Yoga can seem like a complicated concept. Or, at the very least, it appears to be a bewildering array of bodily manipulations that turn seemingly happy-looking human beings into human pretzels.
Even more upsetting is the knowledge that a stereotype about yoga exists. In some places, the term yoga is synonymous with a cult or commune comprised of individuals with an archaic spiritual belief that compels them to quit their job, sell their house, and go live in the middle of nowhere.
Actually, yoga is a fundamental “thing.” In countries like China, India, Japan, and others, yoga is considered quite ordinary. Those who have the opportunity to visit these places are often pleasantly surprised to see for themselves how commonplace yoga truly is.
Yoga practice originally came to the Western World in 1893. This was when Swami Vivekananda attended Chicago’s World Fair. He was one of India’s most celebrated gurus and is now well known for having sparked the West’s interest in yoga.
The word “yoga” literally comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj,” which means “to unite, to join, or to yoke.” In addition, yoga may also imply the concepts of discipline, fusion, or union.
Hinduism’s sacred scriptures define yoga as a “unitive discipline.” Yoga experts Georg Feuerstein and Stephan Bodian report that the discipline of yoga moves people toward joy and harmony as well as inner and outer union in their book “Living Yoga”.
Essentially, yoga is best known as a variety of conscious living. Yoga is the ability to tap into your inner potential for happiness or what Sankrit refers to as “Ananda.”
What Yoga Isn’t:
Sometimes it can be helpful to understand things by what they aren’t. This is especially true when dealing with a topic like yoga that is frequently misunderstood.
Yoga scholars and authors Feuerstein and Bodian help us understand yoga by telling us what it is NOT:
Yoga is NOT calisthenics (a method of using a person’s body weight with little or no equipment in strength training). While yoga does utilize specific body postures, the primary purpose of these poses is not strength training as in calisthenics. However, increased strength may be a side effect of doing yoga. Instead, yoga uses body postures to help people tune into their inner feelings, creating a mind-body connection.
Yoga is also NOT a meditation system or religion, although many people may mistakenly believe that it is. People continually build their mind-body connection by staying mindful while practicing yoga, just like in meditation. This meditation-like component of yoga assists practitioners in bringing themselves into a spiritual realm.
What is the nature of Yoga?
Nearly all yogic philosophy and science state that human beings are just fragments of our vast universe. When these tiny human beings learn to commune with the power of the universe, they achieve a connection to something much bigger than they can imagine.
Humans can then discover happiness and truth by tapping into or connecting to this higher power. With this truth comes realization. But in order to obtain realization, their words, thoughts, and actions must be based on this truth.
People may attend classes and courses on yoga to learn new techniques. But yoga teacher Tim Miller said, “True yoga begins when you leave the studio; it’s all about being awake and being mindful of your actions.”