“Yoga is a practical method for making one’s life purposeful, useful and noble” – B K S Iyengar

I started my 200-hr Yoga Teacher Training at Studio Breathe in October and I have to say, it’s the nicest thing that I’ve ever done for myself. Not only am I deepening my asana practice, but I’m reading a lot of interesting material that is challenging me to think and behave differently. When I show my friends the amount of books I have to read and homework I have to do each month, I often get the perplexed look of “isn’t yoga just a bunch of stretches and poses”?  So I want to clarify what yoga means, which is a feat in and of itself.

In short, yoga is now, it is presence. It is a pathway to inner peace. Yoga can be literally translated from the Sanskrit word to “to yoke”, which means to unite, to come together.

To unite what? The mind, body and soul. To become one with the divine, when we feel in harmony with that higher power, that is yoga. The intended yoking is that of one’s mind and the divine, a self-transcendent quality creating a pure state of consciousness in which the awareness of “I “ disappears into a sense of divine essence.

Whoa that sounded religious, but yoga is not a religion, it is an action. Although yoga was founded on Hindu religious philosophical texts called the Vedas and the Upanishads (later expressed through The Yoga Sutras of Pantajali), it is more of a way of life than simply a philosophy, religion, science or series of postures. Here is a quote from the guru Osho that explains it well:

“Yoga doesn’t say to believe in anything. Yoga says to experience. Just as science says to experiment, yoga says to experience…Experience is an inner experiment…Yoga is existential, experiential, experimental, no belief is required. Only the courage to experience is needed and that is what is lacking.”

Yoga can be viewed as the art and science of mental discipline through which the mind becomes cultured and matured, in order to transcend limitations and feel united with our higher Self.

Some definitions that I’ve come across that I like about yoga are:

  • Presence, or reaching a state in which we are always present
  • Attentiveness in action
  • Feeling in harmony with a higher power
  • Becoming one with the divine
  • Attaining what was previously unattainable
  • Reaching the highest
  • Helping distinguish the real from the unreal
  • The unified actions of our body, breath, mind and senses as one
  • Both a natural and cultivated state of unification with the Source of life
  • Yoking of all powers of the body and the mind and the soul to God. The discipline of the intellect, the mind, the emotions, the will. A poise of the soul which enables one to look at life in all its aspects and evenly
  • The sum of what one must do to realize the Self

I like to tell people that yoga is a lot more than just asanas (poses) and pranayama (breathing techniques), although those are two important limbs of the 8 limbs of yoga, but rather a way to think, behave and treat yourself so you can flow through life with ease, grace and peace.