“Yoga is for chick’s, right?” + “Isn’t yoga an Instagram thing?”…

…are just two of the things I’ve heard people say.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I think that for many people there is a big question mark around what this thing called ‘yoga’ actually is. Am I right? Do you know your hatha from your ashtanga? Your down-dog from your crow? Its a subject that I am very passionate about, so I want to explore various elements of the practice in a new series of posts. I start with this one in which I consider the word ‘yoga’.

 

Sivananda Kutir, Uttarkashi, Uttaarkhand, The Himalayas.

 

Some of us are totally into it, some of us totally scared of it. On either side of this divide, there are those of us that don’t truly understand it. I think I first went to yoga simply because I thought ‘it can’t hurt to have a good stretch, can it?’.

It might be easier to start with the question ‘what ISN’T yoga?’: For me and so many others, it is everything. I can say with my hand on my heart it has saved my body, my mind and my life. It is a coping mechanism for the challenges of daily life. It helps me connect the dots and offers a way back home, even when I am far from it. It is both a challenge and a way of healing. Most importantly it helps me find my flow.

The physical layer of yoga is pretty much the first one that most people arrive to. For many this will be as far as it goes, and that is absolutely fine: Any teacher worth their salt will applaud that in fact. Other than this delicious process of stretching the body and connecting with it, yoga goes far far beyond that – the multi-dimensionality of it is precisely why people dedicate their entire lives to it.

Even with a lifetime of study, few people will ever know absolutely everything there is to know about this ancient practice…there are so many more layers than the physical alone. This is precisely why the legacy bestowed upon us by the yogis of India is a precious one: It is vital that we keep this gift alive with study, practice and sharing. So with some eighteen years of practice under my belt, and a 200 hours teacher training in India, I am still learning every single day.

 

Slides from my yoga studies in The Himalayas

 

I will be delving into specific topics in greater detail with future posts, for now I simply want to pick up on the definition of the word ‘yoga’: Yoga can be translated in a few ways, the easiest and most concise of these is ‘union’. It is about ‘bringing together’ or ‘uniting’. I’ve discussed it with a few of my fellow yogis and have been told the word derives from ‘yolk’.

On the physical level, my hatha based practice takes it’s focus on uniting or connecting the breath with movement. The theory behind this is that open lungs plus open body equals open mind. Sometimes proper breathing is all it takes, and sometimes thats all I focus on in my early morning practice. I just go with how it feels, or to coin a phrase, go with the FLOW.

So now I’ve touched upon what the word ‘yoga’ means I’d like to ask you the question: Do you know how to breathe properly?

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