Unlike how the West views yoga as an effective exercise form, yoga in India is viewed as much as a meditation technique that sets you on a spiritual journey, as it is an effective exercise. In Patanjali yoga: there are eight limbs or practices of yoga: Yama (honesty, truth), Niyamas (contentment or self-study), asanas (the exercise form), pranayama (Prana means vital force, Yama means to control, practiced through breathing), pratyahara (withdrawn of senses from external stimulation), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (the final stage, integration of all senses).
Niraamaya’s yoga programme
Guru Ayappan, who leads the yoga programme at Niraamaya, reveals that in Indian culture, the final journey towards Samadhi is the real purpose of yoga. However, the world has confined itself to asanas and a smaller degree, pranayama. At Niraamaya, the yoga programme straddles aspects beyond pure exercise and includes within the ambit asanas, meditation or Dharana and Dhyana, Pranayama and yoga Nidra (yogic sleep is a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping).
In most of the Niraamaya Retreats, the yoga classes are conducted in areas that help guests integrate with their surroundings and nature. You could also Guru Ayappan (or any other yoga guru at any of the several Niraamaya retreats) to dig deep into the history of yoga if you so desire.
While the aphorisms of yoga and its ethical-spiritual beliefs have remained constant at the core for centuries, its practice has evolved to keep up with shifting personal goalposts to do with fitness and mental health. One of the reasons why this ancient practice of breath control, asanas or yoga poses and meditation has survived the vicissitudes of time is because of the flexibility with which it adapts to contemporary times. As Guru Ayappan says, “Yoga is not a static science. It keeps growing, it keeps evolving.”