During a recent internet rabbit hole I came upon a question – What is yoga? If you’d asked me 5 years ago what Yoga was, I’d say it was a movement flow class incorporating lots of standing poses linked with the breath. 10 years ago I’d say it was a class you did once a week to ward of injury, and add variety to your fitness program. Prior to that I saw it as something that involved older women, sitting on yoga mats, chatting while doing some stretching. My view of ‘Yoga’ has evolved, and continues to evolve. Much of that evolution happened when I began teaching yoga. Really, only once I found my passion for learning about yoga as a whole practice, and understanding it’s not about the poses or movement at all!
What is Yoga?
The word Yoga is translated as meaning “to yoke”, as in join together, combine, a union. When I first heard my Yoga mentor Jeni use the words “body, mind, heart and breath, balanced as one” something clicked within me. After years of doing fitness and asana practice I’d become disconnected within my own body. When the ads say Yoga Teacher training changes your life it’s true, because you begin to know and understand yourself. Yoga as a practice however goes beyond the self. It is realizing that we are connected to each other, everything in this World, including the Devine, and finding harmony and balance in that space.
Yoga città vritti nirodha
Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mindPatanjali
Build a practice of Yoga
If we begin to consider Yoga as more than a physical practice, then we can maybe think about the structure provided by ashtanga yoga. The 8 fold path of a yogi outlined in the yoga sutras. Of those 8, just one is the physical asana practice, and it’s not even the first one. However, it’s the one that seems to take center stage in peoples definition of yoga because it’s super visible. It’s easy to say “I’m going to a yoga (asana) class” or to have on one the gym schedule. But concentration, meditation,or pranayama are all equally as important (if not moreso) than the postures. Yet those get overlooked. We ‘go to yoga’ for one hour, but it should also be practiced for the other 23 hours of the day also!
“All the practices of yoga create a habit of self reflection. And self reflection is always in the present moment. And when we are in the present moment we pay attention to our body and what it needs, we pay attention to the breath and how it reveals our emotional state, and we pay attention to the agitations of our mind and how we can forgive them and ourselves.” – Judith Hanson Lasater
Practice yoga – always
Yoga as we know it in the Western World has become synonymous with movement. When nothing could be further from the truth. Personally I’d be happy renaming yoga classes to asana classes, because that’s what 99% of them are. However, I also realize I don’t own ‘yoga’, nor should anyone. I also don’t hold judgement over people that only practice the physical form of yoga. Because that wouldn’t be very yoga. Personally, I love that the physical Yoga brings in so many people to the practice. Remember from a small acorn mighty oak trees grow. Heck, my own practice began with “just asana” so I am living proof that evolution and self work happens.
Never underestimate that people can walk in the door marked “hot yoga” and walk out the door marked “transformation” – Judith Lasater
Fixing the disconnect
But how to we fix the disconnect? By learning about ourselves. Maybe realizing that what we want isn’t what we need. Being open to other aspects of yoga as a practice. And doing the internal work needed to forgive ourselves, and others. By embracing Yoga as a practice of self reflection. Not all at once, but little by little. Remember those Oak trees take years to grow!
In the future I want to share more about yoga as a whole practice. Not just in my classes but here on my website too. I’ll be sharing tips on asana practice, meditation, breath, concentration, the 8 limb path and how it relates to modern life, book reviews, product reviews and recommendations, and how to incorporate yoga into your daily life not just the one hour on your mat.
Let me know in the comments what aspects of Yoga you are most interested in learning about.
- Book reviews
- Living yoga practice
- Product reviews & recommendations