Let’s talk about one or two basics first.
As I’m sure you know, yoga is an ancient series of physical, spiritual and mental practices that originated in India. How ancient? Well, for a couple of reasons it’s always been a bit difficult to say with complete accuracy. One reason for this is because it was originally taught orally, human-to-human, with nothing written down. Another is that when parts of it were eventually written down, the writing was done on fragile palm leaves that were damaged or lost. It’s believed, however, that early forms of yoga may date back as far as 10,000 years. The actual word “yoga” was first seen in a sacred text, the Rig Veda, which dates from around 3,500 years ago. It means “yoke” or “union”.
One of the sacred books that helped to define yoga was the Bhagavad Gita, a 700-verse scripture probably written between 2,500-2,200 years ago. The Gita made up book six of the larger Mahabharata epic, which discussed, among many, many other things (!) the goals of one’s life. You’ll sometimes see yoga instructors discuss beliefs regarding energy flow and the makeup of the body; those beliefs will often have come from the Gita.
Speaking of bandana! The Sanskrit word “bandha” means to hold, tighten, or lock. In the context of yoga, bandhas are a series of internal energy gates within what is called the “subtle body” (the Bhagavad Gita describes the “subtle body” as being composed of mind, intelligence and ego; it controls the physical body) which help the regulation of life force flow. Prana is our life force and pranayama is the breathing technique we can use to send prana more effectively around our bodies.
I can see your head spinning through the webcam on your computer, so I will leave it there for today! Let’s recap: yoga is very old. Its language is Sanskrit. Bandhas are internal energy gates regulating our prana, and we use pranayama as a breathing exercise to send energy around our bodies more effectively. Done!
In the next piece, we will look at bandhas, what they do for us and how we can tell our bodies to use them. I’ll introduce the background to bandhas, explaining where they come from and what they are. I’ll then tell you about the three main bandhas and how to form them.
Until then… namaste (which comes from — you’re way ahead of me! — Sanskrit and means “I bow to you”).