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Real Yoga is an Eastern Thing --- Still

Many people practice yoga with an aim towards perfecting the asanas, postures. If I say that the aim of yoga
is is to end the cycle of birth and death, most people would roll their eyes and cast a glance of pity upon me.

Right now I am speaking of “yoga” in its true sense, and not the “asana" sense, the mistaken way it is
usually used in the West. Although yoga is a path with eight limbs, all of equal importance, it is asana
that most Westerners associate with yoga. Briefly the eight limbs of yoga are:

1: Yama ( restraint): which has five aspects: brahmacharya (continence) restraint of the senses,
particularly sexual desire, Satya (truth) adherence to truth in word and deed, ahimsa or
(harmlessness), (asteya)non-stealing, and aparigraha (non-greed) particularly for wealth and material
objects.

2: Niyamas (observances): which include recitation and study of scriptures, prayer, chanting, mantra
recitation, contentment (not seeking more than ones needs), austerity (mental and physical.)

3: asanas (postures): poses we assume to align the body, mind, and spirit.

4: Pranayama (breath mastery), the regulation of air flowing through the body with the aim of
awakening to prana, the subtle inner breath not associated with air. Thus, through the perfection of
pranayama the practitioner can suspend breath for long periods of time, hours and even days.

5: Pratyahara is willing the mind away from sense objects. It differs from merely turning the senses
away from attractions (for example) or restraint, in that the mere act of inwardly turning the mind is
enough for the senses to follow suit.

6: Dharana is the focusing the mind on an internal or external object.

7: Dhyana is the continuous flow of similar mental moments achieved after dharana matures.

8: Samadhi is absorbed abstraction and arises after Dhyana has matured. This state is often
accompanied by breathlessness for long periods and is indicated by it.

The abstract and seemingly unachievable goal of ending cyclic existence in samsara is not prominent
in the mind of the modern Western yoga student, even though the gods and goddesses adorning the
yoga studios they frequent are emblematic of this aim. The lure of asanas is their almost immediate
results. The change in the way one looks and feels is very quickly apparent after beginning a steady
asana practice. This is very appealing to the result driven Western mind set. On the other hand, one
might toil in meditation for years, feeling like a mouse on a treadmill going nowhere. In like manner, one
may practice the first two limbs of yoga for an entire lifetime with seemingly little gained. Is it any wonder
why asana is emphasized in the West?

Yoga studios in America are after all businesses, and as such must earn a profit. Marketing spirituality
to result driven clients is good business. This stands in stark contrast to the East, where a willing
student, in a spirit of renunciation, is welcome free of charge, his only fee being the required discipline.
The financial requirements of ashrams are met by a lay community offering donations as a source of
blessings. But, even if such an opportunity existed in the West it is unlikely that there would be many
takers. The reason is that very few Westerners have adopted the first two yanas; a familiarization of