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Yoga Bliss Gambia: Eight Limbs of Yoga - Part 2

My Magazine 2023/11
4 min
Author: Melissa Kuwahata Daswani
Traditional yoga is a wholesome practice, which, in essence, becomes a spiritual lifestyle. Patanjali Maharishi, the founder of Hatha Yoga, wrote philosophical scriptures (Yoga Sutras) around 400 C.E. that outline 8 disciplines, each of which has spiritual significance to the practitioner. Continuing from the last issue on Yama and Niyama, the first two limbs of yoga, we will now delve into the third, fourth and fifth limbs of yoga.

Source: www.lilomm.com

Asana

The 3rd limb of yoga is Asana, the postures. This is probably the most well-known aspect of yoga around the world. The practice of physical postures helps the development of physical strength, flexibility and balance. In this limb, the practitioner seeks to attain a seated posture which is steady and comfortable in preparation for meditation. But this sense of steadiness, ease, and comfort should be attained when practising any asana. The physical body should create a healthy and peaceful place for the mind. While practising asana, you should reflect and observe your breath so that it's long and steady. You should also feel physically steady and at ease. If you cannot do the asanas with these qualities, you need to retract a notch and allow yourself further preparatory asanas and allow yourself to develop.

The practice of asana also helps us to focus on the present moment, as your body is always in the present mind. We can use our body to keep our mind at present. By tuning into our body, we can tune into the moment, quiet the mind, and use the breath to connect our body and mind.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Practice asana in your daily life. A great time to practice asana is when you wake up in the morning. If you are not familiar with yoga asanas, you can join a class to learn some basic asanas, or you can also find different asanas described in the previous issues of My Magazine.

Pranayama

Pranayama means "Expansion of our Vital Life Force". Drawing our awareness of the breath and controlling the flow of breath is the 4th limb of yoga. Mind, emotion, breath and energy are all connected and interlinked. One can influence the other, and so by mastering our breath, we can adjust our energy, mind and our emotions. Our breath links directly to our physical body by affecting our heart rate, and so all other functions are affected by heart rate as well. Considering the heart is a critical anatomical life force, having some control over its effect of it is quite profound. Understanding your breath and its power is a very crucial tool in yoga. Prana- from pranayama - is the life force or "energy", and we see that the correct quantity and flow of energy in our body is also significant in maintaining a healthy and balanced body, mind and spirit.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

There are many pranayama techniques, but to begin a basic breath work will be ideal if you are new to pranayama. Learning how to control the pace and depth of your breath is fundamental. What we describe as the three-part breath (Dirgha Pranayama) should be practised daily.

Begin by sitting comfortably with the spine erect, or lie on your back with legs stretched or knees bent to your comfort. Close your eyes, soften your face, and begin by simply observing your breath. Keeping the awareness with the breath, start to deepen the breath. As you inhale, allow the stomach to balloon and as you exhale, allow your stomach to draw back in. With another inhalation, allow the stomach to expand, but go deeper and feel the expansion in the ribs. As you exhale, allow the ribs to relax and the stomach to draw back in. With the next inhalation, allow the stomach to expand, then the ribs, and then fill the lungs a little more and feel the expansion in the top of your lungs or the throat area. As you exhale, allow the air to release from the throat and upper lungs, then feel the ribs relax, and the stomach draw in. Continue and repeat the last step where you involve the 3 parts in the breathing. Try to practice this breath continuously for a minimum of 5 minutes.

Pratyahara

Pratyahara is the withdrawal of senses from external stimuli and being indifferent to them. It is the foundation of meditation to find peace within ourselves without being affected by our external environment through our senses.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

To practice Pratyahara, you should incorporate these steps.

  1. Observe Silence. Take a break from talking and socializing (digitally and in person) for a set period each day.
  2. Practice mindfulness by only observing your body and its senses. Observing the breath takes your awareness from one part of your body to the next, followed by relaxation of those areas.
  3. Refrain from gossip and negative remarks. Observe your mind and be thoughtful of your thoughts and words. 
  4. Practice periods of celibacy or fasting. Challenge yourself by taking your mind away from your sensory needs to observe your inner self. Fasting not only from food but also from social media and the internet is also essential to give you the space and time to focus inward.

If you missed part 1 of the 8 Limbs of Yoga series about Yamas and Niyamas, I highly urge you to go and read up on the October issue!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melissa Kuwahata Daswani
Founder, Yoga Bliss Gambia and Yoga Bliss Creations
Melissa Daswani is a professional yoga teacher trained and accredited in Hatha Yoga from Rishikesh, India. She was introduced to yoga in the early adolesce by her mother who often practised yoga at their home and still continues to practice to date.
Melissa started to indulge in yoga with a keen interest in her 20’s after researching the benefits of practising yoga.
In order to expand her knowledge and practice, she initially enrolled on official training in India during 2009. Her initial stint in yoga teaching began in 2012 in Togo, followed by expanding in the Gambia from 2016. Melissa’s style of teaching incorporates the fundamental and crucial steps of yoga called Hatha yoga, which encompasses the basis of all other styles of yoga. Melissa believes that every individual has something to gain from Yoga which is not limited to mental, physical or spiritual.
Yoga is not a religion but more a spiritual exercise as well as a practice that can universally be incorporated into your daily routine. Melissa offers regular weekly classes in Fajara, the Gambia, which is open to all levels.
She also runs a weekly beach yoga class which is very refreshing and energizing.
It’s her love and dedication towards teaching which allows her the opportunity to share the essence of yoga and its benefits to people from all walks of life.
Whether you reside in the Gambia or a visitor in The Gambia, Yoga Bliss Gambia would love to welcome you to their next class.

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