The Art of Yoga : How to Win at Yoga

Words by Frou Williams.

Feeling confused and utterly overwhelmed with all the yogie terms? Don't know your asanas to your pyjamas? Oh wait, was that pranayamas?

Worry not. We all have to start somewhere. Perhaps you may have been practising for a while but you never felt you could ask what each term meant and now it's loo late and well you don't want to look stupid now do you? Relax.

Grab a green juice or whatever floats your boat.

I've got this one covered.

Got your green juice ready?

Okay let's roll...

There are four parts that make up the complete system of yoga.

Raja

Bhaki

Karma

Jnana

 

It is elements of raja yoga - the yoga of the mind - that are mostly practised in the West.

Raja Yoga:

This yogic path is considered the easiest of the four to acheive. The only requirement for bhakti yoga is an open, loving heart. Because the theory behind the practise is so simple, the idea is that everyone can practise bhakti yoga.

In essence bhakti means devotion to the Lord but when I teach others and indeed my own practise, I believe it’s more important to focus on your own heart and self. We need only surrender our doubts, fears, worries and express genuine love and devotion to ourselves through our practise.

Karma Yoga:

Karma yoga is a path of purification. Purification of the heart and purification of the mind. Owing to avidya, the original spiritual ignorance, which suggests that we are all affected by egosim and selfishness.

Practising karma yoga is developing selflessness by performing actions without any expectations of any rewards or results of any kind. We can begin to explore this through our practise but also take this into everyday life. Most of us will never renounce our possessions in the pursuits of living in an ashram so for the most part we can make our karmic yoga about things such as household chores or helping a neighbour (you get this gist). All it takes is awareness. You’re probably already doing it now without even knowing. Well done you my friend!

Jnana Yoga:

The path of wisdom and knowledge. The jnani uses his will and power of discrimination to cut through the veil of ignorance and attain the truth. Essentially this is about self realisation.

 

Yoga Directory:

Asana: seat; yoga posture

Ashtanga: eight-limbed yogic path; for Ashtanga/Power yoga

Ayurveda: the ancient Indian science of health

Bandha: internal lock; used for controlling the energy within the body during yoga practise; the three bandhas taught in some lineages of hatha yoga are root lock, abdominal lock and throat lock

Chakra: energy centre; the basic system has seven chakras (root, sacrum, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye and crown), each of which is associated with a colour, element, syllable, significance, etc

Dharma: truth, the teachings of the Buddha; the path of truth

Dosha: physical body type; there are three doshas in Ayurveda - pitta (fire), vata (wind) and kapha (earth)

Drishti: gazing point used during asana practise

Karuna: compassion

Kula: community

Mantra: a repeated sound, syllable, word or phrase; often used in chanting and meditation

Mudra: a hand gesture; the most common mudras are anjali mudra (pressing palms together at the heart) and gyana mudra (with the index finger and thumb touching).

Namaste: which means "I bow to you'; a word used at the beginning and/or end of class which is most commonly translated as "the light within me bows to the light within you"; which is a common greeting in India and neighbouring cultures; a salutation said with the hands in anjali mudra

Niyama: five living principles that (along with the yamas) make up the ethical and moral foundation of yoga; they include Sauca (purity), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (burning enthusiasm), Svadhyaya (self-study) and Ishvarapranidhana (celebration of the spiritual)

Om: the original syllable; chanted "A-U-M' at the beginning and/or end of many yoga classes

Prana: life energy; chi; qi

Pranayama: breath control; breathing exercises

Samadhi: the state of complete self-actualization; enlightenment

Savasana: corpse pose; final relaxation; typically performed at the end of every hatha yoga class, no matter what style

Shakti: female energy

Shanti: peace (often chanted three times in a row)

Shiva: male energy; a Hindu deity

Surya Namaskar: Sun salutations: a system of yoga exercises performed in a flow or series

Sutras: classical texts; the most famous in yoga is, of course, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras

Tantra: the yoga of union (much more than just tantric sex that is popularised in the media)

Yama: five living principles that (along with the niyamas) make up the ethical and moral foundation of yoga; they include Satya (truth), Ahimsa (non violence), Asteya (not stealing), Bramacharya (self control and sexual responsibility) and Aparigraha (not grasping)

Yogi/Yogini: a male/female practitioner or yoga

Yoga Etiquette:

  • Don't take yourself too seriously, none of us are getting out alive!

  • Smile. Laugh. Dance if you like :)

  • Be in your mind and your body. Be present

  • Arriving on time is always appreciated

  • No mobiles please it interrupts the flow, there's time for selfies after

  • Listen to what your body is telling you

  • Try not to eat a mahoosive meal within 2-3 hours of your practise

  • Savasana (relaxation pose) is an important element to your practise, please don't skip it

  • Be a nice human!

  • Above all, ENJOY!