more than anything I probably benefitted from the grounding quality of yoga at that phase of my life. I was a young, newly married woman who had just left her family, school and friends behind to come to an unknown place.
This was the mid eighties. Aerobics was the trend. But yoga captured my heart and soul.
My journey with essential oils began in 2016 when I was diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia – an inflammation of the 5th cranial nerve which can cause intense facial pain.
In an attempt to get relief, I contacted friend and acupuncturist, Kayo Malik, who runs clinics in Sedona and Maui. I began a series of acupuncture treatments with Kayo and it was at the first session I was introduced to Young Living’s essential oil blend, Peace and Calming. Up until this point, I wasn’t too familiar with essential oils and what they had to offer but I wanted to give all of the natural avenues a try.
So, outside of the clinic, and periodically throughout each day, I breathed a drop of Peace and Calming from my cupped hands. In conjunction with the acupuncture, the oil blend was surprisingly effective in quieting my outbreaks.
I later discovered that one of Peace and Calming’s main components, tangerine oil, contains certain esters and aldehydes which can be tranquilizing to the nervous system.
Having had this success, I wondered what else the field of aromatherapy had to offer my condition. In researching, I ran across many oils with the ability to soothe the nervous system. However, since I didn’t know the cause of my disorder-whether it was viral, bacterial or merely stress related, I felt the need to explore all of the possible avenues that these jewels presented. So, I purchased a Young Living starter kit and the experience was truly an eye…or should I say, a nose…opener. Along with regular yoga practice and acupuncture, essential oils were able to tame my fiery nervous system and eventually eradicate my neuralgia.
Since then I have been enjoying the benefits of essential oils in dozens of ways for my health and well-being. As a yoga practitioner, it seemed only fitting that I would begin to explore how essential oils could influence my yoga practice.
Most of the essential oil/yoga classes I’ve researched have you flowing through the postures with specific oils for warming up, others for sun salutations, for balancing poses, inversions, final resting postures – the list goes on. A single yoga class could involve 7 separate oils in the span of an hour. While I understand the significance of choosing a specific oil for a specific type of pose, I was overwhelmed with the task of applying and experiencing so many oils at one session. To me, it wasn’t logistical either as oil placement is key to the process.
Instead, I have opted to use just one oil per practice session. First, I select an intention so that I can focus on one particular energetic state that I want to develop during my practice. I have explored various qualities such as grounding, stimulating, focus, compassion, strength, perception, etc. Then, I select an oil known to complement that practice element.
I feel great support when I use the oils for a particular intention in my practice. It really sets the stage and amplifies my process. I realize that, energetically, I am connecting with my yoga more intensely and purposefully each time I incorporate the oils.
I would like to revisit the energetic system of yoga in my next post. While I have touched upon this in previous writings, I have learned so much more lately and feel excited to share my experiences with you!
Over the last few weeks I have relaunched my yoga practice – choosing to begin as a new student and establish a fresh daily yoga routine. I have started simply with sitting with my breath first thing in the morning and reflecting on the true meaning of yoga.
As a word, yoga (or yuj) means to bind, join or yoke. I love this definition as it plainly specifies a very important concept – connection. The connection of our breath to our bodies and minds and the connection of our energies to the universe.
Now I am excited to begin each day and reconnect to my practice and the foundation of yoga. However, I have found that in order to acquire any new connections, I first have to clean my slate. I need to allow for a fresh perspective; one that isn’t influenced by a prior practice or of what I presume to know.
This week I have been reflecting on a quote from the poet/calligrapher Kohad:
I cast the brush aside
From here on
I’ll speak to the moon
Face to face.
By reflecting on these words, I can receive what it is I seek in this new phase of my yoga practice. Like the waning moon, I will slowly dissolve my old state so that I can begin anew.
For the past few weeks, I have been providing an assortment of Yoga Vitamins – sequences of yoga postures and breathing techniques to nourish your body, mind and spirit. To be the most effective, a daily yoga vitamin should consist of six essential ingredients: centering & opening positions, standing & focus poses and inversion & relaxation postures.
This week I will give you the “prescription” for a healthy bone sequence. This is an enriching yoga vitamin – one that targets the joints and moves the spine in all directions to combat osteoporosis and arthritis.
Yoga Healthy Bones Vitamin
Centering & Breath Awareness: Start with a Supine Full Body Stretch to lengthen the muscles. Incorporate Bananasana to stretch the spine and breathing muscles.
Opening Poses: Down Dog and Plank (repeating this set of poses is a great for upper body strength and linking movement with breath). Then, proceed to Side Plank and Reverse Plank to focus on arm bones.
Props: This sequence of poses may benefit from the use of blocks to support a comfortable seat and assist with the standing postures.
Essential Oils: In general, any woodsy oil such as cedar, fir or pine will connect to the bones. Wintergreen, lemon and Rocky Mountain Oil’s Joint Support help to ease bone bruises or joint weaknesses.
Music: A great artist for grounding is Anugama.
If you want to check out another Daily Yoga Vitamin prescription, just click on last week’s post.
And if you have anything else to add, I’d love you hear your comments!
For the past few weeks, I have been providing an assortment of Yoga Vitamins – a sequence of yoga postures and breathing techniques to nourish your body, mind and spirit. To be the most effective, a daily yoga vitamin should consist of six essential ingredients: centering & opening positions, standing & focus poses and inversion & relaxation postures.
Yoga provides wonderful benefits to the cardiovascular system. Beginning with the breath, focusing on the inhalation and exhalation generates greater awareness of how we move air in and out of our bodies. Opening and standing poses lengthen and expand our torsos so that we can bring in more oxygen. Twists and inversions effectively circulate the flow of blood and oxygen throughout the body. Therefore, developing a heart healthy yoga vitamin is key to our well-being.
I am defining our Yoga Vitamin as a group of components essential to maintaining your body, mind and spirit. To be the most effective, your yoga vitamin should consist of six essential ingredients: centering & opening positions, standing & focus poses and inversion & relaxation postures.
So, this week I am providing a “prescription” for a healthy heart. This practice sequence centers on bringing more oxygen to the body and getting that oxygen (and the nutrients it carries) circulating smoothly through the body’s systems. Continue reading “Daily Yoga Vitamin for a Healthy Heart”→
Last post I defined our Yoga Vitamin as a group of components essential to maintaining your body, mind and spirit. To be the most effective, your yoga vitamin should consist of six essential ingredients: centering & opening positions, standing & focus poses and inversion & relaxation postures.
This week I will give you a “prescription” for a universal health sequence. This is a good yoga multivitamin – one that you can use as an overall general practice. It emphasizes the principal of contraction and extension for the muscles – a benefit unique to yoga. Continue reading “Daily Yoga Vitamin for Overall Health”→
Do you take vitamins each day to keep yourself healthy?
A daily yoga practice can also serve to keep you in tip top shape. Think of it as your Daily Yoga Vitamin – a group of components essential to maintaining your body, mind and spirit. The dosage doesn’t need to be a large one but to be effective it should consist of these six essential ingredients. Continue reading “What’s A Daily Yoga Vitamin?”→
We are blessed with brains that are both practical and mysterious. Although science has thoroughly studied this amazing organ, there are numerous discoveries yet to be uncovered. No wonder it is so well protected and sits up so high!
These last few weeks I have been exploring what I will call mind yoga. The concept of which is cultivated through energy alignment, pranayama and meditation.
In order to truly be aligned, energy should be generated at all levels of the chakric system – from the muladhara or root chakra all the way up to the sahasrara or crown chakra.
In yoga, there are several postures to facilitate and balance these energy centers. Since I have covered most of them in past posts, today I will focus on the uppermost level of the chakric chain.
Most yoga students begin the practice of yoga to learn and benefit from its physical postures or asana.
It’s the way that I got started. As a former dancer, I was drawn to the slow movements and deep sense of alignment that the poses provided. At that time, I didn’t realize that I was simultaneously tuning into my breath. My first teacher would gently remind the class to inhale and exhale as we stretched and contracted. It felt fluid and natural and my body felt aligned and peaceful at the end of each session. But we didn’t call it pranayama. At the end of class, we took time to close our eyes and sit quietly. We were encouraged to focus on the simple pattern of our breath, the sounds within the space or a specific intention for ourselves. But we didn’t call it meditation. Continue reading “What’s Missing from Your Yoga Practice?”→