The images we see of yoga largely are a limited view of a Western trend.
It emphasizes the physical practice of asanas. Bodies bending and stretching into shapes on a rectangular mat. Defined minutes of a class conducted within the defined walls of a studio. But the ancient spiritual practice of yoga is not defined by minutes, mats and walls.
As a yoga practitioner, teacher and apprentice, the question, “What is yoga?” is one of deep inquiry.
As my primary yoga teacher, Jessica Patterson, says, “If you can define what yoga is to you, then whatever you do will be in the service of yoga.”
To know what yoga is to me helps me to understand why I teach. That helps me to understand how I teach, and what its relevance is on and off the mat.
In a free-association scribble of words that all can be answers to what yoga is, this is what I came up with, until I stopped. The list could go, go, go.
What is yoga? peace hope authenticity self-examination non-aggression consciousness possibilities effectiveness accessibility all-possible togetherness flexibility existential consistency willingness joy recognition vibrations permission transition motivation unimposing attainable care enoughness light fire connection confidence liberation capability everywhere simplicity community existence stillness stability receiving intuitive spiritual inclusive structure sustenance sensation awareness unlimited love intention positive guidance humility anything openness fearless complete insights mystical richness grounded kindness patience presence practice softness history lineage ancient feeling context natural empathy journey inquiry freedom in-tune sharing wholeness purpose meaning oneness flow eternal safety giving wisdom living useful cosmic simple steady rooted action breath inward vision nature shared music pulse study trust space quiet focus heart light depth unity earth real Self life open help soul food calm path seed compassion humanness practice
My summary of this stack of ideas: Yoga is the practice of plugging in.
Plugging in touches the most important words to me from above. When we plug in, we connect. We ignite a flow of energy. We bring light to the dark. We tap into truth, wisdom, authenticity. It is action.
When we plug in, we each connect with our best Self, our wholeness, our fullness. We plug into each other and realize our oneness. This is yoga to me.
Yoga, however, is individualized as much as it is shared. Your free-run list of words to define yoga for yourself would be different than mine. What are they?
Realizing your answer to “What is yoga?” can be an empowering moment of clarity. And that in itself is yoga.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Bishop via Unsplash