What is Yoga?
Consider for a moment how you wonderful you feel in Savasana (corpse pose) after your 60-minute Yoga practice. Now imagine the potential of what you can feel in everyday life?
I'd like to invite you on a journey.
A journey to explore and achieve your ideal ‘balance’ in body and mind.
An adventure of movement, breath and ancient wisdom.
A discovery of ancient wellness tools that will help you perform at your greatest not only now, but for the rest of your life…
Before we begin. I invite you to take everything you know about Yoga and place it carefully aside. Let’s open a fresh page and begin anew.
We are going to travel back in time to Northern India. The year is approximately 200 BC. There, the first known ‘guidelines’ centered around Yoga are written by a Sage called Patajanli. These guidelines are called, The Yoga Sutras.
The Yoga Sutras outline a number of steps and practices to help the ‘Yogi’ prepare their living environment, lifestyle, body and mind through Yoga in order to achieve the perfect balance, and subsequently, enlightenment. At this time, Yoga was not practiced as it is today in the Western world. There are no groups of people led by one Yoga teacher in dedicated Yoga studios. There are no sticky mats, acrobatics, Instagram selfies and stylish lycra clothing. Instead, the student of Yoga left their village or town at an early age and bid farewell, sometimes forever, to their family. They embarked on a journey that could in some cases last an entire lifetime. Each student of Yoga studied one to one under a dedicated Master or spiritual Guru. These teachings went on for as long as it took to achieve enlightenment. The process could take many years, decades and even entire lifetimes. Indeed, many students of Yoga would die having never become enlightened.
Once the student of Yoga had achieved the perfect balance, and subsequently, enlightenment, they in turn would become a Spiritual Master or Guru taking a student of Yoga under their wing and guiding them in body and mind through Yoga.
Today, in the Western world, we consider Yoga as a form of light exercise and stretching. In some cases, Yoga is presented to us as movement of the body into and out-of flexible acrobatic postures. In other cases, Yoga is illustrated as a spiritual practice calming the mind through mindful movement and practices such as meditation and pranayama (breathing exercises)
Most people are quite surprised to discover that the movement aspect of Yoga in itself, is only a small drop in the ocean when we explore what is Yoga. Indeed, our entire concept of Yoga today is a modernized, westernized, and commercialized version of what Yoga really is…
In ancient times, before any Yogi was encouraged to engage in asana (movement of the body as part of their Yoga practice), they would first spend a considerable length of time studying, learning, practicing and living by two major types of Yogic guidelines. These guidelines were outlined in The Yoga Sutras texts and are called
The Yamas encouraged the Yogi to first study, understand, learn and live a life rich in:
Ahimsa (love and compassion)
Asteya (non stealing)
Brahmacharya (preservation of energy)
Aparigraha (non attachment)
The Niyamas further shaped the Yogi’s lifestyle encouraging a life reflecting
Svadhyaya (study of the self)
Isvara Pranidhana (surrender to a higher being)
Only after all Yamas and all Niyamas were studied carefully, explored, learned and effectively put into practice was the student of Yoga permitted to begin the 3rd step on their journey to enlightenment.
This 3rd step was the physical practice of Yoga as we know it today. Asana.
Because the physical practice was one to one, between the Guru and their disciple, the Guru could choose specific Yoga movements beneficial to the practitioner. The Guru would prescribe Yoga postures or Asana taking into consideration the student’s physical body as it was. An individual or unique plan was devised for that Yogi. The Guru would create the ideal blend of Yogic postures to develop just the right amount of strength and just the right amount of flexibility alongside purification and energy management exercises so that the Yogi’s body could eventually work at its highest performing capacity. The goal was that the student’s body would eventually become as functional as earthly possible, as balanced as possible, as abundant in vivacity and energy as possible. Thus, fully prepared for the next step. The Mindwork.
What we consider Yoga today is so far removed from what Yoga really is and was traditionally and historically. Whilst the need to modernize and westernize ancient wellness practices to fit-in with our modern lifestyle is undoubtedly necessary, it is imperative to honour this ancient practice and manage people’s expectations when coming to Yoga by pointing out the enormous gap between Yoga historically and our version of Yoga today.
A weekly Yoga class is a great start and introduction to Yoga. However, if you expect Yoga to have a deeply profound impact on your body’s flexibility and strength, your mind’s thought patterns and serenity and your overall energy levels, a much deeper excavation of theory and a consistent practice of movement and meditation will be necessary.
Consider for a moment how you wonderful you feel in Savasana (corpse pose) after your 60-minute Yoga practice. Now imagine the potential of what you can feel in everyday life if you spend time and energy integrating The Yamas and The Niyamas into your lifestyle. If you know and consistently practice the postures that are specifically beneficial to your body type and will encourage increased strength, flexibility and purification of toxins. If you integrate meditation and breath work on top of that. Imagine what is feels like to have your body and mind working at their full potential?
Any practice of Yoga, with the right consistency, will move you in the direction of a stronger, fitter more flexible body and mind. Negative or non-serving thought processes and habits learned over a lifetime can be completely re-engineered. Our energy can become something we are in absolute control of. Yoga can help us to learn how best to manage and master
how we move
how we think
how we breathe
how to generate, conserve and spend energy wisely
If you try, Yoga can change your life.
If you want, Yoga will change your life.