I’ve been thinking about what yoga is (and isn’t) a lot over the past few months. Okay, it’s probably been more like years, but the point is that I think it’s important to know why you do yoga. And it’s okay if it changes over time.
Like many people, I originally thought Yoga was synonymous with stretching. I had also heard it defined as union, balance, and that the root comes from “to yoke”. Although I wasn’t sure to what I was yoking.
The definition I resonate with the most is written in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Sutra 1.2 states “Yoga is the ceasing of the fluctuations of the mind”. The steps for this simple but not easy objective are listed in the sutras that follow. When I feel lost, I use them for guide posts. Cultivate attitudes of friendliness, compassion, joy and equanimity (Sutra1.33). The first limb of yoga (the yamas) instruct us to be non harming, truthful, not to steal or envy, and to conserve our vital energy. One of the few sutras on asana lists that our efforts should cultivate steadiness and ease (Sutra 2.46). All good efforts to be sure, but to what end? If you know why you’ve chosen the path of yoga then you can determine if you efforts are truly taking you where you want to go.
And that’s the question I want to ask you. Where do you want this practice to take you? Why are you pursuing yoga, and not pilates or kickboxing? If it’s truly just a physical practice, then there are plenty of other fine disciplines that will help you get fit.
For me, yoga is about coming home to my true self, to the unchanging part of me that is connected to everything and everyone. It’s about following a time honored tradition that is still relevant in the modern world. I’m thankful for those that have come before me and left me enough signposts that I don’t fall off a cliff.
Walking the path of yoga challenges me to put in the effort to inhabit my life fully, without fears, worries or regrets. And it reminds me that despite how I may sometimes feel, I am never truly alone.