What is Yoga?
Hint: It’s probably not what you think!
I started yoga as an exercise method about 3 years ago and soon became hooked. By starting out on YouTube and trying different content, I soon began to find favourite styles and teachers. Being naturally curious, (some might say nosy!) I moved to reading up on yoga in books, the internet, apps, wherever I could get my fix really.
What I’ve discovered so far on my yoga journey is that yoga is different for everyone. We all come to the mat for different reasons, at different stages in our lives and with different degrees of flexibility. This seems a good point to mention that traditional yoga is not just about the physical postures or asanas; it includes meditation and pranayama (see the topic on this site for more details), along with bringing yogic philosophies and practices generally into our everyday lives and interactions with our inner-selves, others and the world around us.
The main definition of yoga that I found is that it basically means a union. Definitions vary from person to person again but generally it seems to be a union of the body, mind and spirit, bringing a person into contact with the higher self, the best and most authentic version of themselves, a way of finding peace by coming to know yourself and accept yourself fully.
Of course some people partake purely for the exercise benefits whilst others may start for that reason, like myself, and find themselves drawn to the spiritual side quite unexpectedly. As long as its being practised safely, I don’t feel that there is a “right” way or reason to take part in yoga. That’s the beauty of it.
Historically, yoga began in India, with the word itself being Sanskrit in origin, traditionally thought to mean “to yoke or join”. Precisely when it started seems less clear; a cursory glance around the internet will show more than 5000 years ago, 4000 plus years ago, etc. One thing is clear – it’s been around for a very long time and, in my view, with very good reason – it works!
The purported benefits of yoga are vast, ranging from the physical, (a stronger, fitter, more toned and flexible body), to more stable emotional and mental health, (reduced stress and anxiety) as well as the spiritual benefits connecting you to the world around you and inside of you, (your higher self) leading to a better peace of mind and sense of well-being.
Yoga is so accessible these days – from gyms, to home and even office yoga becoming ever popular. What is important, as with any new exercise regime, is to know your body and seek suitable instruction particularly when first starting with the practice or returning to it after a long hiatus.
I think what frightens many people away from yoga is the thought that they won’t be able to do it – to be fair, many poses that you see someone holding perfectly, you won’t be able to do, (at least not at first) – neither can I! Poses can be adapted and modified to suit your body and abilities and some poses virtually anyone can do. If you can lie down and look like a corpse, congratulations, you can do Shavasana!
Start simple – basic stretches whether lying, sitting or standing with your head aligned over your heart space and pelvis are a great place to begin whilst breathing deeply. If you’re looking to start a home practice, I cannot recommend enough Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. Her videos have quite honestly transformed my life over the last few years in ways I wouldn’t have even thought about when I first began my yoga journey.
Why not begin your yoga journey today? I’d love to know how you find it.