What is Yoga?

yo⋅ga [yoh’-guh] – noun – from the Sanskrit word, yukti, meaning “union” or “yoke.”

When I first started practicing yoga, it was just another way for me to work out. At the gym I’d choose between running, aerobics, kickboxing, or yoga, depending on what my friends were doing or which class was already too full for me to join in. Yoga was a “good stretch;” an alternative to my other activities.

Gradually I began to notice that I was beginning to feel really good, both physically and mentally. I was becoming more flexible and my posture was improving. I was getting better at handling stress, and I was sleeping well at night. It turns out that my sneaky yoga teacher was slipping in bits of yoga philosophy, pranayama (breathing exercises), and meditation when I wasn’t looking. And gradually the yogic approach to life began to seep into my daily activities and I didn’t even realize it was happening.

Yoga teaches you how to connect, how to unite, with your Self. This Self that we refer to is not what you might think. We often think of our selves in terms of labels: I’m a mother, I’m a wife, I’m a doctor, I’m a fat person. However, if you took one of those labels away would you still be you? Say you lost your job and now you are just a mother, wife, and fat person. Are you still “you?” Of course you are. What if then you lost all the extra weight so that you are no longer overweight? Are you still “you?” Yes, you are. Because who you are is so much bigger, so much more than the labels we give ourselves. Who we really are is our Self, our Spirit, our Essence.

There are many types of Yoga that provide various approaches to uniting with the Self. Karma Yoga is selfless service; the act of volunteering. Bhakti Yoga is the path of devotion, love, and acceptance of others. Jnana Yoga is about meditation and self-inquiry. Hatha Yoga, which is what most people refer to when they say they are “going to yoga,” is the path of bodily transformation through practicing asanas (postures). In Hatha Yoga we integrate the mind and body by moving in time with the breath. It is by focusing on our breath as we move through the asanas (postures) that we attain and maintain a state of meditation that is the most direct means for connecting with your Self.

Why would anyone be interested in connecting with his or her Self? When we connect with our true Self, our Spirit, we connect with our truth. We break through that temptation to mold ourselves into what other people expect from us. We get a better understanding of what and who it is that we really want in our lives. We become more confident in our decision-making and more authentic in our everyday actions and interactions. And although we still have doubts and worries, they no longer run our lives.

Quite a bit more than a “good stretch,” wouldn’t you say?

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One Response to “What is Yoga?”

  1. peggy Says:

    you betcha!

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