Yoga means union. It is a union between mind, body, strength and flexibility. It is a practical aid, not a religion. Its techniques may be practiced by Buddhists, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and atheists alike because it deals with universal truths. It can be as simple as a weekly Vinyassa Flow class or a total way of life. As a way of life it is a daily practice which exceeds more than just poses. It encompasses the eight limbs of yoga and pure diet and positive mental attitude. The famous guru Iyengar says that, “The body is the altar and the asanas are the prayer.”
The Eight Limbs of Yoga — [The Path of Yoga]
1. Yamas – Ethical Discipline [The 5 Moral Restraints]
2. Niyamas – Self Observation [The 5 Observances]
Sauca [purity] / Santosa [contentment] / Tapas [zeal or austerity] / Svadhyaya [self study] / Isvara-pranidhana [devotion to a higher power]
3. Assana [pose or posture]
4. Pranayama [mindful breathe control]
5. Pratayahara [turning inward sense of withdrawal]
6. Dharana [concentration]
7. Dyana [Meditation] /
8. Samadhi [union of self with the object of meditation. A state of joy and peace]
To engage the postures there are three main Bandhas:
■Mula Bandha – is the root lock. Mula Bandha is the perineum muscle which is located in front of the anus and behind the genitals for men. In females the location is near the top of the cervix. Engaging this bandha helps us to root into the floor and engages the next bandha, Uddiyana.
■Uddiyana Bandha – means flying upward. It is performed by fully exhaling and drawing the lower belly inward and upward while simultaneously lifting the diaphragm. Rather than sucking the belly in it is a maintained stillness three fingers below our navel. This then engages us to the next bandha, Jalandhara.
■Jalandhara Bandha – is the chin lock. It is not as frequently used. It occurs spontaneously in postures such as shoulder stand. It is used extensively in pranayama. To engage Jalandhara, extend your chin forward and draw it back into the notch which is formed where the two clavicle bones meet.
Bandhas are a series of subtle energies which assist in the pranic flow [prana is life force]. This creates heat by utilizing subtle internal muscular contractions, aided by a type of breathing called ujjayi pranayama. This heat helps to warm the body and make the muscles more malleable.
When all three bandhas are engaged simultaneously it is called Maha Bandha. This means the great lock.