Yoga. What is yoga? To be literal Yoga means To Yoke. Any two things that can be joined together can relate to yoga. Yoga is about relationship. It is a challenging physical activity that will introduce you to shapes you didn’t know that you could put your body into to. It is an opportunity to skillfully reshape your body so that it feels good and looks good. As well, Yoga will leave you feeling clear headed, peaceful and energized.
How is this possible?
It is in the yoking… There are many styles of yoga, and what makes them different is essentially based on what particular relationships a teacher is interested in focusing on. In simplified terms: Bikram Yoga students are exploring a relationship between the mind and the body via the heat. In Iyengar Yoga the students are exploring the relationship between the mind and the body via the props and the intellect. In Ashtanga yoga the students are exploring the relationship between the mind and the body via the sequence and the breath. In Vinyasa Yoga the students are exploring the relationship between the mind and the body via the movement and the breath. These are all just some examples of how yoga works in terms of modern classes.
Whenever we are consciously exploring the relationships between our thoughts and our actions we are practicing yoga.
Personally, I would answer that yoga is a Uniting of the mind and body with The Breath acting as the yoke. For example, if you take a moment as you’re sitting here reading and put your feet firmly on the ground while you remain sitting. Let your hands rest on your legs, and start to notice your breath. Breathe in… Breathe out… Breathe in… Breathe out… Did you really do it? Seriously, take a moment and sit up tall and watch your breath…
Now, your mind and your body are psynched up, they are doing the same thing. Your mind is observing your breath. Your body is actively breathing. The breath is therefor The Yoke joining two distinct parts of yourself together to have a shared experience. Don’t just take my word for it – try it for yourself. When you apply this same technique of breathing mindfully during a yoga class the result will be greater control over the ways that you can move and shape your body.
The possibilities of what can be joined in relationship are as vast as the imagination. Yoga can therefor be taken one step further to be defined as The Art of learning how to relate two experiences to one another in order to find common ground, which will improve strength, and broaden one’s flexibility and range of motion.
If that all sounds too heady then let me put it this way: Next time you want to feel better, go try a yoga class. If you want to feel better in your body or in your mind then Yoga is worth a try.