Some common questions and yogic terms:

What is the meaning of yoga?
Commonly translated, yoga is a union of the body, mind and spirit. It is the union of prana with apana; the union of the sun with the moon, or light with darkness. It is a union of masculine and feminine, inhalation and exhalation, the union of the thoughts of all people. In using the word union, what is truly meant is unification of dueling energies or opposites, creating balance.
Ultimately what we are striving to learn is that it is not possible to have no thoughts and so we seek to still the mind down to simply one thought. "yoga citta vritti nirodha" translates as "yoga is the control of thought waves in the mind".

What is Ashtanga?
According to Patanjali (the 1st ancient sage to document this tradition), ashtanga refers to the 8 limbs of yoga. These limbs evolve from the physical and mental to elevated states of meditation. The limbs are complete upon reaching "samadhi", union or enlightenment. The limbs are listed in Patangali's text known as the Yoga Sutras. II:29

Yama (restraint)
Niyama (observances)
Asana (steady posture, or posture easily held)
Pranayama (science of breath)
Pratyahara (withdrawal from the senses )
Dharana (concentration)
Dhyana (meditation)
Samadhi (union with Brahma)

It is important to become aware that the two primary ethical limbs of ashtanga are the first two limbs, Yama -Restraints and Niyama-Observances. These limbs help us to cultivate greater awareness.

What is asana?
The Sanskrit meaning is posture held in stillness, both mentally and physically and yet conscious of the subtle shifts that arise during this practice. Asana is used to strengthen and heal the physical body. It takes practice and dedication to cultivate calmness, concentration and lightness.

Asanas evolved in ancient India as Rishi's (knowers or seer's) observed the movement and stillness of all life forms, especially that of animals as they healed. It is from this profound observation that asana evolved.

What is a Chakra?
The Sanskrit word translates as wheel and represents the psycho-spiritual junctions and pathways in the body. Although there are said to be over 1000 energy centers in the body they have been broken down to seven centers aligned with the spinal column.

Is yoga a religion?
Yoga is not a religion. It is a philosophy that began in India an estimated 5,000 years ago. The father of classical ashtanga yoga (the eight limbed path, not to be confused with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga yoga) is said to be Patanjali, who wrote the Yoga Sutras. These scriptures provide a framework for spiritual growth and mastery over the physical and mental body. Yoga sometimes interweaves other philosophies such as Hinduism or Buddhism, but it is not necessary to study those paths in order to practice or study yoga.
It is also not necessary to surrender your own religious beliefs to practice yoga.

What is mantra and how is it used?
Mantra has been used for thousands of years. The vibration created emanates and stimulates energy in the body. A mantra is like an affirmation and can be used in many ways. The most common mantra used is of course OM.

What does Om mean?
Om is a mantra, or vibration, that is traditionally chanted at the beginning and end of yoga sessions. It is considered to be the primordial sound and vibration of all things.

Somehow the ancient yogis knew what scientists today are telling us--that the entire universe is moving. Nothing is ever solid or still. Everything that exists pulsates, creating a rhythmic vibration that the ancient yogis acknowledged with the sound of Om. We may not always be aware of this sound in our daily lives, but we can hear it in the rustling of the autumn leaves, the waves on the shore, the inside of a seashell.

All Vedic mantras start with OM. It is written and pronounced by some as 'AUM' with the letters "A" & "U" becoming an "O" as in 'tone'.

Chanting Om allows us to recognize our experience as a reflection of how the whole universe moves, the setting sun, the rising moon, the ebb and flow of the tides, the beating of our hearts. As we chant Om, it takes us for a ride on this universal movement, through our breath, our awareness, and our physical energy, and we begin to sense a bigger connection that is both uplifting and soothing.

What does Namaste mean?
The gesture Namaste represents the belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us that is located in the heart chakra. The gesture is an acknowledgment of the soul in one by the soul in another. "Nama" means bow, "as" means I, and "te" means you. Therefore, Namaste literally means "bow me you" or "I bow to you."

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