How yoga works/The eightfold path
1 Yama – avoidances
2 Niyama – observances
3 Asana – postures
4 Pranayama – breathing
5 Pratyahara – sense withdrawal
6 Dirhana – concentration
7 Dhyana – meditation
8 Samadhi – bliss
Yoga works on three key areas: Behavior, Body and Mind.
The Yamas (non-violence, truthfulness, nonstealing, sexual responsibility, abstention from greed) and the Niyamas (cleanliness, contentment, austerity, self-study, and surrender) are the ethical foundation necessary to reduce and remove the drama and trauma present in our everyday lives. Building this foundation creates the space to heal the mind/body and continue on the path. No priest, guru or politician can guide you. These are not ten commandments but guidelines for you to interpret and develop within the context of your own life.
The asana postures and breath work help to heal physical damage in he body caused by trauma, sedentary lifestyles, poor diets and stress. . We expect yoga to build strength and flexibility, burn calories, we now know that yoga works at many different levels of the body’s systems: Muscular skeletal, cardio-vascular, lymphatic, hormonal, neuro-chemical etc. The folding, twisting and extension of torso stimulates the vagus nerve which in turn stimulates the para-sympathetic nervous system which calms and relaxes the body helping to lower the allostatic load i.e. the physiological consequences of chronic exposure to chronic stress. As one part of the body stretches, another part is constricted, creating a tourniquet effect, momentarily stopping the blood flow, “waking up” the area before flooding it with oxygen and nutrients. The entire body is internally massaged, organs are squeezed, and lymphatic fluid is passed around the body. The yogic breathing massively improves the whole process ensuring oxygen and nutrients are delivered to nearly every cell in the body. Cells are given longevity due to the increased production of telomerase.
The breath also acts as the bridge between the body and the mind. Anatomically modern human beings are the only animals capable of controlling the diaphragm and are able to switch between conscious and unconscious breathing. Conscious breathing allows us to increase our lung capacity to create alertness, speed up our respiration to hyper-stimulate the body and slow down our breathing to relax the mind. Unconscious breathing gives us the opportunity to observe the breath as if impartial to the operation of the body, the first steps into meditation.