I am a trained Yoga teacher and I have been practicing Yoga for more than a decade now. And still, whenever the question “What is Yoga?” during my yoga trainings turned up, I made myself quite small, eagerly trying not to be noticed and asked.
“What is Yoga?” Some Students then would immediately give the answer by quoting Patanjali (Sutra 1.2): “Yoga Citta Vritti Nirodaha” – “yoga is the cessation of the modifications of the mind.”
Some others would state, that Yoga, comes from the Sankrit root “Yuj”, which means to joke.
Ahhhh, yes. Quite theoretically, I would say. Don`t you agree?
The beauty about Yoga is, that it is a practice, not a theory. As Sri K. Pattabhi Jois used to said: “Yoga is 99% Practice & 1% theory.”
So, keeping that in mind, maybe we have to change the question and should rather ask: “What is Yoga for you?”
And now it becomes really fascinating. Ask a thousand people and you will get a thousand different answers. And the best? In contrast to a school exam there is no wrong to that question!
Let`s read through some of the answers of yoga practitioners, gurus and sages for some inspiration:
“Yoga is the end of suffering” (Buddhism)
“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” The Bhagavad Gita
“…an integration and harmony between thought feeling and deed, or integration between head, heart and hand”. (Swami Sivananda Saraswati)
“Skill in action” Bhagvad Gita
“Yoga is Ecstasy” Sage Vyasa
“Enlightened everyday living” Swami Venkatesananda
Wow. How beautiful is that! I could go on and on with these quotes.
And as many different answers there are to the question “What is Yoga for you?”, as many different types of Yoga practices there are as well.
You must already have figured, that Yoga is something quite personal and a very intimate practice with one Self. Therefore, everyone`s Yoga practice is quite unique and the perfect match to each individual.
Ever heard the phrase: “I can’t do Yoga, because I am not flexible enough.”?
But guess what?
When my grandfather is in his garden and completely involved in his planting activity, forgetting time and space- that is Yoga.
When you hike up a mountain and deeply inhale and exhale, not being aware of anything else besides the rhythm of your breath synchronising with your steps – that is Yoga.
When friends sit around a camp fire and feel complete oneness with everyone around, while singing together -that is Yoga.
When a nurse is taking care of her patients, selflessly giving service without any thought of her own benefits- that is Yoga.
When lovers watch the sun setting down, with an unbroken gaze towards the sun – that is Yoga.
When a scholar is studying intensively the holy books – that is Yoga.
And yes, also when you are in the Vrksasana (Treepose) on your Yoga mat, breathing consciously through the nose in and out, keeping the mind anchored in the hear and now and finding ease and stability at the same time – that too is Yoga.
So when all that is Yoga, what is actually the essence of Yoga?
Well, whom am I, to answer this? But let me now tell you, what Yoga is for me:
Yoga is when my body, mind and soul are in harmony, which gives me not only a deep connection to my own true Self, but also a sense of Oneness with the Whole Universe. Yoga to me is simply to be.
And now, I am asking you: “What is Yoga for you”?