Yoga is many things. In the West, Yoga is a best known as a physical exercise that combines movement and breathing to promote flexibility, fitness and relaxation. It is a great way to reduce stress and promote overall general health. Deeper inquiry reveals that Yoga is much more. Yoga is a state of mind. Yoga is a way of life. Yoga is a process that can lead to self realization. Through yoga we learn who we are, why we are here, and how we fit into the world we live in.
Yoga is estimated to be over 5000 years old. It was developed by ancient Yogis as a method to answer the the basic questions we still struggle with today. Who am I? What is my purpose? How do I fit in? They perceived that the answer to these questions would lead to self realization, enlightenment and spiritual union with all existence. In fact, in Sanskrit Yoga means “to yoke” or “to unite”. Yogis believed that in order to unify mind, body, and soul it was first necessary to perceive the essence of one’s self with a view unclouded by ego, emotion, or other disturbances created by the mind. They saw peace of mind as an essential first step to self realization. Patañjali, a Yogi who lived about 2000 years ago, compiled millennia of existing thought into a writing called the Yoga Sutra. He believed peace of mind to be so important that he actually defined Yoga as “Chitta Vritti Nirodah” meaning mind turbulence cessation, or a state of mind where attention, reason, and ego are controlled to permit total awareness. Patañjali’s Yoga Sutra is a “how to manual” that details an eight step process to achieve peace of mind through the process of Yoga.
Regardless of your motivation, Yoga has a lot to offer. The potential health benefits, documented and supported by medical research, are significant and numerous. If practiced regularly, over time Yoga has been shown to: increase flexibility and muscle tone, promote good organ health, lubricate tendons and joints, improve respiration and circulation, decrease stress and hypertension, promote relaxation, improve the quality of your sleep, and assist with weight reduction, and pain relief. If you choose to take Yoga a step further by incorporating the process of self internalization, concentration, and meditation into your practice you stand to gain, as a minimum, a deep and abiding peace of mind. With dedicated practice you may be able to answer the questions posed above, achieving greater insight into who you are, how you relate to others and how you can live a meaningful and productive life.
There are so many different types and styles of Yoga that it can sometimes be overwhelming. There is Hot Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Yin Yoga, and the list goes on. It is good to experiment and try as many different types as you can. Over time we find ourselves drawn to a practice that best meets our individual needs. The Yoga I teach can best be described as holistic or integral. It is holistic in that it includes yoga elements that benefit the mind, the body, and if you chose, the Soul.
Yoga is many things. It is physical health. It is a state of mind. It is Peace of Mind. It is a process for spiritual growth and self realization. But the best thing about Yoga is that it can be exactly what you want it to be. There is no need to practice any aspect you are not comfortable with. Just take what you need.