Published on October 10th, 2016 | by Catherine Tingey0
What is Yoga?
What is Yoga?
Is it just stretching? Is it like Pilates? What is up with all this ‘yoga stuff?’
I hear questions like this often, and hopefully this post will answer some questions, and also get you excited about learning yoga.
In the West, we know yoga as something to do with moving the body and maybe some breathing. That’s the tip of the iceberg, but a useful starting point
Yoga is an ancient system of living from India.
Around 400 AD (or CE-Common Era) an Indian sage named Patanjali, defined yoga in the Yoga Sutra 1.2, as the removal of the fluctuations of the mind.
We’ve distilled it in the common English vernacular to say, ‘Yoga means union’ but it’s a little more nuanced than that.
Let’s look at the actual text: ‘yogas chitta vritti nirodhah’
Yogas = union, to yoke
Chitta = consciousness
Vritti = fluctuations
Nirodhah = mastery
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras was the most translated Indian text in the Medieval Era but interestingly enough, he did not discuss any specific asana. Specific poses, or asana – essentially Modern Yoga – came much, much later.
Many people are surprised to learn that Downward Dog, Triangle Pose and Warrior I are inventions of the 19th century, which is to say they’re about as ancient as the photograph and the sewing machine!
In modern day yoga classes, we can experience yoga, a unified state of stillness in the mind – when we move mindfully with the breath.
Without the breath, the body is just moving mindlessly, and we are doing nothing more than calisthenics.
The breath is the alchemy that turns an ordinary physical shape into something transcendent, capable of transforming the practitioner from the inside-out.
I teach people how to breathe and how to move their body through a series of physical shapes. We begin by centering ourselves and warming the body up. Then move towards a peak posture, and finally close with a series of opening and releasing postures, and finish in a pose called Corpse Pose.
On the surface, it’s actually pretty simple stuff. Granted, the poses have technical requirements and each body has its own unique architecture, but the simplicity of the yoga system is what it makes it so alluring.
You don’t need fancy equipment, special clothes or a gym membership.
And with practice, you will experience firsthand, and sustain, this wonderful and blissful ‘removal of the fluctuations of the mind’ – which is a fancy way of saying you’ll be happier, calmer and kinder.
If you are curious about learning yoga privately, feel free to contact me here!