Yoga Is…

Yoga is exercise, stretching, meditation, medication, religion, dance, foundation-building, a bulldozer, a path creator, a sunlight catcher, a warm embrace.

What does it mean to you??

Do we enter the studio to gain flexibility, strengthen core, balance, utilize a tolerable form of exercise? And once we get there and practice regularly, why is it that Yoga becomes such an intrinsic part of our lives? Many of us do not decidedly come to Yoga expecting our thought patterns and life to change, however there is usually some shift being created just with the intention of trying something new. Then something happens. We feel lighter after class. Sometimes we experience an actual release of something that we were holding onto and it is time to let go during the practice. We become calmer and able to cope differently then we did in the past.

How is it that the movement we do in Yoga permeates into our being? Is it the same as if we do spinning or play tennis regularly? Perhaps the difference is that we consciously breathe in Yoga where in other places of movement the breath is taken for granted.

Many of us practice Yoga without ever glimpsing or believing in any of the ancient texts which teach the Yoga mind. Are we still practicing Yoga or are we creating something else? And does it have the same effect as the Yoga that is infused with ancient text and meditation?

If there is such a study I would like to find it; A comparison of the Year in the Life of Yoga–one who practices without any awareness of the Yamas and the Nimayas or any other related aspect in comparison to another practitioner who is introduced to the texts. Would the purely physical practice of Yoga reflect into the life of the first person? Suddenly, they have found the perfect job, lover, or have attained ease with what they already have? My guess is that the answer would be Yes but the second person, who had been exposed to the texts would be more cognizant of the effects that Yoga has had on their entire life. This is based upon my own experience.

During a Yoga class, I will consciously release things in moving meditation as a result of listening to inspirational words and connecting to my breath. Less than a year into Yoga after having not practiced it in years, I was able to quit smoking. I can even remember the time during the class that I released it, and the experience of feeling lighter and seeing the color yellow in a forward fold. I felt a little faint. I have experienced a “dropping” sort of feeling during other classes when I have set an intention for letting something go (feelings of anger, fear, self-judgement) as suggested by the teacher. I have also used pranayama when the smoking has crept itself into my life again. I have been smoke-free for a year without any want of it after 20 years of smoking.

Alternately or maybe not, I can recall times when tears flowed endlessly during Savasana or simply lying on the mat before class, sadness or anger refusing to yield until I was home in bed. What is this? Muscle memory? Gheez.

This is one person’s perspective and I do not prescribe my own prescription, for we each have our own journey. However, at the moment in any given class when I am challenged and sweating, a deep surge of gratitude washes over me–I am a believer. I am truly grateful for every Yoga teacher whose class I have attended, as each one has inspired and challenged me in their own ways. Namaste!

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