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April 27, 2015
Yoga - Outside In and Inside Out
By Chris Lindsay
In the West, the term 'yoga' is often used to refer to asana classes, doing yoga poses, which are really only part of the path of yoga. Yoga actually means "union" which refers to both the path and the goal, which is the union of the body, mind and spirit, or of the individual soul and universal soul.
Traditional asanas are only one part of the practice of yoga - there are 7 other 'limbs' (as in a tree) of yoga, including meditation and pranayama (breathing exercises.) Asana, pranayama and meditation are meant to be woven together. They are interconnected and support each other, and are each necessary for the others and for the entire yoga path.
Asanas are the physical poses practiced in yoga. There are thousands of asanas in the practice of yoga, but only about 100 are in active use by yogis all over the world. Asanas stretch and internally massage the entire body, with twisting, bending, and holding accompanied by periods of relaxation. At all times, asana should be a comfortable and steady pose. Asanas fulfill several functions: they promote strength, flexibility, and muscle tone, creating a generally stronger, healthier body. They also enhance the flow of prana, life energy, in the body.
Pranayama is a Sanskrit word which is translated as "control of the breath" or "control of the life force." It refers to a series of breathing exercises from the simple to the complex which are an integral part of the practice of yoga. You can practice pranayama as an isolated technique, or integrate it into your daily hatha yoga routine. Pranayama is also an important part of meditation. Pranayama practice makes the mind calmer and more focused.
While it's generally agreed that the goal of meditation is to experience enlightenment, there are many different explanations of what meditation actually is, including the simple and exact process of learning to know yourself as you really are and a process of giving your full attention to whatever object you have chosen. Overall, meditation is anything that brings us into the present and keeps us there.
Outside in and inside out
Geshe Michael Roach (Tibetan Book of Yoga, 2004) describes the process of working simultaneously from the outside in and the inside out as similar to plumbing. To unclog a blocked pipe, we have to poke something down the pipe to help open the flow, and also bang on the outside to loosen the blockages. Asana balances and enhances the functioning of the body, breath, mind, and spirit by manipulating our external self (the body) to influence the whole Self from the outside in. Pranayama also works also from the outside in - calm breathing calms the mind and improves the functioning of our entire system. Working from the inside, meditation will make you aware of the reality deep within and lead you to a state of inner joy.
Chris Lindsay is giving free rein to her creativity by designing mandalas for herself and others to color in. She uses geometric patterns from temari, yantra and kaleidoscope designs as the starting points for her creations. Whether you want to reduce stress, to quieten your mind, meditate or just to have fun, coloring is a great activity for all ages and all abilities. Visit https://www.mandalas-to-color.com and set your artistic creativity free.
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