The Meaning of Yoga, Modernized

The meaning of yoga is defined in many ways. Some think of yoga as a mobility exercise. Some say yoga is for flexibility and getting into a zen like state. Most people refer to yoga practice as moving from pose to pose and focusing on breathing in order to be more mindful. While all this is true there is so much more to yoga.

Where does meditation and the eight limbs of yoga fit in to this modernization or Western view of yoga?

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Traditionally yoga was a way to train the body and mind for spiritual awakening and observance of self. The asana (poses) practice was used to strengthen the body or to make the body supple in order to sit in meditation for long periods of time. The mind and body connection allowed for the whole body to receive the benefits of meditation.

With the influence of the West, yoga has become more modernized to the point that many people think of yoga as either an exercise or a way to relax and unwind after a stressful day/experience. While that is accurate there is more meaning behind yoga.

When I first came to yoga it was for stretching out after running or working out. I didn’t think about the spiritual aspect nor did I understand the concept of applying yoga to your daily life (eight limbs of yoga). As I began to practice in a more disciplined manner, attended yoga teacher training and began reading more, I came to learn yoga is so much more. It’s a way of living and being open to knowing the true self.

Photo: Fabian Moller

Photo: Fabian Moller

Eight limbs of Yoga

Patanjali’s Yoga Suitras lays out an eight limb path leading to enlightenment or liberation. The eight fold path (eight limbs) will lead to liberation which is the main purpose of practicing yoga (traditionally but also in this modern day life we lead). The eight limbs are as follows:

Yamas-moral promise

Niamas-social commitment

Asana-yoga postures/poses

Pranayama-breath

Pratyahara-withdrawl from senses

Dharana-concentration

Dhyana-meditation

Samadhi-liberation or enlightenment

The tricky part is, how can all eight areas be targeted when there’s little time in the day? A little modernization and creativity!

Modernization of Yoga

The personal meaning of yoga is different for everyone. Of course there is an actual definition that stems from the original practices 5,000+ years ago.  But sometimes you need to alter old things in order to make them fit in the modern world.

Long ago people were able to sit and mediate for hours on end. Unfortunately in today’s busy and bustle, not many people have time for hours of yoga practice. Fitting in yoga needs to be done a little more creatively.

Mindfullness is one way to incorporate the eight limbs of yoga into daily life. Taking time on the way to work or during a morning run or walk to be a little more mindful and aware of things around you. It’s easy to get into a routine of driving the same way to work or running the same route and by doing this it creates automation. Instead of looking at the flowers as you run by the focus is on the steps or the road. Take a few moments to notice the trees, the people or the sky. Consciously pay attention.

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I hear (and even say myself some times) that there’s no time to sit quietly for 30 to 60 minutes for mediation. Meditation doesn’t have to be done in a quiet room for hours on end. At times that can be more effective especially if you get distracted easily but with a little practice any time where you are focused on the present moment can be a form of meditation. Often times meditation for me is during my runs. I get into a “zone” and things become so clear. I take a few moments before getting out of bed, with my eyes still closed (mostly so no one knows I’m awake), to pay attention to my breath and clear any thoughts out of my head. There are many ways to make meditation happen even if it’s for 2-5 minutes.

The physical practice of yoga can also be shortened. I once heard a teach talk about how she takes any free moment in the day to practice. While dinner is cooking, she will bust out a few yoga poses or flow a for 5-15 minutes in the kitchen. This struck a chord with me. I have so many moments in the day when I’m taking my son to the park or waiting for a meal or in between classes when I can take a few poses and flow. Just like the rest of the eight limbs, the asana (yoga postures) practice doesn’t have to be 60-90 minutes to “count”. As long as you can get in tune with your breath and movement, it’s a yoga practice!

More Ideas for fitting yoga into a busy life.

Doing a 10-15 minute asana (yoga poses) practice with 5 deep, mindful breaths. Maybe it means attending two or three hour long yoga classes each week. Or journaling every morning to get in touch with your ideas. Yoga and mindfulness looks different for everyone. The important point is making it fit so it’s manageable and something that becomes a part of daily or weekly routine.

cheers,

Val

Disclaimer: The information on this website (Alt Yoga Vibe) is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for medical treatment or hands on instruction.  If you are experiencing any severe pain or symptoms, please consult a healthcare practitioner.


Sources:

https://www.ekhartyoga.com/articles/philosophy/the-8-limbs-of-yoga-explained

https://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/the-true-meaning-of-yoga-thoughts-from-a-british-indian-yogi