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Back to our roots

Words by Samantha Ickes

I’ve been practicing yoga for about a year now, and as I leafed through yoga publications at Books-A-Million, I realized I never thought about the roots of yoga. I suppose it started with Buddhism and Hinduism. When I think of yoga and meditation, I picture Buddha sitting below a tree as he searches for enlightenment. 

Translated from Sanskrit, yoga means to yoke, union or discipline. The practice was aimed at strengthening the body, slowing the mind and opening the perspective. More than 3,500 years ago, yogis believed the best way to practice the lifestyle of yoga was to detach themselves from civilization. I don’t know about you, but isolating myself in a cabin out in the middle of nowhere without a cellphone or WiFi would be more likely to cause a mental breakdown than relieve stress.

However, isolation from civilization might prove to be beneficial in small increments of time. Taking a yoga class or even taking 15 minutes to do your own yoga sequence or relax in meditation with your eyes closed has been found to relieve stress. According to a six-week study conducted by Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, yoga programs were associated with mental and physical well-being as well, as building up a resilience to stress.

I have to admit with 18 credit hours, working 25-30 hours a week, writing five stories a week and working on homework, I have slipped in my yoga practice. I tell myself I don’t have time to do yoga and instead should work on my online classes or write my discussion posts. Finding time to balance everything has become exceedingly difficult, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I have decided to make it a challenge to take 15 minutes every night before bed to do simple poses and relax to help clear my mind, sleep more soundly and reduce stress in my life.

For the most part, my yoga practice has come from online videos I found on YouTube. Yoga with Adriene is a particular favorite of mine. I find her voice soothing, and she’s all about finding what feels good for you as an individual. If you want to deepen your practice or even begin your own yoga practice, I recommend trying her “30 days of yoga” challenge.

My point in mentioning my YouTube yoga craft was that I never considered the different forms of yoga. Patanjali, a famous yoga philosopher, is considered the father of yoga. He formed a yoga “to-do list” for every yogi to complete their practice. Think about the following forms of yoga as guidelines for being a good person and ways to deal with the everyday stresses of life:

  1. The Yamas: restraints. This guideline of yoga sets up a solid ethical foundation for yogis. These restraints include non-violence (ahimsa), truthfulness (satya), non-stealing (asteya), abstinence (brahmacharya) and non-greed (aparigraha).
  2. The Niyamas: disciplines. These guidelines are disciplines you should enforce in your life to truly achieve the spiritual essence of yoga. These disciplines include cleanliness (saucha), contentment (samtosa), austerity (tapas), self-study (svadhyaya) and devotion to God (ishvara-pranidhana).
  3. Asanas: body positions. Patanjali argued that an individual must master the yamas and the niyamas before delving into physical practices. A “perfect pose” is one you can hold with ease and stillness, according to Women’s Health’s Yoga Guide of 2016. This is the goal of asanas.
  4. Pranayama: breathing. Prana translates to energy or life force while ayama means control.
  5. Pratyahara: mind withdrawal. This guideline to the modern yogi means to take time out of your day to unplug from technology and become aware of your surroundings.
  6. Dharana: focus. This guideline refers to finding a point of focus in order to prepare the body and mind for meditation.
  7. Dhyana: awareness. Through meditation, this guideline is aimed to gain awareness of your surrounds as you deepen your practice and your connection to universal consciousness.
  8. Samadi: balance. At this point, there should be a clear balance between our intentions and desires. Our intentions should be pure and strong, and our hearts should be at one with humanity.
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