Over the past few days we’ve been exploring the first four limbs of Patanjali’s ASHTANGA YOGA. These limbs are considered EXTERNAL YOGA, which means these are practices you can actually sink your teeth into and ‘do’. The next two limbs deepen the internal focus of the practices towards the eventual experience of mediation.
The THIRD LIMB of Patanjali’s ASHTANGA YOGA is a where most people enter the practice of yoga. This is where we encounter those ubiquitous yoga classes where you sweat your a*** off for an hour, get stretched to within an inch of you life and then do your best corpse impression! So, what has being folded into a pretzel got to do with YOGA?
Yama, the first limb of Ashtanga Yoga, is based in the practice of relationship and can be translated as ethical principles. The practice of Yama begins with AHIMSA or nonviolence. Another way to view this is that all yoga begins from, and is practiced with, ‘love’ or ‘kindness’. Our lives are made up of relationships; from our close personal relationships to the never-ending relationship we have with our environment (including what we eat), what we do and how we do it impacts other aspects of life. Ahimsa lays the basis of any yoga practice, and indicates that the yogis approach to sadhana (practice) should cultivate a desire not to harm – or in some cases to do least harm to – other beings.
In Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga there are 6 Series of asana, commonly referred to as Primary Series, Intermediate Series and Advanced A-D. Each Series provides a foundation for the asanas of the subsequent series. Everybody starts with the Primary Series (called Yoga Chikitsa – Yoga Therapy) and works through these poses one-by-one until some level of proficiently is maintained.