A simple guide to Yoga

Yoga means "union" in Sanskrit,

It is an ancient spiritual practice that originated in India, where it remains a vibrant living tradition and is seen as a means to enlightenment.

Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and Raja Yoga are considered the four main yogas, but there are many other types.

In the West, Yoga has become associated with the asanas (postures) of Hatha Yoga. Asana practice is just one aspect of a yoga practice. In sanscript "asana" means "comfortable seat". The main goal of an asana practice is to loosen and strengthen the body so one can sit for long periods of time in meditation.

A Raja yoga practice means following the eight fold path:

1 Yama= abstentions or moral commandments (what to avoid)
These govern the way we conduct ourselves in the world, exercising self control and avoiding things that make us unhappy

Ahimsa = abstention from violence (non-violence)
Satya = abstention from lying (truth)
Asteya = abstention from theft
Brahmacharya = abstention from sexual activity (continence)
Aparigraha = abstention from possessions (non-materialism)

2 Niyama = observances or self purification by discipline (what to adhere to)
These govern the way we conduct ourselves with ourselves and with others, positive qualities such as right action

Saucha = purity & cleanliness
Santosha = contentment/acceptance
Tapas = austerity/dicipline/regulation
Svadhyaya = study/introspection
Ishvarapranidhana = surrender to God

The Yamas and the Niyamas control our passions and emotions and keep us in harmony with our fellow humans

3 Asana - Postures of the body; keep body healthy and in harmony with nature, rendering the body a fit vehicle for the soul
4 Pranayama - Prana or Breath control; breathing practices to manipulate prana flow through energy channels of body

The last 4 limbs are concerned with meditation practice:
graphics/On_rock_crop2_m.jpg 5 Pratyahara - Abstraction/Detachment/Internalization; withdrawl of the senses from sense objects, with Pratyahara and Pranayama we are able to control the mind
6 Dharana - Concentration; Fixing the attention on a single object
7 Dhyana - Meditation; effotless concentration
8 Samadhi - supreme consciousness; perfect union of the individual soul (atman) and the universal conciousness

Some yoga styles and traditions you may have come across at your local studio are: ANUSARA, Ashtanga, Bikram, HATHA, Integral, ISHTA, Iyengar, Jivamukti, Kripalu, Kundalini, POWER, RESTORATIVE, Viniyoga, Sivananda, Yin

Ten Toes yoga teaches a yoga practice in the ISHTA tradition.

ISHTA combines asana, pranayama and meditation for a comprehensive physical and spiritual practice.

The word ISHTA has a two-fold definition.

1) ISHTA is an acronym for the Integrated Science of Hatha (the physical practice of yoga that creates balance), Tantra (the yogic philosophy that recognizes the perfection in all beings) and Ayurveda (the Indian science of healing).

2) Ishta is a Sanskrit word meaning "personalized" or "individualized". This reflects the tradition's aim of helping each student develop a practice that meets his or her personal needs.

Ishta (n. Sanskrit, also Is'ta) The sublime force that unconsciously drives us onwards, towards a fulfilled state of ultimate completion.

ISHTA is a style of yoga designed to empower the individual to discover more about their true self. Practicing ISHTA yoga results in the development of a yoga practice that's personalized and holistic. Recognizing the uniqueness of the individual soul, ISHTA yoga recognizes that every individual needs their own unique practice that will best address their own needs, development, and self-awareness.

ISHTA yoga embraces elements from a variety of styles and seeks to help its students discover the exact blend of postures, breathing, and meditation techniques necessary to bring out their fullest potential. Ishta classes incorporate the gentle, flowing poses of Viniyoga, the more vigorous poses of Ashtanga yoga, the careful alignment and use of props of Iyengar yoga, as well as including various forms of advanced yogic breathing (pranayama), meditation and relaxation.

graphics/alan_finger4.jpg Ishta Yoga was developed by Yogiraj Alan Finger and his father, Kavi Yogiraj Mani Finger in Johannesburg in the 1960s. Ishta joins Alan Finger's own wisdom with that of his many mentors: Swami Venkatesananda, a disciple of the north Indian Swami Sivananda perhaps best known for his translation of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras; Swami Nisreyasananda, a protege of Sri Ramakrishna; and Finger's father, who studied with Paramahamsa Yogananda (author of the spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi.) as well as Sivananda.

The ISHTA system is based in the traditions of Sivananda yoga, Kriya yoga, Tantra and Ayurveda. When you practice yoga in its purest form you touch into the wisdom of graceful masters and experience powerful tools and techniques for personal transformation. Through the beauty of this exploration, your wisdom emerges and you experience the creativity and joy that yoga brings. The ISHTA system is a style of yoga that is dynamic, approachable and safe for all ages and abilities. Development of the self and consistent meditation practice are an integral part of the system.