“Yoga’s goal is Yoga”
The word “Yoga” is derived from a Sanskrit word “Yuj” meaning to join together or unite.
This union or togetherness is between one’s True Self or Higher Self and The Universal Consciousness or All that Is.
Many of the practices of Yoga (meditation, breathing practices and physical postures) emphasize on another union- that of the Mind and Body.
As the popular saying goes, “What the mind perceives, the body achieves”. This is very true from an outside point of view where you see yogis and yoginis being able to achieve seemingly impossible poses with such ease and grace.
However, Yoga is more than just the acrobatic-calisthenic-like poses media so abundantly portrays. The asanas are a part of the Yoga practice. But it is not the whole thing.
Prior to Asanas we have Meditation and Pranayama practices which focus on calming the ever-active mind and purify the body. Only after being done with this are Yogis and Yoginis supposed to start practicing the postures or poses.
As only a steady breath and calm mind will give rise to the body’s unlimited abilities to achieve the pose. In addition, these asanas are not just for posing, each serve a particular purpose to help the individual get deeper into understanding the practice. Therefore, Yoga is something deeper. Something more profound than just physical fitness.
Yoga involves being able to accept oneself- all that we are (limitations) and all that we can be (potentials). But at the same time finding the balance between the two.
Knowing oneself includes knowing your strengths and weaknesses, desires and displeasures, triggers and cessations. One of the Yogic Codes of Conduct speaks about this- Svadhyaya, which means Self-Study.The looking inwards. Understanding and accepting who and what we really are.
Acknowledging the things that make us- us and acknowledging that there is more to us than what we can perceive with our mind alone.
Oftentimes, when people hear “Yoga”, they immediately think of hippies or monks or people out-casting themselves- living in far off places- living off of only plants and herbs and such-not in tuned with reality and always talking about metaphysical things that nobody really understands. Or, people folding themselves in pretzel position and while chating AUM.
But, Yoga is not that! One can be truly spiritual and at the same time be fully aware of what is really happening around them- as a person cannot really be one without the other. Being fully aware of the things happening around you would in turn make you fully aware of the fact that we are all connected and there is a force which is above all of us. In the same vein, being “spiritual” will give you this sense of awareness that we all belong to one collective thing, that each one of us affect each other whether directly or not, and so a conscious being will strive to bring only goodness into this world. Unity would be something a conscious being always strives for.
Yoga is also often branded as an “All-girls-club”.
With the skin-tight yoga pants, airy-fairy-like movements and poses, as well as many other girly portrayals that we see everywhere. Making most of the male population avoid it like the plague, and therefore missing out on the so many health benefit that Yoga has to offer.
However, the history of Yoga actually shows that before its arrival in the West, women were not even allowed to practice Yoga, much more study about it.
The first Yoga gurus were all male and for the longest time it was an exclusively male endeavor.
Regrettably, rather than it being a shared pursuit, Yoga became exclusive to the other end of the spectrum.
Yoga is not limited by gender. Not even by age, race, beliefs, culture, and all the other “labels” society has given each and one of us- and that is the beauty of Yoga.
It welcomes everybody. All you need to do is “be present”.
Yoga is regarded as one form of “Exercise” or “Workout”.
It is often paired with words such as “fitness”, “sexy”, “flexibility”, etc.
However, true Yoga practice, according to the traditional teachings is not any of those things.
If anything, it is actually a “Work-in”.
Looking into ourselves- our breath (Pranayama), our mind (Meditation or Dhyana), our words, our actions, and our emotions.
Acknowledging these things and working on them- controlling our breath and expanding our life energy into the different parts of the body; stopping the different traps of the mind; full awareness of the things that we do and come out of us.
Embodying the teachings of Yoga on and off the mat. Making us a better person day by day.
Yoga isn’t this or that.
Yoga is also neither this nor that.
Yoga is something deep and personal.
A gift handed down to us from a thousand generations.
In the hopes that we will hand it down further more.
Photography Credit: Christina Fernandes Photography
This article was first published on: http://www.familytreeuae.com/health/what-is-yoga-the-modern-misconceptions/