What is yoga?
Physical practice. Lifestyle. Healing modality. Meditation. System for living. Spiritual tradition. Healing modality. Framework through which to view life. A set of principles and values. Belief system. Philosophy.
It can be — it is — all of these and more.
In the West, it’s most common to think of yoga in terms of the physical practice. For some people that’s all it is: a form of exercise, a “workout.”
My personal experience has taught me that yoga is more aptly described as a work-in.
Even within the physical experience, there are many types of yoga at many different intensities.
In most yoga classes you’ll learn some physical poses — asanas. Many people come to believe that the goal of yoga is to become “good” at doing these asanas, at contorting their bodies into the various shapes.
Several months ago a friend asked on Twitter for recommendations of books to learn how to do yoga. Many people have written books on yoga. But to read a book misses the point of yoga.
Yoga isn’t something you learn how to do. It’s a practice, an experience.
Ultimately, yoga is not about the poses at all. The poses are tools of exploration, vehicles of discovery.
Rather than thinking of yoga as the subject of study, it is we who are the subject. Yoga is the microscope through which we study ourselves.
The pose sets up a form in which we can explore and notice our breath, our minds, our beliefs, and our attitudes. How am I resisting this pose or surrendering to it? What ease or difficulty shows up? Am I desiring to practice my familiar poses? Am I open to the poses I find difficult or challenging?
Viewed through this lens, yoga is less about a thing you “do” and more of a container in which you examine your being.
We are practicing yoga before we get on the mat and when we get off the mat.
Yoga means union. In yoga, we unite mind and body, spirit and soul, physical and spiritual, individual and the collective, masculine and feminine, human and nature.
Through yoga, you join all parts of yourself, coming into wholeness.
It is the path you take to come alive.