The Five Principles of Yoga

Devised by Swami Sivananda, for the aspiring student of yoga.

1. Proper Exercise

Yoga asanas (postures) are designed to strengthen the body; develop core stability; tone the body and improve flexibility; improve coordination and balance; aid digestion; improve circulation and nourish the spine; and enable prana (life force/vital energy) to reach the nerves. Prana is a subtle energy found in the air that can be consciously drawn into the body and stored, bringing great vitality and strength. Asanas also help to detoxify the body and keep youthful looks and demeanour.

2. Proper Breathing

Breathing correctly is fundamental in the development of stamina and strength. In yoga there are two main functions of breath: to bring more oxygen to the blood and the brain, and to control prana (life force/vital energy). Specific work on the breath is called pranayama, and there are various techniques that are used in general yoga practice. These inspire more effective ways of breathing, teaching when and how to use the different parts of the breathing mechanism for different purposes. Correct breathing encourages stress release and can also help to maintain good posture.

In a Sivananda yoga class particular attention is paid to three techniques:

  • The full yogic breath, this connects the three different parts of the breathing mechanism
  • Kapalibhati (the pumping breath), a heat inducing technique which cleanses the respiratory system
  • Anuloma Viloma (alternate nostril breathing), to harmonise and rebalance the energy in the body.

3. Proper Relaxation

To calm the mind and help relieve stress, reduce excessive use of prana (life force/vital energy), rest the spine and muscles, and rejuvenate the body.

4. Proper Diet

This is a pure diet based on natural, unprocessed food and efficiency in eating. Vegetarians eat at the highest end of the food chain deriving much energy from food rich in vital energy. This can be most directly obtained through foods growing closest to the sun’s rays. Being mindful to reducing the suffering of animals and minimising damage to the earth is also an important consideration.

5. Meditation - Mindfulness

The application of mindful thought and action helps to develop an awareness and insight into the body and mind as it is in the moment. Such practice prepares the mind for meditation, through which one’s true nature can be realised.