Yoga? What is Yoga?


Yoga? What is yoga?

One of the things I intend to do with this blog it talk about my passions, being law, yoga and running. I believe that yoga as a practice has had a great influence on my thinking and how I live my life. I would like to discuss how I became involved in yoga. On May 23, 2012, I attended my first yoga class at total body yoga in Mundelein, IL. To me at that time, yoga was a physical exercise that Hollywood stars did to get in shape. I figured, what the heck, it can’t hurt, so I attended a class to compliment my running.

This was a level 1 class, meaning that it was assumed that one knew or was aware of the basics. I had no clue what the basics were but followed along and was sweating like a dog ( no pun intended – lol) I thought to myself, this is good exercise. Then I listened to the teacher tell us it was time for savasana. I was like sa..what? I will get to that at the end of this post. To say the least, yoga became more than a physical exercise. Before I can apply yogic teachings to the practice of law and to life, lets talk a little about what yoga is. And when she said “namaste” at the end – I was like – ok, what did I get my self into? But it was the best thing that could have happened.

In Vedic Sanskrit, the more commonly used, literal meaning of the Sanskrit word yoga which is “yoke”, “to join”, “to unite”, or “to attach” from the root yuj. Generally put, yoga is a disciplined method utilized for attaining a goal. In this sense, the purpose of yoga depends on the philosophical or theological system with which it is conjugated. In the specific sense of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the purpose of yoga is defined as citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ (the cessation of the transformation of awareness). Jacobsen, Knut A.; Larson, Gerald James (2005). Theory And Practice of Yoga: Essays in Honour of Gerald James Larson. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-04-14757-7. In contemporary times, the physical postures of yoga are used to alleviate health problems, reduce stress and make the spine supple. Yoga is also used as a complete exercise program and physical therapy routine. so, as you can see, yoga is much more than toning the muscles of the body. In fact Yoga has given me the power and energy to successfully and effectively practice law and live my life.

But to say that in one post I can tell you about a philosophy, practice, and whatever else we can term it aged thousands of years would be ridiculous. What I really want to talk is about Pantajali and the general gist of his yoga sutras as I will be quoting specific sutras and applying them to the practice of law. This terse definition hinges on the meaning of three Sanskrit terms. I. K. Taimni translates it as “Yoga is the inhibition (nirodhaḥ) of the modifications (vṛtti) of the mind (citta)”. The use of the word nirodhaḥ in the opening definition of yoga is an example of the important role that Buddhist technical terminology and concepts play in the Yoga Sutras; this role suggests that Patanjali was aware of Buddhist ideas and wove them into his system. Swami Vivekananda translates the sutra as “Yoga is restraining the mind-stuff (Citta) from taking various forms (Vrittis).” Barbara Stoler Miller, “Yoga: Discipline of Freedom: the Yoga Sutra Attributed to Patanjali; a Translation of the Text, with Commentary, Introduction, and Glossary of Keywords.” University of California Press, 1996, page 9.

Please understand that yoga came before Buddhism, and that yoga is not per se a religion.

So, Patanjali’s writing also became the basis for a system referred to as “Ashtanga Yoga” (“Eight-Limbed Yoga”). This eight-limbed concept derived from the 29th Sutra of the 2nd book, and is a core characteristic of practically every Raja yoga variation taught today. The Eight Limbs are:
1. Yama (The five “abstentions”): Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (Truth, non-lying), Asteya (non-covetousness), Brahmacharya (non-sensuality, celibacy), and Aparigraha (non-possessiveness).
2. Niyama (The five “observances”): Shaucha(purity), Santosha(contentment), Tapas (austerity), Svadhyaya (study of the Vedic scriptures to know about God and the soul), and Ishvara-Pranidhana (surrender to God).
3. Asana: Literally means “seat”, and in Patanjali’s Sutras refers to the seated position used for meditation.
4. Pranayama (“Suspending Breath”): Prāna, breath, “āyāma”, to restrain or stop. Also interpreted as control of the life force.
5. Pratyahara (“Abstraction”): Withdrawal of the sense organs from external objects.
6. Dharana (“Concentration”): Fixing the attention on a single object.
7. Dhyana (“Meditation”): Intense contemplation of the nature of the object of meditation.
8. Samadhi (“Liberation”): merging consciousness with the object of meditation.

In the view of this school, the highest attainment does not reveal the experienced diversity of the world to be illusion. The everyday world is real. Furthermore, the highest attainment is the event of one of many individual selves discovering itself; there is no single universal self shared by all persons.

As you can see, there is more than forming a human pretzel in yoga. And really this post is a basic introduction. So at the end of my class, savasana, literally corpse pose, one surrenders to the ground and releases, controlling breath and simply releasing everything. If all beings practiced this, maybe I would be out of business, but in all seriousness, it is a path to liberation.

Then the teacher said namaste and the entire class bowed hands at heart center and repeated namaste. Well, namaste, meaning to bow in in thanks, really meant that, to thank yourself and everyone around you for a beautiful practice, a future full of health and happiness.

My blog will use this practice as a basis for expression and the continuity of health, peace and beauty to all humans. So thank you for reading. And by the way, I have been told that my wheel pose is near perfect, a pose many have been trying for years and cannot to. I also can almost do a full headstand without support. I have been practicing yoga for 7 months, and look forward to many years of practice.

Thank you for reading… Peace, health, happiness, wealth….



5 responses »

  1. Great post! I really want to see how you apply Yoga to the law. I practiced yoga for many years, many years ago and have decided to go back to it. I know you’ve invited me to Mundelein. If I don’t like the class I take tomorrow I will take you up on your offer to try the school. in Mundelein. Not everyone teaches yoga, well. It’s okay not to like a class. Happy Chanukah!


    • Thank you Lillian for your response! Good luck with your class – and you are right, a good teacher is hard to find, but I am lucky to have great teachers, and have corrected a lot of poses that one naturally does wrong. It is such a release for those of us who practice law, a stressful profession. But I believe Pantajali’s sutras apply to the practice of law and that using these principles makes us better lawyers. I am working on a post that I think is important, it will be up later today or tomorrow.

  2. I just love this post. I’ve been casually practising yoga for 5 years, mostly on and off. However 6 months ago i had a lot going on and found that i just couldn’t keep up my high intensity – smash it out- training program and all i could do was yoga. It has changed the way i look at exercise now and i crave it when I miss a week. Hope you can share more of this as i’d love to keep reading. I’ll work on some yoga friendly food at too!

    thanks again


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