Now there’s a loaded question if I’ve ever seen one! Before I get started on this post, I want to remind you that this is my interpretation of what yoga is, my experience with it, and how it has changed my life.
There are so many styles, interpretations, and ways that people achieve the goal of yoga, and I’m not here to judge any of them. Everyone’s yoga journey is different. This is mine. 🙂
The yoga of today can be a far cry from the yoga that originated in India thousands of years ago and in my opinion, that’s okay! When we look at the media, yoga is portrayed mostly as a fitness modality these days, but in reality, it can be so much more.
Yoga – The Word
Let’s start with the meaning of the word “yoga”. Yoga comes from the Sanskrit term “yug” which has come to be recognized as “union” or “joining”. Over the years, the meaning of yoga has come to be that of a practice, discipline, or a means to join or bring unity. For example, we can unite body and mind.
What Do You Call Someone Who Practices Yoga?
Men that practice yoga are referred to as yogis and women as yoginis. I have noticed, at least in my part of the world, that we tend to refer to all who practice yoga, whether male or female, as yogis, especially in casual conversation.
Where Did Yoga Come From?
Yoga is a tradition that originates from India. For years, it was a practice that was handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth and through teaching philosophy and physical postures.
A pretty cool dude called Patanjali, was the first to be credited for writing down the yoga philosophy in the Yoga Sutras. The Sutras cover yoga ethics, meditation, and physical postures, and generally provide a good guide with how to deal with day to day life.
What is Hatha Yoga?
“Ha” means sun and “tha” means moon, so hatha yoga is often referred to the union of opposites. You often see the term “hatha yoga” referred to as a style of yoga in many yoga studios or online yoga programs. In fact, most physical yoga practices today in the western world are hatha yoga. All other styles have been derived from it.
Chances are if you are going to attend a hatha yoga class, it will be a slower paced class than what others may be. Many other styles of yoga exist and there is probably a style out there to suit every personality. Vinyasa, kundalini, ashtanga, anusara, Bikram, hot yoga, Iyengar, and restorative are only a few of the many styles out there.
What The Heck is Sanskrit?
Sanskrit is an ancient language originating from India. Many yoga poses and other terms in the yoga world have a sanskrit term associated to them. Personally, I hardly ever use sanskrit when teaching, however, many yoga teachers do. It doesn’t mean that I don’t know some sanskrit terms. I do.
I figure that yoga (spiritual, mental, and physical), is enough on it’s own to learn using our english language. Why confuse things further by adding in a language we don’t know; at least in the beginning. In time, most yogis and yoginis will learn at least some sanskrit terms. Many times, we know how to say them, but don’t really know what they mean. Some more common sanskrit terms you know are “om”, “savasana”, “shanti”, and “chaturanga”.
Can I Just Do Physical Yoga and Forget About the Mental-Spiritual Stuff?
Yes! and No! Confusing? Yes, you can go ahead and strictly practice yoga for physical fitness. It is an amazing practice that helps us with mobility as we age, feel limber, build muscle, improve cardiovascularly, and heal injuries.
According to our friend Patanjali, there are 8 ways of living that help us reach our goal (the 8th step). The 8th way is samadhi, which can be interpreted as ecstasy, bliss, or union with the divine. One of the paths is called asana, which are the physical postures that we practice in yoga. Ideally, all 7 paths should be practiced to eventually reach samadhi.
The great thing is that there is no rulebook that states that asana can’t be the first path. Perhaps we end up practicing the physical yoga most of our lives and at some point the other paths appear. Maybe we never get to the other paths. That’s totally okay. The point is that you are practicing and that’s good enough.
Here’s the kicker… even if you say “I don’t like all this other airy fairy yoga stuff”, I can almost guarantee that you will experience some positive side effects from your physical practice.
Yoga is known to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, helps you focus, and improves your self-esteem. These are only a few of the myriad of benefits yoga can provide.
My Personal Experience
Personally, I do my best to practice yoga on and off my mat. Even though I’m a yoga teacher, I don’t practice yoga poses day in and day out. In fact, many of my students are much more flexible than I am and I’m totally cool with that.
Yoga provides me with a gentle way of living. It teaches me to approach life and it’s circumstances in a way that I never knew before. It has brought more happiness into my life. In general, I don’t consider myself to be a stereotypical yogi, but really, I don’t know too many of them.
We all have our own path to follow and no matter what that path is, there room for yoga.
What About You?
Are you a yogi/yogini? Or maybe a yogi/yogini wannabe? 🙂 I’d love so hear from you. Make sure to leave a comment below and let me know what yoga means to you.