A comprehensive guide to the 8 Limbs of Yoga

^^^^ Check out a photo shoot I did with Rachael, a beautiful yogi. Her spirit is so amazing, and as I let her do whatever pose came to her while a thunderstorm echoed under the bridge, I realized how the 8 limbs of yoga can translate from the art form of yoga to my art form, photography.

The 8 limbs of yoga. Us yogis, we live by them in our practice, and we all aim to take them from the mat and into our daily life. And the truth is, without them, where would the evolution of yoga have gone (if anywhere)?

http://www.preceden.com/timelines/67066-important-moments-in-yoga-history
Click the link up there ^^^ for a very cool timeline of important moments in the shaping of modern yoga, including when the sutras were written.

Confession: I didn’t know about the 8 limbs until I bought a new mat about 4 months ago. I know I know, I’m sorry! I’m not worthy! But better late than never, right?
On the paper label wrapped around the mat, there was a section entitled “Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.” The description was this:
“The following wisdom is from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, written thousands of years ago. The practice of mystic yoga can be categorized into the following eight parts:” etc etc. Obviously I cut it out, and it now lives on a shelf above my bed. I read it from time to time to remind myself why I came to practice, how far I’ve come, how far I have to go and what yoga is meant to be. And let me tell you, as a twenty-one-year-old whippersnapper in the midst of a city, they mean something totally different than older yogis who are wise and more stable than I am. But that’s also what yoga is about: applying these basic principals to ourselves, no matter how different we may be. So here’s what they mean to me, and how I learned about them. I could go on and on about these eight limbs, as I’m sure you can too, but I’ll keep it brief so you don’t fall asleep on me (or quit reading because you’re bored, that woud be bad too). Bear with me, there’s some really cool infographics to simplify all this for you as you go along.

  1. Yama: universal morality, control of the senses. Yamas are our attitude toward others and how we are to deal with things outside of ourselves. The five wise characteristics in yamas kind of remind me of the commandments of the Bible, except softer, gentler (and totally less daunting). The gist of them is this: don’t take more than you need (don’t steal), neutralize your greed, have compassion for all living things, speak the truth and control yourself. Pretty easy, right? Simply put, control yourself. Think about your actions, pay attention to the world around you and live to your means.
  2. Niyama: Personal observances, or how we relate internally to ourselves. There are also “rules” for this, ranging from cleanliness, finding self awareness in everything we do, staying fit, keeping pure and being content with what we have. Personaly, I need to remember this one. It’s really easy to get caught up in all the Continue reading

I’m such a tease: a massive post coming very soon!

That’s right folks, I’ve been working on a really cool, super awesome, fantabulous post for you all this past week.

I’ve been waiting to write a post on the 8 Limbs of Yoga for a while now while I dove into research about yoga, its roots and experiencing the 8 limbs for myself. I have you a post that I will warn you about right now: get a cup of coffee or tea and sit on down, because you will be reading for a while! But honestly, who doesn’t love reading something adequately researched and written in (slightly) witty 21-year-old language? Like the photo above, the post will have shots from a beautiful photo shoot I did last week with the yoga instructor you’ve all heard about this whole semester, Rachael. I’ll also be bestowing some more data visualizations on you, maybe another timeline and some much needed found photographic excellence. Who knows, maybe I’ll even put up another playlist! We’ll see how ambitious I get here (finals are tough).

So if you’re ready, like this post! And send some good vibes my way in the next few days as I finish up my undergrad degree!

Namaste, y’all.

Data journalism & yoga: an (un)likely pair

Journalism changes day-to-day nowadays, and one of the coolest things about journalism is its delving into data. Comment boxes, open questions and surveys allow us to create visualizations about trends, likes, dislikes, history and basic information. And that’s what I did here: I sent out a survey (which, if you participated, THANK YOU!) and created visualizations out of my answers. Click on the graphs to be taken to a more detailed version; I hope you find these relationships and visualizations as interesting as I have. I will be distributing out another survey soon for my final in my multimedia class (I promise I’ll keep this blog going once the semester is going!), so stay tuned!

View Surveygoers in a full screen map

First, above is a link to a map of the hometowns of 11 of the over 20 people that took my yoga survey. Check it out, and next time you could be on it!

Every bit of my survey data, in a word cloud customized and based on the frequency of the text.

Every bit of my survey data, in a word cloud customized and based on the frequency of the text.

Next, above is a word visualization. The larger the word, the more frequently it came up in the survey questions and answers.

Relationship between practice and benefits in yogaPurple: mental health benefits
Green: physical benefits
Mustard: emotional health benefits

Above: A matrix chart of the relationship between what brought people to practice yoga in the first place (stress management, physical exercise, a spiritual experience) and what the people within these categories felt the best benefit of yoga is.

relationship between yoga practice and benefits

Many EyesGreen: mental health benefits
Blue: physical health benefits
Red: emotional health benefits

Above: A multi-faceted matrix chart detailing the relationship between what brought people to practice yoga in the first place (stress management, physical exercise, a spiritual experience) and what the people within these categories felt the best benefit of yoga is. This relationship is then broken up into categories of what my survey participants think yoga is, a spiritual discipline or a mental/physical fitness program.

yogis and thoughts on yoga in the olympics

Many EyesBlue: I’m confused, doesn’t that defeat the purpose of yoga?
Green: Yoga in the Olympics is an okay idea.
Red: yoga has no place in the Olympics.
Tan: yoga in the Olympics is an awesome idea!

Above: A matrix chart shows the percentages of surveygoers that practice yoga on various levels, and in those percents, what those people thought about the idea of yoga in the Olympics (which is not happening, but what people said was interesting nonetheless).

Yoga: a youngin in the USofA.

http://www.timetoast.com/timelines/a-history-of-yoga-in-the-united-states

Click the link above to see a timeline of yoga history in the United States!

We are so young, it’s true. Some cultures started literally thousands of years ago; histories date back to biblical times and before that, with ancient legends of mystic gardens and brutal wars, but the United States? We date back a whole 250 years.

God, we are like, sooooo behind.

Similarly, we got a bit of a late start to the yoga culture as well. Yoga is one of the ancient arts, dating back 3000 years to its traditional roots. The United States didn’t even have a Swami in its midst until 1893, when Swami Vivekenanda came to Chicago. It wasn’t until 1947 until Indra Devi brought hatha yoga to the United States, opening the first hatha studio in the west. Consequently (and ironically), I thought yoga in the United States was actually younger than that. That means that my grandma could’ve been a yogi as early as her her late teens and early twenties, being the first generation of yogis in the United States.

So how did it take so long to catch on, and then over quadruple in size in just ten years?

Media, my friends.

It’s really amazing (and quite funny) to think that there was a TV show in the 70s about yoga. Did a lot of people watch it? Was everyone wearing brightly colored spandex and headbands with their big hair? I hope so.

But with the advent of social media and the Internet in general (and, you know, the US catching up with the times), yoga has spread across the continental United States as it gains attention for its various health benefits, both physical and mental. I know I don’t have to list this all for you, since you all already know, but seriously, how did it take us this long to figure out how great it is?

Better late than never though, right?

Namaste. Have a great week, y’all.

Where’s your next destination?

View A condensed list of yoga studios in Pittsburgh, PA in a full screen map

Click the link above to see a map of Pittsburgh, PA studios sorted by zip code and class type.

The best thing about technology is that it gives us power at our fingertips. With the touch of a few keys, we can find places to adventure to, places to eat, things to buy, ideas for inspiration and chronicle our entire lives. Okay, maybe it’s the worst thing too. But technology is great, and it’s powerful, and helpful!

I think that maps are the coolest piece of technological advancement yet. For instance, the map above has 23 yoga studios pinpointed in Pittsburgh (that I could find). What astonishes me is how popular yoga has become, and how versatile it is, as a hobby, a lifestyle and destresser. There is a class for just about everyone, ranging from cheap to expensive, early morning to late night, beginners to advanced practitioners, meditation classes, private sessions, corporate sessions and even skype sessions for long-distance practicing.

The studios above don’t even encompass every place to practice yoga in the Pittsburgh area. I mapped studios only with a “Pittsburgh, Pa” address. The surrounding areas have even more studios, and the compilation doesn’t include places like the YMCA or Gold’s Gym that offer yoga classes in addition to their fitness classes.

Even in my little hometown off the beaten track, population 9,000, there are yoga classes offered at the YMCA, gym and even a studio in town. Yoga has gotten so popular in the past year that it’s spreading to even the smallest of towns.

Maps. They tell us all the possibilities of places to go. They also tell us about these places, how to get there, and how to get back home again.
Check out your area and see what new places you can try!

Technology. Isn’t it really amazing?

Yoga Flow Pittsburgh

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Yoga Flow Pittsburgh website homepage. Source: yogaflowpittsburgh.com

There are many things I want when it comes to my yoga practice. I like the place to be hot, but not too hot. I like the instructor to walk around and be engaged in his or her students as well as the practice. The atmosphere has to mesh with me and so does the music. I haven’t had to look hard in Pittsburgh to find good yoga that fits well with me. Currently, I frequent the Shadyside location of Yoga Flow Pittsburgh, and since the day I walked into the door I’ve been hooked.

With four locations in the Pittsburgh area, Yoga Flow has a fantastic atmosphere to get your mind and body connected. All of the instructors I’ve had have been great; they make the effort to connect to their students as well as get their students to connect to a practice.  On their website, Yoga Flow welcomes people to their company with this message:
It’s something different for us all that brings us to a yoga class. Perhaps it is to increase flexibility, gain strength, enhance physical fitness or to relieve stress. At each Yoga Flow studio, you will find that whatever your motivation is for being there, you are welcome to our family.”  

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Instructors, courtesy of the Yoga Flow Pittsburgh website

The instructors at Yoga Flow are both professional and personal, and they are so open with their students. When I first experienced Yoga Flow Pittsburgh, I was struck by the peaceful atmosphere I stepped into as soon as I walked in the door. People were quieter, the lights were dim, the air smelled like incense and the mat. I had never practiced hot yoga before (hot vinyasa flow, not to be confused with bikram) and at one point during the practice I was overwhelmed at how amazing my limbs felt from the heat. Yoga Flow’s instructors are experienced, kind and sensitive yogis who very obviously want to share their knowledge of yoga with students and help them revive themselves. The studio strives for challenging routines that have room for inversions and rest, depending on what your body can handle. Yoga Flow studios are beautiful, with hard wood floors, places to put your belongings, and plenty of supplies like towels and blocks. Yoga Flow Shady Side prices range from $14 for a drop in ($8 for students) to $112 for a 10-punch pass ($75 for students). 

If you’re ever in Pittsburgh and looking to practice, Yoga Flow studios are a definite option to consider. Owned by Dominique Ponko, a ten-year yoga practitioner and teacher, Yoga Flow Pittsburgh studios are dedicated to helping and healing each student that walks into its door.