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What Is Yoga?

You might think it's obvious right? Now really have a think, look for a definition in your head right now.. what is yoga? It seems that it's pretty likely that your idea of yoga may be pretty different to the next person who reads this.

All you have to do is a quick google search "what is yoga", to realise that there are hundreds of different interpretations of what yoga is, or really can be. This is something that FASCINATED me in my yoga teacher training (YTT). Yoga is hugely popular all over the world, yet nobody can really agree on what yoga really is? From my YTT and through my own research I understand yoga as something that can be interpreted in so many different ways.

Yoga isn't about touching your toes, it's about what you learn on the way down - Jigar Gor

The first time yoga is mentioned in history was thousands of years ago, notably in ancient Indian texts known as the Vedas. The Vedas are highly spiritual texts, relating to the practice of what we know as meditation. There's actually no reference to movement or pulling your legs behind your head.. certainly nothing like the idea of modern yoga we have today! It's only in the past 150 years or so that yoga has been brought to the Western world and had any reference to the physical asana practice we know and see today. Not to mention the many styles of yoga out there, here's some (but not all):

  • Vinyasa

  • Hatha

  • Iyengar

  • Kundalini

  • Ashtanga

  • Yin

  • Restorative yoga

Then there's many different definitions of yoga, from various sources and yogis around the world!

Here's a few to give you a little flavour:

  • Ananda: "Yoga means union. Etymologically, it is connected to the English word, yoke. Yoga means union with God, or, union of the little, ego-self with the divine Self, the infinite Spirit."

  • Oneflowyoga "The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, meaning “to yoke,” or “to unite”. The practice aims to create union between body, mind and spirit, as well as between the individual self and universal consciousness."

  • "Awareness is the secret of yoga."

  • "Yoga is simply meditation, they are the same thing"

  • NHS England: "Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that focuses on strength, flexibility and breathing to boost physical and mental wellbeing."

None of these are right or wrong, but very interesting!

As far as I see it, it's up to you what yoga really is. Each time you step onto your mat to practice, immediately it becomes just that.. your practice. It's nobody else's experience but your own.

Yoga can be different for each of us and that's what makes it so empowering. There's no real "right" or "wrong" way to do yoga. There's so many different styles. So you can pick one, or maybe a few that suit you! Here's a short poem of my own as to embody what I believe yoga is to me:

Yoga isn't about perfecting a pose
Yoga isn't about perfect balance
Yoga isn't about standing on your head or doing the splits
Yoga is connecting with yourself
Yoga gives you perspective
Yoga teaches you how capable you are
Yoga shows you that if you put your mind to it, you can do just about anything!
Yoga guides the way to healing yourself
Yoga shows you the real you
The real you that the world is so blessed to have walking this earth
Yoga shows you that the bliss is real
Let's do this

What is yoga to you? - Let me know in the comments!

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