What Is Yoga?
What is Yoga?
Yoga means many things to many different people, we can imagine yoga as a tree, with many different branches and with ancient roots deeply embedded in the energies of the earth and the stars beyond. Many people debate the origins of yoga, some people say that it was used to transcend our earthly tethers and connect with the cosmological energies and life forms above. Others believe its purpose is to move ourselves into our body, away from the trap our mind can be. Perhaps it is a mix of both and more, something that can’t be described with words but only felt and lived. Furthermore, our perception of modern-day yoga might not be entirely accurate, we might have projected ourselves and our beliefs onto what it is and might be. Perhaps, it is time to dive into the realm of yoga and discover a deeper and more thoughtful meaning of the practice we all cherish.
In its origins, yoga was forms of meditation, with a distinct purpose. However, as the practice grew, it grew and expanded graciously into movements, as if a spiralling dance emerged from a still center. There are ancient whispers and many debates of its origin, although we can trace forms of yoga back to The Four Books of Yoga Sutra, though we must remember that before script, these ancient and sacred practices were committed to memory and passed down through hundreds of generations of people. So, who knows when yoga was truly created and how maybe it’s we leave that to the wonders of our imaginations?
The Yoga Sutra was developed by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and T. Krishnamacharya in the 20th century and they said it originated from the teachings described in the ancient text of the Yoga Korunta. The wisdom of the Yoga Sutra describes yoga as an eight bodied limb, that grows and unfolds in divine order, in direct relation to who we are and the world around us. The term coined for this eight-fold path is “Ashtanga” and can only be understood through direct experience of its practice. When we focus on one part, the other part indirectly grows too, and pulls us towards its attention, intrinsically taking us to the places we need to be but didn’t know. In my opinion, something that is sacred speaks for itself, thus meaning yoga inherently leads us to what we need at the time we need it and ever changes its whispers and the wind in which it directs us in, just as all is ever-changing and growing. So as we change, so will change what is around us and of course, our yoga practice will change too.
Below is an overview of the meanings of the eight parts of the Ashtanga, however, as discussed before, our own exploration and discovery is the only way to truly understand these paths. I like to imagine them together as a beautiful pattern, that once engaged with through practice, will expand and unfold in an ever-connected way…
Parts of the Ashtanga:
1&2. Yamas and Niyamas: Ten ethical pillars that allow us all to be and live in harmony with each other and all around us.
2. Asanas: Dynamic postures that support the body in staying strong, flexible and relaxed. Strengthens the nervous system also.
3. Pranayamas: Essentially breathing practices that unite the sun and the moon, our inward and outward breaths as one, and connect us to our central hearts. Also, to develop our consistency in the movement of life force energy.
4. Pratyahara: Allowing ourselves to be silent and still, sink in with the stillness and energy of nature around us, and allow ourselves to move to and focus on silence, rather than things.
5. Dharana: Cultivating inner awareness of the self.
6. Dhyana: Sustaining awareness under all conditions.
7. Samadhi: The return of the mind into original silence.
How can we start our own yoga practice then? Or what if we have already started, is there something we need to remember? With so many different types of yoga, so many different paths to walk upon, it’s easy to not know where to start. For me though, I truly believe the first and most important thing to realise, is that being sincere in our wish to grow is the key to an honest, true and beautiful practice. Sincerity is the genuine and strong foundation that will support us, gently and powerfully in the ways we need. Our own sincerity is the foundation that will allow us to flourish in this graceful dance between, breath, movement, stillness and emotion. The dance between the one and the many that effortlessly unites the two into a new whole being.
Donna Farhi detailed so concisely another key pillar that we all must remember – “We cannot strive towards something that we already are” – Yoga is not about forcing yourself or achieving anything, that is a huge misconception in the broad wellness community. That we must force ourselves to practice. When one starts the practice of yoga, meditation and breathwork, your body and soul begin to remember in this life, how you truly are, you give yourself the space to resonate at the frequency of your own essence and the frequencies of truth, peace, trust love and more. It is important to remember that you already are this and in your own time, you will grow into these practices and habits and feel more and more called to them. So instead, of the perspective, which is so common to the modern-day man, of thinking we must make ourselves do something, instead, I offer you the perspective that you may think of growing into consistent practice. Trust that at the beginning of your journey, the seed is within you and it will grow in its own time. As discussed in one of my previous articles, we cannot pressure the grass to grow, nor the flower to bloom. We must know that we take away everything that yoga means, if we force ourselves to do it, if we coerce or pressure ourselves into practice if we believe that yoga is something to achieve.
Rather, the practice is the reward and the result.
Yoga celebrates that gentleness, vulnerability and love, it encourages us to be open to the subtle feelings, to the subtle guidance and wisdom within and around us, that pure and true wisdom that we must be still and at peace to be able to hear. When we are pressuring ourselves, forcing ourselves and with fear, we can’t hear the quiet whispers of truth. I invite you to change your force into passion, to think differently. If we want to live an inspired life of joy, then we must be spontaneous, and we must seek adventure and discovery.
The happiness and peace, the stillness and love, the joy and the effortless grace that we all seek and deserve, none of these blissful emotions and experiences have anything to do with social media and the pop culture that we live in. One cannot receive that pure truth from something so artificial. So, if you are looking for inspired joy, remember you will not find it on your phone or laptop, on the television, or somewhere artificial. You know and feel deep down, where you need to go and what you need to do. So, start building threads of spontaneity in your life and reaching fulfilment!
If you need guidance and support to do that, this is exactly what practising yoga, meditation and breathwork does for you, on its own, it is a technology and a tool that guides you back to your true nature.
Trust that what is no longer serving you will gradually drop away as you enhance your life with the ancient, thousand year old practices of yoga, meditation and breathwork, bring this trust into your life. As you practice once, your body and soul will remember and you will be drawn to practice more and more, it will become easier and easier as you grow into it. And naturally, with the law of attraction (you attract that which you are) you will begin to be naturally drawn toward lifestyle choices that nourish your well-being as well. As of course, yoga, meditation and breathwork nourishes your body, soul and spirit and unites them as one.
Yoga is about unity of all. We are one with the sky and wind, water and earth, they are always there, simply waiting our arrival for union. Yoga is the simple truth of our own wholeness, oneness and unity, and it is a direct and practical method to reach this warm, loving fulfilment and strength.
Yoga will support you in understanding and connecting the separate parts within you together. It will teach you how to be embodied and not live in the mind, it will remind you that they are one thing together.
Yoga will bring Connection, Clarity, Deep Peacefulness, Freshness and Innocence and the Ability to see things as they truly are, you only have to take one step through the door and be open. It is not to be mistaken that this can happen without any effort, conscious energy, momentum or passion. You must give so that you may receive. You must be balanced in yin and yang, want in mind and action in body. Memorise your practice and commit, if these blissful emotions are something that you want, do things that pull you in the direction of them and notice the ones that push you away from your dreams and desires and cut them out. The first time is almost the hardest, however, you just got to get yourself through that door and keep taking one step at a time. The practices will naturally call you to them more and more and you don’t have to worry or force yourself. Remember why you are here on earth, what you want, for me it is to live a life of love and act upon it. You have the power to.
Ultimately yoga is a sacred technology for transcendence. Unbinding ourselves from our limited ideas and setting us free. Supporting us in remembering all that we already know. And a technology for arriving in the present moment.
Having direct experience of his or her true nature is a pure gift, and is called the divine state, “Sivatvam”, where we are being permanently self-fulfilled and self-possessed. If there’s a way to get us there, feeling always with purpose and with love, if there is a way to get us closer to that state, may we invite ourselves to do that. To practice this ancient, sacred technology and allow it to bring us to our true, divine and natural state. To better ourselves and the world around us, as we and our world deserve it. May we allow Yoga to aid us in remembering precious knowledge about who we are at our center and what we truly want, from our hearts.
So in the end, what does it mean to be a Yogi? If I may describe it in one word, I would say it means…
By Trinity Perkins