What is yoga?

What is yoga?

Yoga can mean different things to different people. For me, yoga is a mystical path, an individual journey, lifestyle and path to self-discovery. Yoga encourages me to explore and experience my own truth through direct experiences of higher states of consciousness. Meditation is one way I use to experience a higher state, helping me to find peace in a busy world.

I’ve spent the past twenty years practicing primarily Hatha and Kundalini yoga. Yoga in the modern world is sometimes confused as mainly being a physical practice, or asana only. Asana is one part of yoga, but not all of it. ‘Ha’ for the sun, or masculine energy and ‘tha’ for the moon, or feminine energy, makes up the word ‘Hatha.’ Hatha, as a tantric path, similar to Kundalini yoga, uses breath-work to stimulate and balance the energy in the body through the chakras. It’s easy to get confused with all the different traditions, of which often get mistakenly referred to only as class styles of yoga when you read the various descriptions at your local studio or gym.

The meaning of yoga, as translated from Sanskrit, is union.

Union of body, mind and spirit is the integration of one’s thoughts, words, and actions. At the centre is the heart where you can find balance, or harmony within. Thoughts are like a pendulum that swings between happiness and unhappiness and by being present you are able to slow the swing of the pendulum down. For example, if you are in disharmony, if your actions are out of sync with your core beliefs, or if you are thinking about one thing but saying something different, you are not living in alignment or in a state of union. Over time, a persistent and fundamental disconnectedness of thought and action can cause a sense of dis-ease, often manifesting in the body as disease.

According to Patanjali’s yoga sutras, yoga is the control of thought waves in your mind. Patanjali was an Indian sage who compiled the sutras (196 aphorisms or truths) around 400 CE as a result of summarizing materials about yoga from previous traditions. “Yoga citta vritti nirodha,” is the second sutra and translates to “yoga helps to still, or stop the fluctuations of the mind.” These mind fluctuations are repetitive thought patterns that limit you from seeing the truth about yourself, or the world around you.

The truth, as I interpret it, is that we are all one; we all come from the same source of the Divine Creator, yet we so often create barriers that separate us. These can be geographical barriers, race, religion, class, sexual orientation, culture, income, whether we are male or female, etc., there are hundreds of reasons we create to separate ourselves.

When you take the time to connect within and with others, you discover that you share the same struggles and fears and insecurities as others, as well as share many of the same successes and ideas that make you happy. When there is too much busyness in the mind, it’s easy to get caught up in your thoughts; you spend less time in stillness, less time identifying yourself as spirit.

What does yoga mean to you?

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