Recently a friend said to me “I know you do Yoga, but what does that actually mean? What is Yoga?” His honesty was like a breath of fresh air, as it seems to me that many of us talk about things all the time that we actually do not really understand. Yet, few of us would hardly ever admit to ourselves let alone to someone else that we actually do not really know what we are talking about.
In all honesty, in my first few months of going to Yoga class I had no idea either what it was actually all about. I was just frustrated I could not keep my legs straight and touch my toes in a standing forward fold and that my back would not stay straight in a forward bend. I’m grateful to say that eventually I did catch on to the idea of Yoga and I have learned since that it is not really about being able to touch my toes, do a handstand, or twist like a pretzel (even though those are nice side effects of regular asana practice ). At some point I came to the realisation that Yoga is not just another form of physical exercise. On the other side though, Yoga is not just spiritual mambo-jambo either.
In its essence Yoga is an ancient philosophy that points at who we really are. It is not a religion or a dogmatic belief that tells us who we are and need to be but it is a path designed to realise the truth for ourself. There are many different ways of walking this path and one can be a Yogi without ever doing a single backbend, forwardbend, headstand or other posture in his life. There are simply different techniques to find our truth within and practicing yoga is about having an attitude of seeking, of being open to letting go of what we think the truth about ourselves and the world is and start to experience it.
The ancient yogis came up with a pretty smart system that is designed to help us unfold this truth for ourselves and to get into a state where we can simply exist in this knowingness. Of course, an asana has certain physical, emotional, mental and energetic benefits yet being able to do a certain posture is not the real aim of yoga. Moving into a place of being able to let go off the body and what it can and cannot do actually brings us a lot closer to the real core of Yoga.
Yoga practice can lead you to an experience of your own inner truth and the essence of who you really are, which goes way beyond your mind and your feelings. This is place that no one can describe for you and you have to be in it in order to understand and then understanding won’t matter anymore.
Over the next few weeks there will be a post each week introducing one of these different Yoga Paths to you (check the menu below for the series on Yoga). Maybe this will inspire you get into yoga even though the thought of doing strange postures really turns you off
Find the whole What Is Yoga Series here
Photo Credit: Gláucia Góes