What is Yoga?
Have you ever wondered what Yoga is all about? Yoga has many definitions or meanings from different people all over the globe. If you ask someone what Yoga is this is some of the answers you will find: Some people think of Yoga as a sport/exercise; a way to stay fit, flexible and healthy, some think it is a way to relax or clear your head, some people think it is a religion or spiritual path, some people think it is a way to meditate, some think it is only for girls. While some of the answers are correct and some are incorrect (Yoga is a religion or is only for girls are incorrect) Yoga is all this and much more. Below are my feelings and thoughts on Yoga from my own experiences and studies.
Yoga is a way of life; it is a discipline or set of guidelines for living your life. Yoga is in everything, it is in your thoughts and actions. Yoga is how you treat and take care of yourself; your body, mind and soul, as well as the world and those around you. It is a path and journey of self-discovery that teaches you to be more aware of your body, mind and soul, while at the same time making you stronger(mentally, physically and emotionally), healthier (Yoga has many health benefits) and more flexible through the practice of asanas.
Through the body the practice of asanas (postures/poses) and pranayama (breathing) we can learn to calm our mind and body allowing us to connect the two. Through further practice we can also connect our consciousness with the super consciousness. Yoga has roots in Hinduism yet is a practical aid, not a religion. It is a path that can be followed by people of any religion and can enhance your spiritual life.
Yoga is a teacher which offers many valuable lessons to those who follow the path.
Traditional Yoga has many definitions and meanings from different sacred texts, Gurus and Yogis throughout history.
In Sanskrit word yoga means to unite and also comes from the Sanskrit word “Yuj” which means to yoke, join or unite. The aim is to unite your being (the individual) with the divine/superconsciouness. To do this you must learn to bring together all the aspects of your life, of your individual being; Yoga unites the body with mind and the mind with the soul. It is finding balance and achieving oneness with yourself. This ancient art is based on a harmonizing system of development for the body, mind, and spirit. With the continued practice of Yoga you will develop a sense of peace and well-being, and also a feeling of being at one with their environment.
The Bhagavad Gita also referred to as “the Gita” givens many definitions Yoga. Ch.2 V.50 says Yoga is, “He/She who looks upon opposites as equals, who has risen above duality and thus free from vice and virtue is a Yogi. Verily work done to perfection is Yoga, Yoga is skill in action”.
“Looks upon opposites as equals”- Yoga has taught me that there is a balance in everything, that all things have an opposite and are equal. There is symbiotic relationship and coexistence between opposites; you cannot have one without the other or rather one exists because the other does: Hot and cold, light and dark, positive and negative, feminine and masculine. Even though they are opposing they are equal.
“Who has risen above duality is free from vice or virtue”: When we learn the balance of duality and understand the deeper meanings from both side rather than one side our consciousness and awareness expands to the point that our thoughts and actions become balanced and we no longer do things because we think that they are morally good/bad or we will receive a good/bad result.
“Verily work done to perfection is Yoga, Yoga is skill in action” This is the most important part of the verse. Yoga is an exploration of our own selves on every level, including the physical, the mental, the emotional. Part of this exploration is our skills, work hobbies. We all practice something we love. Whether we are good at it or not it is one of our skills and we do it to the best of our abilities trying to perfect whatever it may be. This includes things like Yoga, guitar, dance, climbing etc. You are doing what you love; so love what you do; live your passions. Practice and work on perfecting the things that you love for your own personal growth and understanding while setting the ego aside. Even if you never practice Yoga a day in your life if you work on perfecting your skills for yourself and use them to help others (not the ego) you are practicing a part of Yoga.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra V.1.2 “Yogassh-citta-vrtti-nirodhah” Translated: “Yoga is the suppression of the modifications to the mind field” or “Yoga is the re-channeling of the impressions and habits of the mind”.
Chitta: thoughts, mind field, consciousness.
Vritti: operations, cycles, fluctuations, patterns, habits, changes.
Nirohda: control, mastery, calming, quieting, resolution.
What does this mean to me? It means that Yoga is the path for learning how to master my own consciousness, thought patterns. It is becoming aware of your consciousness, thought patterns, emotions, knowing how your mind works. Through Yoga you learn this awareness and gain the ability to master, control, calm… your thoughts and emotions. Yoga gives us the ability to clear our minds, to find unity which allows us to discover your body, mind and spirit on a deeper level.
As you can see there are many answers for what Yoga is or isn’t. The best way to find out though is to take up Yoga and learn the answers for yourself.