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Yoga: Beyond the Poses

By: Carleen Saeger, M.S., OTR/L, FNC, RYT-500hr, Reiki Master/Teacher, USAT L1

Empowering You to Thrive in Life!

Integrative, Functional, & Holistic Occupational Therapist and Life & Wellness Coach

Functional Nutrition Counselor | Registered Yoga Teacher | Reiki Master/Teacher | Endurance Coach | Entrepreneur

Blended Family Mom of 5 Kiddos | Gluten and Dairy-Free Life

What does it mean to be a yoga student or even an advanced yoga student? Hint… it’s not about being able to do crazy poses! Today we’ll dive into the true meaning of yoga, beyond the poses.

First… What does yoga mean anyway? Yoga, from the Sanskrit word "yuj," means to unite or come together. It's about connecting body, mind, and soul as well as connecting with a universal consciousness. This union within ourselves as well as with the divine is always within us, but life can distract us and disconnect us from it. Yoga helps us stay connected and on a path of spiritual growth by quieting the noise and maintaining that divine connection. That being said, yoga is not a religion and you don’t have to practice a specific religion in order to be a yogi. But, practicing yoga does help support your self-awareness and spiritual growth. 

Next, we’re all familiar with the movement portion of yoga known in Sanskrit as, asana. But let’s take our knowledge of yoga one step further. For this, we dive into an ancient text called the Yoga Sutras written around the 2nd century BCE by an Indian sage named Patanjali. It’s within this text that we learn that there are actually 8 limbs of yoga, which are basically 8 components that make yoga yoga. So, what are these 8 limbs? Check out the image below and and read on to learn more!

Asana. It is said that asana helps to work with our breath to quiet the mental chatter and prepare our body and mind to sit in meditation ultimately helping us connect with our essential nature. As an occupational therapist and yoga teacher, I specifically curate asana to create functional strength and mobility throughout our bodies!

Pranayama, which encompasses various breathing techniques where we observe and control our breath such as our belly breathing, Ujjayi, Nadi Shodana, and more. Each of these breathing techniques has a different effect on the body, for example calming or activating our nervous system. Pranayama is also used to withdraw the senses for pratyahara. 

Pratyahara is drawing your senses inward. I believe that this is one of the reasons why yoga studios are typically a calm and serene space, so you’re not too distracted, helping you draw your focus inward.

From here, we head into the portion that deepens into meditation and ultimately samadhi. First we have dharana, which is actively focusing and concentrating on one thing, such as when we cue ourselves to focus in on our breath, on a mantra, a quote, or a Bible verse.

Once you get beyond the point of actively focusing, you’re locked in. This is called dhyana, which is full absorption in whatever it is that you’re drawing your attention inward to bring you into a meditative state. 

Now, really the true goal of yoga is embracing this pathway of light toward samadhi, otherwise known as enlightenment or state of full bliss. My personal belief is that this is not some end goal; it’s not this place that you’ll attain one day and stay there and never leave. It’s kind of interwoven into our daily life and our practice. That moment where you’re fully engrossed and engrained in what it is that you’re doing, fully living in the moment and nothing else matters, those moments where you just are completely immersed and truly in this bliss state. These tools, or these limbs of yoga, are ways to support you in getting there. 

There are two other branches called the yamas and the niyamas. These are sort of like yoga do’s and don’ts; if you want to reach this blissful state of samadhi, do these things and don’t do these other things. One of the quotes that I say often is “Release that which no longer serves you so you can make room for and bring in that which does.” The yamas and the niyamas really lean into the essence of that quote and help to guide you on what to let go of and what to bring in. 

Watch for an upcoming blog post to learn more about these yogic do’s and don’ts. Until then, keep this big picture view of yoga in your mind and remember that yoga is so much more than just moving through poses to strengthen and stretch our body!




Carleen is a holistic, integrative, and functional Occupational Therapist, Life & Wellness Coach, Functional Nutrition Counselor, Yoga Teacher, Reiki Master/Teacher, and Endurance Coach. She is an entrepreneur and owner of Empower Wellness & Rehabilitation where she helps people thrive in their lives by blending the best of Eastern and Western science and wisdom into her work with clients. In her personal life, she is a wife and blended family mom to 5 incredible children (2 biological daughters and 3 stepsons) and 3 dogs! She loves spending time with her family, downhill skiing, lake life, cycling, running, swimming, yoga, working out, and traveling.

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