Those of us that practice yoga, whether occasionally or regularly, do it for our own individual reasons. Some may incorporate it into their exercise regime for the physical benefits. Some do it to look inward and benefit from the emotional cleanse it offers. Others for spiritual reasons, to connect with their soul and a higher purpose. At the end of the day, yoga is an individual journey and as such may mean different things to different people.
The word yoga originated from Sanskrit, an ancient language of India. It was derived from the Sanskrit word ‘yuj’, which means to yoke or to bind. It refers to the union of the mind, body and soul. Traditionally, it was practiced for spiritual development, focusing on uniting all the human facets and bringing them into harmony. Specifically uniting the individual consciousness with the universal consciousness.
The ultimate purpose of yoga is to still the mind. Many of us struggle to quieten down all the thoughts and ideas in our head. Have you ever asked someone what they are thinking about and their response is nothing? Do you wonder how that is possible? Maybe you happen to be that someone who is able to just be. To be without constantly thinking about things. Many of us have busy minds, we are thinking of things to do, of our day’s events that have passed, analysing interactions and living in our heads. Interestingly enough getting a glimpse of this stillness is possible.
One of the most important individuals in the yoga space is Patanjali and his classical definition of yoga is “Yoga is to still the movements of the mind”.
This is what yoga is about and this is what it strives to achieve. Utter stillness of the mind. It requires discipline and consistent practice.
In our western culture yoga has become a popular trendy physical workout focusing mostly on the strenuous types of yoga, but there are many different styles of yoga.
Most people start practicing the physical aspect of yoga. As the body gets stronger it is able to hold various postures longer. With this concentration in place it allows the mind to calm down and harmonize with the body over time. You will most certainly experience this moment of stillness when practicing balancing postures.
Yoga challenges us to listen to our bodies instead of our ego. Our bodies send us signals and often we are oblivious to them. Your body will give you an indication if it is ready to progress, when it needs to take it easy and when it needs to be challenged. Often in exercising we push ourselves because of the ideas, thoughts and beliefs we have instead of allowing our bodies to guide us. Within the yoga practice you can find a way to listen to your body and it will tell you if it needs to be pushed a bit further or if it is happy where it is. Each day is different, some days it asks for relaxation and other days it asks to be challenged.
With consistent practice yoga becomes easier and as our minds start to quieten down, we are able to connect with our feelings. When we are on our mats with no distractions, we are given an opportunity to check in with ourselves. To really experience what we are feeling in stillness, away from distractions and look at what our emotions are telling us from a calmer intellectual perspective.
Yoga is a beautiful and easily accessible tool. A tool that is available and accessible to you throughout your life. It can potentially help you deal with stressful events, a bad day at work or a person that hurt your feelings. It can help find clarity amidst mixed emotions, allows for introspection, brings a sense of calmness and reminds us to stay present.
The starting point to reaching union between mind, body and soul is achieved through the practice of the yoga postures, which in Sanskrit are called Asanas, as well as practicing breathing techniques, called pranayama and taking time out for meditation. Interestingly, most of us who start yoga start with the Asanas, the exercise part of it, and through consistent practice we realize we want to dig deeper and go beyond just the physical aspect of it.
With time we experience glimpses of complete stillness and when we do, we realize there is so much more to this ancient practice. We begin to feel more connected with other living beings, realizing we are connected on a larger scale. For those of us who have experienced and transcended into a state beyond the physical and emotional, and for a split second felt that state of utter bliss, realize there is more, so much more to life than just what we see. People call it an out of body experience for a reason. When we realize there is a connection with the spiritual universe we start to seek and dig deeper within ourselves.
On a physical level it provides a great work out and fantastic way for us to move. It brings different bodily functions into harmony. It assists with health maintenance, developing a stronger physique and building confidence. It is a great way for personal development and growth on a mental and emotional level. It is a way to cultivate our emotional intelligence, to check in with ourselves and see how we are feeling and thinking. To analyse whether on a universal level we are being rational and in sync, helping us to deal with everyday life. With discipline and practice it can become our guide into the spiritual realm allowing us to connect with ourselves and the universe on a higher level.
Yoga really is the union between the mind, the body and the soul. It is through regular practice that you will find out what yoga means to you and you will discover the benefits it has for you.