Yoga was developed up to 5,000 years ago in India as a comprehensive system for wellbeing on all levels: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
Yoga nowadays is a new fashionable trend. If you say you do yoga…the question is what actually do people think you do? Fancy poses they saw on Instagram? Do people imagine you need to be super flexible to practice yoga? …or just sitting and chanting Ommmm...? I always hear some ridiculous stereotypes about yoga from people, especially from those who have never tried it but know everything. The most absurd comment to me was from some Turkish people: "Yoga is some American bullshit, better you go and pray, it would be more useful."
Did it really come from America? What do you know about Yoga? What myths did you hear about Yoga? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments.
Let me share what we actually do in a yoga class and what is Yoga in general.
As a Yoga teacher, I always hear some funny explanations as to why people can’t do yoga, and mostly they repeat the same: "I am not flexible"- is the most popular one…"I am too old"… "It is a women thing"…" I never did it before, it's not for me"…" my mind is too busy or I am too busy now"…
Social media and western culture changed the meaning of yoga. Nowadays a lot of people even don’t know what it is, but they know it's a popular thing to do. Modern western yoga focuses on stretching and poses made to support the physical body and stimulate inner peace, or in other words, some people think it is just for relaxation. Ancient yoga was less about fitness and more about mental focus and spiritual awakening. Never before in the history of yoga has the practice of physical postures undertaken the importance which it has in the West now.
Some people come to yoga expecting a very hard workout and then after they will be able to do all the advanced poses, some are hoping after one practice be completely calm and never stressed again... For some, it's just about relaxation and stress relief, for others getting more fit and losing weight or getting rid of back pain….so what exactly is Yoga?
Probably we all know that Yoga came from India thousands of years ago but nowadays the western world changed the view of yoga and modernized, made it available for everyone not just for monks in mountains. This is the reason we should probably be thankful for the new era making everything available for everyone. But because we live in a consumerist world, where buying and selling come first, the yoga business ( I don’t say all the time) in many cases is about money, as are all the yoga extra products you can buy to make your practice better. But this time I will not go there as I have a lot to say about it in a future blog post.
I will not try to tell all of the Yoga philosophy, but if I have to explain yoga in the simplest way I would say Yoga is a way of living, with a balance in your body, mind, and soul. In other words, Real You living in the moment with full connection with your essence and your life. Not wasting time for tomorrow or yesterday but being present and with a better understanding of who you are and what you want. It is a lifestyle, not some kind of one-time miracle. I will tell you after one yoga class your life will not change completely. Sometimes listening to people, it sounds like one yoga practice will make you a totally different person or your life has turned 360 degrees. Yes, Yoga can be magical but it is a process not a fast result of 45 or 60 min class.
Yoga is for everyone. There are no rules, it's for all bodies, for all ages, all skin colors, your religion, or nationality doesn't matter. Yoga is a personal practice to connect with yourself through breathing, meditation, and movement. This is what's happening in my classes, we breathe, we meditate, we sit in silence, and we are just simply trying to learn what it means “TO BE”. Yoga practice is about reaching a state of pure being.
Then we move consciously with our body, together with the breath to understand our body better, to learn more about our body, and accept it. Not just the body, our thoughts too, our feelings. This is the time when we can be Real. Be the way we are and not needing to prove something to anyone. Yoga practice is your personal space and it's everything about you and your growth.
Sometimes people come to class thinking its mostly about asanas (yoga poses) and not knowing or even not interested in meditation or breathing. Let me tell you more about why we actually do yoga poses and I think I repeat this so often that my students already learned (I hope so). Yoga asanas are needed to strengthen your body to be able to sit longer in a meditation position without the distraction of pain or tension.
Did you ever hear about 8 limbs of yoga?
In Patanjali's (Father of Modern Yoga) Yoga Sutra (the book on the ancient theory and practice of yoga), the path (ashtanga) of eight steps basically act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life :
1. Yama - the first limb, consists of a set of ethics, which ensures that yogi interacts in a harmonious way with the surrounding community.
2. Niyama - the second limb - observances, which are physical and mental cleanliness, contentment, simplicity, study of the sacred text, and acceptance of the existence of Supreme Being.
3. Asana - the third limb is the physical aspect of yoga and if being honest, the word asana here doesn’t talk about the ability to perform a handstand or an impressive backbend, it means ‘seat’ – specifically the seat you would take for the practice of meditation. The only alignment instruction Patanjali gives for this asana is “sthira sukham asanam”, the posture should be steady and comfortable.
4.Pranayama - fourth step talk about Prana - the life force, also referred to as the inner breath. Pranayama means the extension of Prana. Breathing techniques designed to gain mastery over the respiratory process while being aware of the connection between the breath, the mind, and the emotions.
5. Pratyahara - the fifth limb, means withdrawal or sensory transcendence. It is about moving from external senses and turning our focus inwards toward our emotions and consciousness. Pratyahara practice is a good opportunity to step back and look at yourself from the outside, observe yourself with no judging or trying to control. When we are detached from these senses we can observe the mind without distractions.
6. Dharana - the sixth limb - concentration. When we are no longer focusing on the outside world and external senses, we can much more easily concentrate the mind on one single mental object (an image, sound, mantra, energy center, chakra, etc.). By focusing on one thing, we can slow down the mind and thought process, which prepares us for meditation itself.
7. Dhyana - meditation or contemplation, the seventh stage (limb) of yoga, is the continuous flow of the mind being fully aware without focus. (In Dharana we use to focus, in Dhyana complete awareness without focus on an object.) After a long practice of Dharana (concentration), Dhyana can be experienced, even sometimes in the beginning, it can be just a few seconds.
When we come to the point of realizing that everything we have known so far - the world, the body, the mind, and the practice - are all subject to constant change, we have arrived at meditation intelligence. Meditation doesn't take place just in the seventh limb, it goes together through all stages. This is a system of movement meditation - first meditating on the pose of the body (asana), then on life force moving the body (pranayama). Meditating on the sense through focal point (drishti) and listening to the breath (pratyhara). Meditating on the binding together of all aspects of the practice concentration (dhyana).