what the heck is yoga?
Updated: Aug 15, 2018
When I first entered a yoga class I was literally dragged at the crack of dawn the morning of my best friend's wedding. The instructor introduced child’s pose early on in the class and I proceeded to stay in child’s pose for the remainder of the class because I was so darn tired and really did not want to be there. So yeah, if you know me now that is completely opposite of how I feel about yoga.
I wanted to tell you this because I think it’s important to understand that having a love of yoga and the practice may not happen instantaneously. In my opinion, most of the time we reject yoga because it is so opposite of our fast paced, hard work out, sweat it out culture.
Yoga is so different than most things that we know. It takes a few times to break down your preconceived beliefs about yoga to really feel and understand the hype.
That being said if you are anything like me, you will geek out after learning something new and want to learn as much as you can about it. And here is where I bring you my overview of yoga to debunk some of the abstract concepts and to learn about the true magic that has changed my life.
To start, I want to bring to light that yoga is not just physical practice that we have come to associate with the name. The word yoga directly translates to “to yuj” or to bring together. Through yoga we connect, or bring together, the body, mind, and spirit. It is so much more than downward facing dog. In fact, there are eight different parts that make up yoga and the poses during a yoga class are just one part of the yoga practice. This information was not presented to me during my first yoga class, or my second, and maybe not even the first few months of a consistent practice. It’s easy to see why so many people think that the word yoga means to move the body and exercise. It’s also very easy to see why people fall in love with yoga after they see that it is so much more than exercise.
There are 8 limbs of yoga. I love to tell my new students that you may not feel you are very good at arm balances or even sticking your warrior 2, but you may feel amazing at one of the other parts like breathing or meditation or concentration. The entire practice of yoga is filled with beautiful yet simplistic guidelines for your life. They are all up for interpretation and they are all unique. If you find something you love, get after it and learn even more. Immerse yourself in the practice and see what happens. I promise, you won’t regret it.
Another inspiring text that will bring to light what yoga is all about is The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. This book literally changed my life and still does every time I pick it up. Yoga and all of it’s teachings was an oral tradition for thousands of years. Patanjali decided to record and share the sutras, giving all of us a true gift. The second sutra in the text reads:
योग: चित्त-वृत्ति निरोध:
— Yoga Sutras 1.2
This means yoga is the restraint of the modification of the mind stuff. If I had to explain what yoga is in a sentence, I would use this one right here. The practice of yoga helps us to quiet the constant chatter that’s going on internally. That little voice that never seems to stop talking and telling you how to feel, what to believe, analyzing the world around you, and most of the time being a nag.
Through the 8 limbs of yoga, we work on stopping the voice inside our heads from modifying the way we see the world around us. Yes, we can all argue that the voice in our head saves us from being eaten alive by animals, avoiding eating poisonous berries, not posting the embarrassing selfie, blah, blah, blah. However, when you stop and really think about how much our minds are creating belief systems that aren’t even true, it is kind of disturbing. Take for example me in my first yoga class. When my best friend tried to tell me that we were going to do yoga, the voice in my head immediately started listing hundreds of reasons why I shouldn’t go: I had never done yoga, I could look so stupid, I could get hurt, I am so tired, what’s the point? I really just want to go back to sleep, I am SO hungry, this is going to be such a long day, yoga is dumb and makes no sense, only hippies do yoga, it’s all a bunch of hocus pocus…… you see what I mean? That mind of ours is WILD. That is one of the main reasons that kept me coming back to yoga once I started. I got to observe the patterns of my mind and understand what was going on in there. More on this later, I could go on forever.
Yoga is magic. Pure, pure magic.
It honestly doesn’t matter what you look like in your yoga pants or if you can remember how to do sun salutation A. It is SO much more than that. Trust me, you want to put aside whatever is holding you back and give it a shot. As my mom would say, “what’s the worst that could happen?”