Simply put, yoga is an ancient technology that uses physical, mental and spiritual tools to allow an individual to steadly gain discipline, strength and self control in all areas of life, while cultivating peace of mind, expanded awareness and equanimity of mind, body and spirit.
Modern day practitioners primarily practice three aspects of the yogic path, which are asana (yoga postures), pranayama (breath work), and dhyana (meditation). These tools are effective in ridding the body of physical toxins and the mind of stressful thoughts. However, yoga is so much more than yoga postures and deep breathing.
Traditional yoga follows an 8 fold path that, when practiced regularly, can liberate the body, mind and spirit from worldly distractions to lead the practitioner to greater levels of health and happiness.
The 8 limbs of yoga are:
Yamas (ethical guidelines)
Asana (physical postures)
Pranayama (breath work)
Pratyahara (sensory withdrawal)
Samadhi (pure consciousness)
Over the years, I have found these guidelines to challenge many aspects of my life. American culture is filled with deadlines, competition and instant gratification. I have found it quite easy to default to living in ego, survival mode or fight/flight, and then decompress and escape through an array of unhealthy habits. However, the 8 fold yogic path introduces a road map toward a balanced & disciplined lifestyle, which allows the practitioner to be present with both the positive and negative aspects of self without pressure, guilt or shame. These tools encourage the practitioner to continuously evolve into a better human being without being attached to an end result.
Although the journey to self-transformation can take a lifetime, (or several), the yogic path is definitely one that can have quite a positive impact on the body, mind, spirit. As we learn to embrace all aspects of who we are as humans, we can ultimately gain a deeper understanding of humanity as a whole.