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YOGA 101

Rising in popularity in the Western world for more than a decade, you're so tired of hearing the word "YOGA" for advertisement purposes in some new trendy marketing campaign trying to sell you leggings or an 8$ smoothie, your feel like it lost its substance.

Anyway, you have your own idea of what yoga is: stretching for hours in the most uncomfortable position to eventually put your foot behind your head, and no thank you. You'd rather work free overtime than try it out.

Well hello there, my name is Milorie, creator of BL(US)SOM YOGA. I'm here to bust yoga myths, translate spiritual jargon into real people's language and give you actionable tools to help you apply yoga to your life outside the mat. Not to help you put your foot being your head (unless you really want me to).

Down below you will find:

Let's go back to basics, because the way most of us have been introduced to yoga with fancy overpriced classes and açaì bowl à la Gwyneth Paltrow is hypocritical. There it is, I said it: the yoga industry is not true to the core and traditional values it advertises.

What yoga is not: a tool to promote a new vegan food chain, a culture of pretty girls in leggings and Lululemon mats, a way to lose weight, a competitive sport, a way to show off how flexible you are to your friends on Insta, a way to feel superior to your colleagues when announcing you turned vegan, Reiki, therapy.

What yoga is associated with, but doesn't have to be part of your journey: semi-precious stones and essential oil, Whim Hoff, cold exposure and lots of breathing techniques, plant-based diet, tarot and subconscious work, crazy over-the-top postures that could break your back in half, guided meditations.

What yoga really is: a philosophy, a way to feel better in your body, a guide to good old common sense, a practical guide to handling your emotions when they get outta control and a way to find a sense to life if you haven't found yours yet, a good old stretch after sport, a tool to help you take care of your mental health and issues like anxiety or depression, reflection prompts to help you grow as a person.

It has been told that the ultimate goal of Yoga, after decades of silent meditation, was initially illumination. But unless you want to be a monk in the high mountains of the Himalayas, we'll skip that part that for now.

Let's come back to the origin, real quick

Yoga is a Sanskrit (Indian version of Latin for the Western world) word that means Union. It is you & me, body & mind, in & out, yin & yang and all other possible combinations.

Yoga comes from India and started thousands of years ago. It was present alongside the Hinduism religion and Buddhist philosophy. They had a get-together and a potluck, mixed-and-match, which is why some ideas started to look alike:

Despite existing for about 4000 years, Yoga only started to be known in the Western world around the '80s, when yogis (yoga practitioners) gurus (masters) and teachers started sending people to America and visiting themselves to spread the discipline and philosophy.

The practice of Yoga, just like music, dance, Christianism and Islam have evolved with time and society, resulting in several declinations (we'll see them in a minute).

The most important piece of literature in Yoga is the "Yoga Sutras" written by Patanjali around the year 400. It is literally like the Bible (or Coran) of Yoga. And just like these, it aggregates, synthesizes and organizes content from older traditions, with the added bonus of being mystic enough that it is kinda hard to read on your own - you might want to read it several times, get some help from an insider in the translation or interpret it in different ways and still be correct while getting controversial.

What is Yoga

At the core of the Yoga Sutra are 8 Ashtangas or 8 Limbs of Yoga (which means Yoga has 8 components):

  1. Yamas (Social Conduct or what not to do in society)

  2. Niyamas (Personal Conduct or what to do)

  3. Asanas (Poses)

  4. Pranayama (Breatwork)

  5. Pratyahara (Sense withdrawal or controlled dissociation)

  6. Dharana (Concentration)

  7. Dhyana (Meditation)

  8. Samadhi (Illumination)

They usually come in order, as they are meant to build on each other to get you to the ultimate illumination. However, Yoga is not a straightforward journey; it is full of up-and-down, following the roller coaster of life, and I personally try to practice all of them (not all the time, and definitely not all at once).

Types of Yoga

The Yoga based on the practice of these Asthangas is not, as you might expect, Ashtanga Yoga. It is rather called Raja Yoga (translated in Royal Path of Yoga), said to focus on meditation. Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga are the 3 other classical spiritual forms of Yoga that rather focus on actions, knowledge, and dedication.

Yoga was introduced to the Western world in the late 20th century with an emphasis on Asana (postures) practice under two traditions of Hatha Yoga (the practice of Asana, literally Yoga of Union, where Ha means Sun and Tha means moon, or Strenght Yoga, where hatha means force): Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga (defined sequence starting with Sun Salutations, repeated several times a week, tightly coordinated with the rhythm of the breath) and Iyengar Yoga (focus on postural alignment, details and use of accessories to make it accessible to the least flexible and disabled people).

These two types being quite demanding, modern yoga has blossomed into several genres such as Power, Yin, Restorative, Prenatal, Flow and more, where people took the part they needed the most in the practice at this moment to combine and adapt it for their current needs and to fit their lifestyle.

If you want to learn more about these different types of Yoga and even more such as Sivananda, Kundalini and Tantra Yoga, click here (available soon)!

Where should I start?

Thank you for sticking with me till the end! I know the content is dense and you might be slightly overwhelmed right now - don't worry, you don't have to remember everything (that's my job!). Hopefully, this article has inspired you to learn more about Yoga and jump hands-on into the practice of at least one Ashtanga!

To read more about the Yamas and Niyamas and about ways to implement them in your life, click here (available soon)!

I highly recommend you start the practice of Asanas (poses) and Pranayama (breathwork) with a qualified instructor since we take into account injuries, physical and mental limitations and give advice and adjustments while creating sessions for your level and your goals. Look up group or private sessions in your area: find studios close to you via Google map, on apps like MindBody, at the gym for group classes or ask a friend for their favourite studio. You can contact me for online or in-person sessions here, and if your budget is limited, you can try on YouTube (although be very careful to not injure yourself at home!).

Pratyahara (Sense withdrawal or controlled dissociation), Dharana (Concentration), and Dhyana (Meditation) are usually practiced together in a session, but focusing on something a hobby, a book, or some admin you have to catch up at home can be a good way to start: give yourself a duration (start small, maybe 5 min is enough for you!), set a timer, put your phone on Do not disturb or Airplane mode and go in the flow zone. When you really want to look at your phone, quit, eat a bite or get distracted, take a couple of deep breaths and get back at it until your set duration is over. You can also find lots of online or in-person (usually in Yoga studios) guided meditation. More on meditation here (available soon)!

Best of luck in your Yoga journey, little Padawan.

Might the strength of character be with you.

If you have any questions or suggestions for future articles, please contact us here!

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