I’ve been practicing Yoga (pronounced yo-GUH) since 2013 and earned my certification in Dharamsala, India in 2017. My instructors were strict on making sure we learned the true teachings of the history, philosophy, Sanskrit, mantras, pranayama, pronunciation and mudras of Yoga. I can recall our conversations during my last days of training and the importance of bringing these traditional teachings back to the West by not only teaching asana (yoga postures), but educating my students that Yoga is a comprehensive practice that includes each and every aspect of life including; moral aspects (not harming other living beings), behavior of the self and others (self-love, non-violence, harmony), evolvement of ones consciousness and physical practice (asana).
Yoga: It’s Origins
The beginnings of yoga were formed more than 5,000 years, but it was first brought to the Western World in 1893 by Swami Vivekananda, an Indian Hindu monk who traveled to the U.S. to spread his views on hinduism through lectures on yoga and meditation.
Swami Vivekananda at the Parliament of the Worlds Religions Chicago – September 1893
After the first introduction of yoga to the West, Indra Devi, known as the Mother of Western Yoga spread the ancient discipline to Western civilization bringing in the practice of asana (yoga postures) into her studio in Hollywood, CA in 1947.
Since yoga’s debut in the West, yoga has transformed into what some may say as a “highly commercialized business”, lacking the philosophies and principles that yoga means to many. Some may say we’ve essentially watered yoga down to fit a part of society that does not have the capacity or ability to slow down, to be authentic and to stick to the traditions of an ancient practice. However, if we go back to the history of yoga and look at some of the most ancient yogic texts, we can remind ourselves of the reasons as to why we practice yoga and how we can be authentically incorporating yoga into our everyday lives.
One of the most important texts in yoga called the, “Yоga Sutra оf Pаntаjаli”, rеfеrѕ to the path of elightenment as the еight limbѕ оf yоga. The 8 limbs are part of a collection of the 196 Indian sutras on the theory and practice of yoga by the ancient Indian scholar, Patanjali. Most western yogis emphasize primarily on asana (yoga postures) during yoga, but there is much more to practicing than postures. Eасh limb listed below can be used as a guideline for a healthier, meaningful аnd mоrе fulfilling lifе.
- Yama – Your morals and creating harmony with your surroundings.
- Niyama – Your personal behavior and creating harmony within yourself.
- Aѕаnа – Prасtiсing postures, eating a proper diet, and keeping your body healthy.
- Prаnауаmа – Practicing brеаthing exercises. Calming your mind through deep breathing.
- Pratyahara – The withdrаwаl оf аll your senses and gеtting rid of distractions frоm the оutѕidе world.
- Dharana – Cоnсеntrаting аnd fосuѕing оn inner awareness. Bringing your mind to one point or place without getting diѕtrасtеd.
- Dhуаnа – Consistent meditation practice.
- Samadhi – The merging оf the individuаl with the universe. A union with the divine which brings you internal peace.
- Calms the mind
- Increases digestive fire and appetite
- Lowes levels of stress and anxiety
- Beneficial in respiratory disorders such as bronchial asthma, nasal allergy and bronchitis
- Leads to deep states of meditation while balancing body and mind
The Naive Perspective
One of the limbs listed that you may be familiar with is Pranayama, breathing techniques. Prana meaning The Universal Vital Life Force, allows us to consciously slow down the breath and to see the connection between our mind and breathing. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika says “by handling our breath, we can easily handle our mind.” Pranayama is a very simple and easy to follow practice for beginners before shifting into the more complicated and detailed limbs such as Samadhi.
Pranayama: Breathing Techniques
One of my favorite breathing techniques is Nadi Shuddhi or Nadishodana (nadi=nerve, shade/shodana=purification) – Alternate Nostril Breathing. Nadi Shuddhi creates a balanced system and psychological wellbeing as well as the following benefits to both the body and mind:
To practice Nadi Shuddhi, follow the steps below:
Step 1: Sit in any meditative posture, resting the left hand on top of the left knee (palm down) or in Chin Mudra.
Step 2: With the right hand, use the right thumb to close the right nostril and the little and ring finger to close the left nostril. You can place your middle finger in the space between the eyebrows.
Step 2: Inhale from both nostrils then gently close the right nostril with the right thumb. Exhale completely through the left nostril.
1st Round Begins
Step 3: Inhale deeply through the same left nostril , immedietley close it with the ring finger, and exhale through the right nostril. – this is half of the round
Step 4: Now inhale deeply through the same right nostril, immediately close it with the thumb, and exhale through the left nostril.
This is 1 Round of Nadi Shuddhi
Step 5: Now inhale again via left nostrils to start the 2nd round, continue and repeat for nine rounds. The 9th round will end when you exhale via the left nostril before to quite.
By practicing pranayama everyday, we can elevate ourselves to a greater sense of self-awareness, lower our stress levels, balance our energy and bring mindfulness to our present state of being.
Nadeya is a 200 Hr Certified Yoga Teacher and a Master reiki practitioner with a background in corporate finance. Nadeya graduated from DePaul University in 2014, but decided to take her business skills and incorporate them into the health/wellness and alternative medicine industry. Nadeya began practicing yoga in 2013 and completed her RYT 200 in Ashtanga Vinyasa, Vinyasa, Hatha and Restorative Yoga in Dharamsala, India. Since, Nadeya has had the opportunity to teach private and group classes to both beginner and experienced yogis from the mountains of Kashmir to the West Loop in Chicago. Her focus is helping others strengthen and balance the mind and body while teaching them how to relax into a deeper state of mind and de-stress.