“What then is yoga? The word has many meanings: relation; means; union; knowledge; matter; logic and so on. For now, let us say that the meaning of yoga is upaya, which means path, or way which we follow or by means of which we can attain something. What then is the path we should follow? What or whom should we seek to attain? The mind should seek to attain what is best.”
-Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
Long time no chat, and I have absolutely no excuse! But I am back and loving it.
And what a good day to be back at it . . .
Happy 2nd International Day of Yoga!
In December of 2014, the United Nations declared June 21st as a day to honour a tradition that is thousands of years old. This tradition has brought humans an awareness and a sense of enlightenment to our physical, mental and spiritual realms of being. I wanted to take a moment today to reflect on what yoga is, both on and off of the mat.
There is so much beauty in the practice and journey that is yoga. Not only do the physical postures (asana) aim to purify the body as well as strengthen and lengthen the muscles, but breath work (pranayama) and meditation (dhyana) aim to purify the thoughts and clarify the mind to make room for more productive uses of our beautiful presence. Meditation and stillness aim to allow the mind to free itself of clutter and distraction, and create a space for internal reflection and mindfulness which will then present itself to the outside world.
In my first 10 months of guiding yoga classes, I have seen the growth and deep understanding that myself and my fellow practitioners have gained about themselves and the world around them . . . from simply being. “Yoga” as defined by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois means union, relation, knowledge, path to something better. The simple act of bringing oneself into the present moment on his or her mat without even performing asana or pranayama is already greatly beneficial to the practitioner. Forget fancy poses, advanced breath work and deep meditation. Simply taking a moment to quiet and calm one’s mind and focus on the larger picture is yoga. Smiling genuinely at a stranger or performing a caring act is yoga. Acting for the greater good for both yourself and others is yoga.
I guess the point that my thoughts have lead to, is that yoga can be performed by anyone. ANYONE! As long as your actions, thoughts and morals unite you to “what is best” (without doing or receiving any harm -more on the Yamas later), then you are performing yoga! This is a pretty neat concept, especially for our Western culture that has put such a precedence on physical asana (physical poses and postures) as yoga, not realizing that yoga exists largely off of your mat!
Perhaps these actions thoughts or morals include:
- physical stretching or strengthening postures on your mat
- breathing techniques to calm your mind and relieve feelings of anxiousness
- meditation on beautiful thoughts and ideas
- visiting an older relative or friend
- making someone’s day a little brighter
- considering mindful ways to go about your day
- sharing some love and positivity
- picking up trash in the park
- kissing your love
- supporting local charities
- buying local goodies and treats!
- the list goes on and on!
If it is something that unites you to a better version of yourself, you are ‘doing’ yoga!
Next time you take a yoga class, consider what your “yoga” is. Consider what it is that you do that makes you your best self. What is it that allows you to ‘unite/relate/know’ goodness in yourself and in others both on and OFF of the mat?
I challenge you to find a deeper meaning in your yoga than what you are currently practicing.
Go ahead, find your yoga. Find that higher, better version of yourself.
The yoga in me honours and appreciates the yoga in you.
Thanks for reading and stopping by! Feel free to share this page and comment below on what your yoga is or if you feel differently. I would love to hear from you. Yoga is a lifelong journey, and we are all students.