Numbers abound in Yoga, it can all get very confusing to the beginner: 4 Paths, 8 Limbs, 6 Sub Paths, 7 (main) Chakras, 5 Points, 3 Bodies, 4 Locks (Bandhas), 5 Levels of Being (or Sheaths or Kosha), 5 (main) Vayus, 4 Yamas, 6 Niyamas, and there’s more! I could go on…:). Depending on your school of Yoga, focus on each may be different. I am predominantly Bikram/Sivananda schools although I have looked at others.
I was asked last night where does Bikram method fall into all this so I thought I would try and do a nutshell. Indeed I have even had the experience of somebody declaring ‘that is not Yoga’ on departing their first Bikram Yoga class. I smiled of course when they came back for their second class. Bikram being a beginning Yoga class we speak in language that is familiar to the practitioner. (Sometimes I forget e.g. many moons ago I was asked by another teacher to explain to the class what the gluts were as a student had shyly gone and asked them ‘what are these ‘gloots’ Trisha keeps telling us to squeeze?’ 🙂
Good job I don’t use much Sanskrit :)). I would emphasise it is not necessary to know this stuff in order to be able to practice Asana.
However if Asana was your first incursion into Yoga (as it is for many) and you find yourself wanting to know more. Well. There is plenty more :). Such a serious seeker will often find out on their own just how BIG ‘Yoga’ is. When people ask at the studio about Yoga practice it is assumed that they will be talking about Asana as that is the part of Yoga that prevails there. ~Yoga does not mean Asana. Yoga means UNION. Yoga is bigger than Asana. Asana are only a small part of Yoga.~ However. Asana is authentic within the path and often leads to a desire for greater knowledge.
Yoga is not just union between mind and body as you may be excused for believing as us Yogis are always banging on about ‘body mind connection’. IT IS THE UNION BETWEEN THE INDIVIDUAL CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE UNIVERSAL CONSCIOUSNESS. There will be different viewing points but not necessarily different points of view on this! Ultimately, we are one. I recommend all who are interested to read Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras – they are not very long. Broadly, Yoga is predominantly a spiritual path. Although many only want the physical or mental benefits of an Asana practice. This is fine. In the west we take or leave what we want/don’t want. In Bikram’s beginning Yoga class we are teaching Asana. Our duty is to introduce you to the joys of having your own Asana practice. However, for me personally I take a blend of the different paths/limbs and I know some are curious about the seemingly esoteric ‘other’. But for where I am at, I could not live or be the best I can be without my Asana practice.
Fact is, for those who conduct themselves ethically, practice self observation and ‘check’ themselves, following the codes of their own personal spiritual or religious path where there is guidance given then in all actuality they are practicing many of the Limbs of Yoga. It is just different names/words/titles. It is so much easier to find the similarities than it is to find the differences. Many may not have a belief system that they follow but have a high moral code/character. Some may not believe enlightenment is possible or available to them but get huge benefits from practicing the physical Asanas. All good. We are not here to ‘convert’. We are here to facilitate the practitioner getting as much out of their 90 minutes as is possible for them in the moment.
With apologies to those who know more and feel this is not complete enough, please remember I am trying to do nutshell here keeping it simple, relating it to something you know (Bikram Yoga)…
There are 4 PATHS
1. KARMA – the Yoga of action and selfless service (Mother Teresa)
2. BHAKTI – devotional, selfless love and action
3. JNANA – a philosophical approach, not about changing things, just studying, observing. Enquiry about your true nature (Vendantin), self knowledge. One must be firmly ground in the other paths first. This is the path of knowledge, wisdom, introspection and contemplation.
4. RAJA – more scientific, whilst encompassing all of yoga it emphasizes mind control, meditation.
RAJA has 8 LIMBS
1. Yamas (Restraints) (Gandhi was famous for his spreading awareness of ‘Ahimsa’ (non-violence))
2. Niyamas (Observances) (purity, austerity) (and for Amy who asked and who inspired this post 🙂 ) – Swadhyaya – study of religious scripture) (1&2 for those seeking high moral character and ethical conduct)
3. Asana (steady pose)
4. Pranayama (control of vital energy)
5. Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses)
6. Dharana (concentration on external object or internal idea))
7. Dhyana (meditation, flow of thoughts towards God)
8. Samadhi (transcendence)
RAJA HAS 6 further SUB-PATHS
1. KUNDALINI – Nadis, Chakras are purified to awaken the Kundalini
2. HATHA – Kriyas (cleansing techniques), Asanas (steady pose), Pranayama (control vital force), Mudras (hand attitudes or seal, or whole body attitude), Bandhas (body locks)
3. MANTRA – use of sound
4. YANTRA – geometrical forms for meditation
5. NADA – uses music
6. LAYA – concentrate on inner sound or light
The principles are the same. The only difference is emphasis.
Bikram Yoga falls into the path of RAJA YOGA – and largely contains many of the 8 limbs e.g. 1. YAMAS one of which is AHIMSA (non-violence) in this case it would be non-violence towards oneself i.e. not muscling or bullying yourself into postures, not brow beating yourSelf when all does not go according to your ideal in class. 2. NIYAMAS (observances), surrender ego when you walk into class. 3. ASANA = 26/2 🙂 4. PRANAYAMA = working your vital energy up at the beginning of your 26/2. 6. DHARANA (concentration) well you are practicing/developing your powers of concentration and one day you may get that ‘perfect concentration’ in class or out (apologies to purists out there if you feel this is a stretch 🙂 (think! trying to keep it simple) ). 7. DHYANA (meditation) your class is a 90 minute meditation; this is not always apparent in your first class. 8 SAMADHI (super conscious state); well I’ve had glimpses 🙂 have you?
Within the SUB PATHS – clearly Bikram Yoga falls into HATHA. Bikram is one of the purest forms of Hatha Yoga there is. It contains Pranayama, Kriya (Kapalbhati is a Kriya as well as a Pranayama)), Asana (26/2), Mudra (Namaskar is a mudra and other attitudes are struck during class as well, although we don’t necessarily describe them in terms of Mudra). E.g. I encourage a Bhairava/i Mudra for those seated in Thunderbolt or Hero (the first 2 positions before full expression of ‘Fixed Firm’.).
Bandhas. Well I don’t speak about Bandhas in class but it could be said that bandhas are possibly going on around the room. I am aware that some Yogis who have experience doing Kegels like to do them the whole way through class. This would be the equivalent of Moola Bandha (Root Lock). Normally Jalandhara Bandha is performed in combination with specific breathing practices. It is not usually done on its own. However it could be said that a variation of this is being undertaken in any of the postures where the chin is dropped to the chest to create a pressure on the throat and I do occasionally hear other teachers refer to this as a Bandha when instructing Asana and that is fine, I know where they are coming from.
I am not going to mention the others as I do not want to confuse you and they require special training. I do not necessarily use all the language of Yoga in class time as remember! I am teaching a Beginner’s class but I am always happy to discuss or write posts for those who ask in ‘post class reception time’ 🙂 .
Namaste ~ Trisha