What Is Yoga?

This can be both the simplest and most intricate question to answer. The more I write about it, the more this answer will be mine [read: what yoga means to me].

The Facts: In Sanskrit, the word yoga can be translated as union, but it’s meaning can be translated on a much deeper level. I found an article written by Kate Saal on this topic the other day that resonated with me so much, “Yoga is a process. It’s active. It’s the way you engage with the world to create harmony. Yoga is how we participate and create relationship.” You can read more about the origins of the word in her article. I’ll get deeper into a similar subject in a later post, but for the sake of anyone who hasn’t been to a class before this is for you:

Yoga is a method of attaining overall well-being, dating back 5,000 years ago in India and even futher back in Ancient Egypt. Different forms of yoga are seen throughout history and share common characteristics that include deep, spiritual inquiry and meditation. Much of the West is familiar with movement-based yoga, such as Hatha and Vinyasa, which incorporate the physical postures that are widely practiced today.

Personally, I gravitate to the contemplative style of Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga and a regular Hatha/Vinyasa practice.

The Opinion: I first began practicing yoga because I heard it “was good for you.” That’s it. No other information was absorbed at that time. I decided to give it a whirl, bought a mat, and threw on a video. Eight years and a Teacher Training later, it’s become a major impact on the quality of my life.

But why? But how?

Something in those first few months struck a chord with me and it. was. hard. I had no balance, stability, or strength to do even the most simple of poses. Downward Facing Dog was so uncomfortable. Child’s Pose was awkward. Hell, I couldn’t even sit with my legs crossed without feeling agonizing pain in my back. But the teacher shared a lot of the contemplative aspects of yoga and it sparked my interest to learn more. I started going to classes; started reading and researching; and over time, I started feeling my “why.”

So after eight years of being completely immersed in this other way of life, I can say this: Yoga came to me when I needed it the most: mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  It heals many of my physical ailments and makes me stronger, more stable, and agile. It teaches me body awareness and the act of taking up space in this world. It brings me inward, allowing me to be the Witness to my thinking mind and rapid-fire thoughts. It gives me strength to face discomfort. It makes me happy. And most importantly, it makes me a better person for other people. That’s the whole game: filling up my cup so I can pour some out for others. I do it all for all. 

And I still have so much learning to do. I haven’t even scratched the surface, but that’s okay. It’s not the fruit of the action, but the action itself that brings out the meaning of yoga. It’s embracing the unknown and diving right into it – head first.

And if you’re diving in too, let’s swim together.

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