What exactly is yoga?
Why all the hype?
Is it an exercise, a religion or just stretching?
What happens when we do yoga?
If you’re asking these questions, you’re not alone.
Yoga is an ancient wisdom which has, today, become a widespread practice. The experiences of our recent pandemic have led many to explore and embrace yogic wisdom in both theory and practice.
Let’s start from the beginning and explore the most basic questions about yoga.
Before I start to define what yoga is, I should point out the foundation of eastern philosophies. According to most ancient eastern teachings, the mind, body and soul comprise a whole. They constantly influence each other and therefore cannot be separated. What western disciplines usually do is to describe linear cause and effect relations, while isolating outcomes from their roots. The best example is Western (allopathic) Medicine, which typically aims to treat or manage the symptoms of a disease. However, in Eastern Medicine, you can’t be at ease unless you find and change the underlying emotion, condition or lifestyle component which causes these symptoms. Thus the term: dis-ease.
Yoga means “oneness, union.” It is the teaching of seeing everything as one.
Just as our physical body cannot be separated from our emotions or thoughts, we are not separate from other beings on the planet, from our beloved ones, or what’s happening in another country. What happens to us all flows into one big ocean of life. If you are a single drop, you are affecting and being affected by all the other drops, which together create waves.
To embody this truth means to be enlightened. This is not about accepting such with our logical mind as a “true” statement. It’s about embracing this oneness as pure consciousness, which leads to the state of “Nirvana” or “Moksha.”
Yoga offers us sets of practices whereby we can advance along this path toward freedom and enlightenment.
Yoga offers ethical rules and behaviors which one should apply to all areas of one’s life, as well as breathing practices to regulate one’s systems, physical poses (asanas) to train and discipline the body, and so on. Practicing yoga means applying all elements of the practice, but what we mostly know as “Yoga” is the asana practice: the physical exercise aspect. Regular practice of the individual aspects of yoga is sure to benefit anyone.
According to yoga, our bodies are devices which connect the very earth and the skies. We are capable of living in the physical world. We can use and interact with the earth. We eat, we drink and we give back to the earth. We carry emotions, we experience the unlimited power of life, and we are able to direct all our energy to the connection with this feeling of oneness!
So consider stepping on your mat today and making a beginning!
Image courtesy of Abigail Akuffo, the first HॐlloYogaWorld Ambassador to her home country of Ghana.
Follow her on Instagram @fiankobea