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About Yoga

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How to Prepare for Yoga

Yoga in Carlow by Pam from Yoga Therapy Ireland January 2005

Photos from YogArt 2005


Matsyasana - Fish in Lotus


Yoga has proved to be very popular with residents and visitors alike. It is a rewarding sport that is as demanding as you want it to be. Our oldest practitioner is 81 and our youngest is 2!

Pamela Butler is the resident yoga teacher at Ballin Temple. Pam took up yoga over 20 years ago while living in Asia, and found the practice to be an indispensable tool in the face of both physical and emotional challenges. The considered physical movements of asana helped manage challenges such as pregnancies, major knee surgery and even gardening ("ooh, my back!"). The mental equilibrium that breathing and meditation bring provided a touchstone during the turbulence of international relocations with children - as well as a social network.

It is Pam found yoga to be an indispensable tool during both physical and emotional challenges.

In 2000, she received her teaching diploma from the internationally recognized Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre. She has been teaching yoga for a decade to all ages, from under-8's to over-80's.

In 2004 she began practicing hatha yoga in the Shadow style with Paula McGrath and has attended workshops with Emma Balnaves and Jana Appleyard. Pam now leads introductory workshops and classes in Shadow yoga.

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About Yoga

Yoga, sometimes known as the "art of right living," is an integrated system of education for the body, mind and inner spirit.

The word "yoga" is derived from the Sanskrit word yug, or "to join", and means "unity" or "oneness." The practice of asanas (steady postures) and meditation provides the individual with a practical means to unite body, mind and spirit.

Yoga is said to have appeared in India over 10,000 years ago, and was passed on only by word of mouth from teacher to student. The sage Patanjali is credited with compiling the findings of the ancient Yogis, known as the Raja Yoga Sutras, about 2,000 years ago. The Sutras remain an undisputed guide to yoga.

Yoga is founded on reason and scientific observation, free from superstition. By objectively observing their own thoughts, the ancient Yogis studied the many obstacles to bringing the mind under conscious control. Evidence suggests that, in addition to the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali may have recorded an important medical treatise and a thesis on language, and so was a learned man with a great knowledge of the sciences.

The teaching of the Shadow School is based upon the ancient Hatha Yogic texts. Prelude forms are taught to introduce positions and movements that have been adapted from the range of human activities including martial arts and dance, from the plant and animal kingdoms. These flowing and spiralling movements strengthen the skeletal and muscular systems and bring about the proper development of the vital breath.

For further information on Shadow Yoga visit www.shadowyoga.com

Yoga is NOT ...

  • A religion (yoga can be practiced, and can enhance spiritual development, without contradiction to religious beliefs).

  • A miracle cure (heed your health professionals!).

  • Competitive (work for your self, in the moment, without comparison to others or to your past self).

  • Physical exercise only (mental focus, correct breathing and positive attitude are part of yoga).

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Who can do Yoga?


Anyone, regardless of age, gender, and physical ability, can do yoga. Yoga is not a competitive exercise - the practitioner is not comparing him/her self with others OR with what (s)he "used to be able to do". In fact, although many Westerners come to yoga for the physical benefits, that is only one step in the ultimate goal of yoga, which is spiritual evolution. Mental evolution - learning to still the mind - is another step along the way. Each aspect of yoga has benefits, which is why it is suitable for all. It is, of course, strongly recommended that those suffering from a specific medical condition check with a doctor before taking up asana practice.


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Benefits of Yoga

Sarvangasana - Shoulder Stand

The asanas, or steady postures, benefit the practitioner on a physical, mental and "pranic" or life-energy level. Physically, asanas help increase and maintain flexibility of the spine, toning and rejuvenating the nervous system. The gentle movements bring flexibility to the other joints and muscles of the body, as well as massaging the glands and internal organs. Circulation is improved, ensuring a rich supply of nutrients and oxygen to all the body's cells.

Mental benefits arise because awareness and concentration in the postures free the mind from disturbances and promote steadiness of mind, which can help to improve one's outlook on life. The pranic benefits of yoga are achieved because the postures work in a similar way to acupuncture or shiatsu (stimulating the body's major pressure points), but are subtler. Thus, asanas must be practiced regularly over of time, and the benefits attained will be long lasting.

Spiritually, the yogic method provides guidelines for our evolution from self-awareness to awareness of the world around, and finally unity with the universe. Astanga yoga* means "eightfold path to unity", and these eight points are:
Yama (abstension) - truth, non-violence, control of sexual energy, non-stealing, non-covetousness.
Niyama (observance) - austerity, purity, contentment, study, surrender of the ego.
Asana - steady poses.
Pranayama - control of vital energy through the breath.
Pratyahara - withdrawal of the senses.
Dharana - concentration of the mind.
Dhyana - meditation.
Samadhi - the super-conscious state.
It's a lot to achieve, but it's a journey, not a race. Developing a bit of awareness of our thought patterns (which yoga helps us do) can go a long way towards finding true contentment, and to begin to reach beyond our daily concerns to a higher level of concern - for others, for our world, for the future.

*not to be confused with the popular use of the term "astanga yoga" which refers to the strong style of asana/vinyasa practice developed by P. Jois.

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How to prepare for Yoga

  • Yoga is best practiced on an empty stomach. Try to eat a light meal 2-3 hours before practice.

  • Dress in layers. Wear non-restrictive clothing. Have a mat or towel on which to practice.

  • Asanas are best practiced in bare feet; socks can be worn if necessary. Remove shoes at the door.

  • Maintain a peaceful frame of mind before practice, that is, when you enter the practice room, move quietly, speak softly, prepare mentally.

Vricikasana - Scorpion
"Go for it!"

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