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Ashtanga Yoga: 8 Limbs of Yoga

Yoga is for everyone, at any age, really?

What was I thinking to sign up for an Ashtanga Yoga teacher training at 53? No doubt in the past five years, yoga changed my life for the better and I always wanted to deepen my practice to more than just a few hours per week. But from zero to hero, amongst a group of super strong and flexible females in their 20’s? I digress. Yet a mysterious force drove me into signing up. Days later, albeit my extensive injury history, I was accepted to the All Yoga Thailand program. I wonder if there was an error?

So the training began. I soon learned about Ashtanga Yoga. Not just Asana, that is the third of the eight limbs. There are 7 other equally important limbs. So, shall we begin with the first one? Yamas: The ethical behavior to our external world. Observing the 5 basic rules of Yamas brings out a better version of me. Take Ahimsa (Non-Violence) for example. I promote shutting down slaughterhouse. How can we ever live in peace by disrupting other forms of life? Though an ideal concept, it’s easier said than done. A more simple solution is to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle.

Next limb is Niyama. It is self-observance. By cultivating a clean body, we cultivate a calmer and clearer mind. Feeling an oncoming cold? Grab your Jala Neti (neti pot), put a small amount of sea salt and water at body temperature into it and let that run through your nostrils. Takes only a few minutes, low cost and has huge benefits!

Asana, of course, is the most well known and may have many different approaches. Nonetheless often most people take this concept completely off course. You might grab your gorgeous Lululemon gear, step on the mat and show off your most skillful postures. Have your audience, a.k.a. students, applauding and feeling really good. Wait, let’s rewind. Isn’t Asana as described in the Yoga Sutra means “comfortable posture”? Nothing wrong with some visual stimulation, but Asana is really only about ourselves. Moreover it’s about controlling of the mind and the ego. Of course, it’s not an easy task to learn a new posture. Like many others, I’m filled with joy when I can achieve a cool pose and make it my profile picture on Facebook. Nevertheless, Yoga is a lifestyle. In Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, the key element is Vinyasa or “one breath- one movement.’ The breath is the king and without it, we are merely doing yoga-like exercises.

Speaking of breath, Pranayama, is the fourth limb and means extension of life force. Pranayama is a set of breathing techniques aiming at controlling the flow of prana (life force) It’s a real miracle indeed, a nature’s way to longevity and much better than Botox!

The last three limbs are considered the “higher ones” or classified as ‘spiritual’. They are Dharana (Concentration), Dhyana (Meditation) and Samadhi (Absorption to the Universe). At this moment in my life, there is a major transformation percolating deep within me, like a caterpillar who willingly dies in order to become a butterfly.

I feel so blessed to endow this abundant knowledge. It would be egotistical to not share it with everyone. My coming of understanding to yoga beyond asana is a good reason why being a yoga teacher has no age limits. If old age does not prevent you from being foolish it could also motivate you to step on the mat everyday! After all, the beauty of teaching yoga lies within the fact that the more we give, the more we receive. It’s also only true with nothing else other than love!

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About Andreas Rapp

Andreas is an All Yoga graduate from November 2014.
His background is in meditation with a decade of practice and saddhana.
He returns to Thailand regularly to deepen his meditation practice in the dark caves of Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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