What Is Yoga? (For Me.)

Dear friends,

Welcome back to for the Wednesday post! If you have been following this blog so far, you might have noticed, that I have not written about yoga yet. And I am a yoga teacher!

BUT, have I really not?

What is Yoga anyway?

0403_companies_yoga_630x420-polaI tried to ask Mr. Google that question and it was not very helpful. Let’s see: the first hit was Wikipedia saying that Yoga is “a commonly known generic term for physical, mental, and spiritual disciplines which originated in ancient India.” Then it goes on describing the purpose and history of yoga, comparing it with “other systems of meditation”. The article contains a lot of information, but doesn’t really help with getting to the bottom of the question. The other links Google proposes describe Yoga as yoga postures, exercise  positions, a process of reversing energy flow, gives definitions in Sanskrit, a lot of information, different yoga schools, different yoga styles, yoga is even called a workout program. Who wouldn’t be confused? Furthermore, when you look for images of yoga, Mr. Google proposes mostly photos of super flexible good looking people demonstration complex yoga postures. So, does Yoga equal yoga posture? 

I have been asking myself what is Yoga for a long time, and you know what? The answer keeps changing.

Why is that?

It is because I’m looking at it from my perspective and my perspective keeps changing with my experience.

When I give a general overview and definition of yoga on my website (here) it is, how I see it. That is also why you get so many different answers, when you ask different people, read different books or websites. Of course, there are common points in all of them, but when you go more in depth, you encounter differences sooner or later.

I went from associating yoga with practising yoga poses and trying improve them, to realising that ALL I do, can be Yoga.

My LIFE can be a YOGA practice, if I only want to.

patanjali_s-polaThe great Indian sage Patanjali compiled one of the most significant and ancient texts of Yoga – the Yoga Sutra, where eight guidelines on the path of Yoga are presented –  the eight limbs of yoga (asthanga yoga: ashta=eight, anga=limb):

  • yama – our attitudes towards people and things outside ourselves;
  • nyama – our attitudes toward ourselves;
  • asana – the practice of body exercises;
  • pranayama – the practice of breathing exercises;
  • pratyahara – the withdrawal of the senses from the external world;
  • dharana – concentration, focus;
  • dhyana – meditation;
  • samadhi –  oneness, to merge with the object we are trying to understand.

It is no wonder that in the Western society, in general, the focus yoga seems to be on the body exercises, after all this is a society obsessed with appearance, body image and what others will think of us.

But what a pity to limit this beautiful and powerful ancient science to only a small part of it! It has so much to teach us, if we only let our perception and awareness expand.

Yoga gives us the tools to learn to see, what is not obvious, to go deep inside our selves, to expand our breath, our consciousness, our ability to direct our mind, to experience connection, perception and the world around us on a different level. It helps us to remove the layers of ignorance, that is blinding us, it helps us get rid, of what is not needed and discover, that in our core we are pure and untainted, beyond any judgement and rejection.

It helps us see, that we don’t NEED to gain anything, we just need to DROP, what is not needed.

So everybody can practice yoga, because everybody can decide to take responsibility for their own thoughts actions and emotions. It is not always an easy road to walk, it can indeed be very bumpy and winding, but it does lead to the true you. Better health, peace of mind, supple body, positive relationships, happiness and the feeling of love are “just” by-products of all that.

sand_yoga-polaTo conclude with the words of T.K.V. Desikachar:

“Yoga attempts to create a state in which we are always present – really present – in every action, in every moment… When we are attentive to our actions we are not prisoners to our habits; we do not need to do something today simply because we did it yesterday… Yoga  is about the means by which we can make the changes we desire in our lives…”

This is how I see Yoga. 🙂

How about you?

In Love & Light,

Maja

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