What does 'yoga' mean & am I doing it right?
I spoke before about what yoga can offer you, but never really explained what it is. Have you ever considered that yoga is not just a form of exercise?
What's behind the word 'yoga'?
Yoga is the Ancient Indian Science of Self-Realization (mokshadharma saastra).
It was founded by Sage Patanjali and its aim was to redeem man from suffering, and from being stuck in the cycle of birth and death. Over time it has been adopted as a practical method, and a way of life.
The actual word ‘yoga’ is derived from two samskrit roots. They are (1) yujir (2) yuj.
There have been different meanings associated with the word. Common translations include ‘connection, unity, controlling the body, senses, mind and intellect & techniques to keep the body young and mind steady'.
Looking at all of the above, one could say that yoga has always been seen as the means or tools to achieve the end goal as well as the end goal in itself.
Back in ancient India people used yoga to gain greater control of their senses, calm the mind and aid the expansion of their Consciousness. With the evolution of our society and lifestyle, yoga is now used as a way to relax and de-stress from everyday life.
Definitions of Yoga
Different texts assigned different definitions to this ancient practice. According to the before mentioned founder of yoga, Patanjali, ‘it is a method to stop the fluctuations of the mind’. Patanjali believed that any technique that keeps your mind away from disturbances can be seen as yoga.
My belief is, that Patanjali meant, this could be anything that puts you in a state, where your mind is not constantly on the go; thinking about all those things that already happened or are yet to happen. Any method that brings you to a place of contentment within yourself, no matter what the circumstances are.
And you’re probably thinking …“But Kat, how am I supposed to be content when after a whole day at work, my train is delayed, I'm hungry, it’s cold and rainy, and the person sitting next to me is eating a sandwich in the most obnoxious way I’ve ever seen!?”
Well friends, beneath all those circumstances, sensations and emotions there is the You that is not affected by any of that. The You that just is. This sense of you being You can never be spoiled by anything and it is ALWAYS within you.
I mean, think back to 5 ...10 years ago - did you not have that sense of being You?
Of course, you did!
The circumstances might have been different, you might have had fewer worries, or better health but the You was still there, unaffected, just like it is now.
So why are yoga classes a form of exercise?
The Yoga Asana (posture) practice we do in classes is just one way to work on removing the fluctuations of the mind and attachments to worldly affairs. By focusing the mind on our breathing and movements and tuning into the sensations of our bodies we allow the thought waves to just drift away, strengthening the brain muscle so that its ability to tap into the essence of your existence improves over time. It's believed it is easier to achieve this after exhausting your physical body.
However ,as you can see, you can be doing yoga without getting onto your mat! Amazing!
It takes time and regular practice but think about where you would be if you tried accessing that part of yourself (i.e. if you did yoga) every time you faced an uncomfortable situation like the one described above!
There are three elements that help you to calm the mind during a yoga practice. I will discuss those in my next blog. Stay tuned!