I have been forcing kindly asking friends and family for some feedback on the blog. My cousin suggested I write about what yoga actually is and means, for those who see it as ”sitting on the floor in an uncomfortable position, being spiritual.” Which, of course, it should not be. So I took it upon myself to try and explain a bit what yoga is (or at least can be.) I do want to clarify the views are entirely mine and everybody is free to disagree with these – drop a comment below if you want
1. The word ”yoga”, in Sankrit (please do not stop reading yet! There will not be much Sanskrit!) means ”union” or ”connection.” In everyday terms we can interpret this as having a better awareness of ourselves in our lifes, be it by being more aware and in tune with our bodies and mind, or with our wider physical contect we live.
2. Some say yoga is ”the science of being here and now.” Otherwise we know this as trying to focus on one thing at a time, not worrying about the past or future, or as the buzzword of the day ”mindfulness.” In other words, the easy stuff – Not.
3. Yoga is also a journey. Really. A journey to self-discovery, to learning patience, to (self-)acceptance. Bad news is that it is not a quick trip, it’s a ”process.” The good part is that doing yoga even once a week, or even 20 minutes at a time will bring you benefits.
4. In every day speak, when we say ”yoga” we usually refer to the physical practise, asana (or yoga poses if you preferer.) However yoga is more than just movement, you can check out the eight limbs here if you want to read more.
5. There are many different types of yoga classes. Many focus only on the physical aspect and there no OM-ing or evident spirituality in sight. Some incorporate more philosophy, breathing practises or meditation. Some classes combine aspects of all of the above. If you are complitely new to the system try out a class that clearly says it is for beginners, or failing that, ”hatha yoga” which is bound to be gentle, not too sweaty or uncomfortable.
6. In any case, one should not feel forced to do anything in a yoga class, although you still want to make an effort to the best of your abilities at that moment. What we do not want is to get fixated in some end game or goal, but rather live and accept what is now. There is absolutely no need to be flexible in the body in any yoga class but having a flexibility of the mind will help you.
7. Yoga differs from your stretching with its emphasis to breath and trying to move to the rhytm of our breath and getting to feel a mind-body connection. No need to worry too much about this either, even yoga instructors confuse our inhales and exhales from time to time. It’s ok, this teaches us the art of ”letting go” in its own way.
8. Yoga is not a religion, it is a philosophy and a practise encompassing all aspects of life. You are not signing up to a cult by walking into a yoga class. Equally you do not need to be a vegetarian to do yoga. You are, however, better off not having a heavy meal right before a class, due to the twisting and bending that may take place – no different to any other exercise class.
9. Some classes have chanting. Don’t fear it, just maybe try not to laugh. You absolutely do not have to join in. You are most likely to hear the mantra OM (repeated 3 times) and/or the saying ”namaste”, meaning “the light in me honours the light in you.”
If this clarified some things about yoga, great. If not, ask. If still wondering, check out the post coming up early next week about the benefits of yoga.