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The main purpose of yoga is to stretch the muscles, strengthen the body and increase concentration. Practitioners of Yoga are invariably flexible, generally healthy and normally pretty calm! In addition Yoga can be used to help you lose weight, get fit and relax.
Traditionally there are 8 different stages of Yoga, and a brief introduction follows:
The first two steps are ethical preparations:
- Yama (“restraint”), which denotes abstinence from injury (ahimsa), falsehood, stealing, lust, and avarice;
- Niyama (“observance”), which denotes cleanliness of body, contentment, austerity, study, and devotion to God.
The next two stages are physical preparations:
- Asana (“seat”), a series of exercises in physical posture, is intended to condition the aspirant’s body and make it supple, flexible, and healthy. Mastery of the asanas is reckoned by one’s ability to hold one of the prescribed postures for an extended period of time without involuntary movement or physical distractions.
- Prāṇāyāma (“breath control”) is a series of exercises intended to stabilize the rhythm of breathing in order to encourage complete respiratory relaxation.
The fifth stage, Pratyāhāra (“withdrawal”), involves control of the senses, or the ability to withdraw the attention of the senses from outward objects to the mind.
These five stages are called external aids to Yoga, the final three are purely mental or internal aids:
- Dharana (“holding on”) is the ability to hold and confine awareness of externals to one object for a long period of time (a common exercise is fixing the mind on an object of meditation, such as the tip of the nose or an image of the deity).
- Dhyana (“concentrated meditation”) is the uninterrupted contemplation of the object of meditation, beyond any memory of ego.
- Samadhi (“self-collectedness”) is the final stage and is a precondition of attaining release from the cycle of rebirth. In this stage the meditator perceives or experiences the object of his meditation and himself as one.
Hope this doesn’t all sound too heavy. At the end of the day Yoga should be an enjoyable pasttime and you can choose entirely as to how seriously you wish to take it.
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With best wishes,
The team at Yoga 365.