How is yoga different from stretching?
Emphasis on breathing and developing awareness makes yoga postures much more than just stretching and contorting the body. We connect the mind, body, and breath which helps us to direct our attention inward. The awareness we cultivate is what makes yoga a practice, rather than a goal to be achieved. Through the practice of physical postures (asana) we develop the physical strength, stamina and suppleness required for periods of meditation.
Asana is usually the way we first experience yoga although the physical practice is just one of Patanjali’s eight 'limbs’ of yoga. In brief they are:
Yama : Universal morality (how we treat others and the world around us)
Niyama : Inner discipline and responsibility (how we treat ourselves)
Asanas : Body postures
Pranayama : Breathing exercises, and control of prana
Pratyahara : Control of the senses
Dharana : Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
Dhyana : Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
Samadhi : Union with the Divine