What is Yoga?

You may have contemplated that question in your head or you may get asked why you do yoga and what it does for you.  And you may be past the point where it is all about the physical aspects.  In fact, maybe you are at the point, where you actually don’t know how to answer the question because it is an energetic feeling rather than something that can easily be put into words.  And you may not even be sure if your friends would understand what you are trying to say.
Welcome to the world of yoga and what it does to you!  Richard Freeman put it very eloquently in this short video, explaining that yoga will “ruin the auto-pilot that drives your life”.
But it’s worthwhile to go back to the ancient scriptures and look at how the ancient sages dealt with this question.  Patanjali’s Sutras are a wealth of information regarding how to progress on the yoga journey, which tools we are given and which obstacles we may face. The sutras have been translated and interpreted by various scholars and I recently came across one interpretation on sutra 1.2 (yogash chitta vritti nirodhah) that I particularly liked:
“When you are in a state of yoga, all misconceptions or perturbations (vrittis) that can exist in the mutable aspect of human beings (chitta) disappear.”
To me, it describes perfectly what yoga is: When we get this ‘yogic feeling’ we are in a state of completeness, of peaceful stillness and bliss.  When we practice asana, this state is reached (sometimes only momentarily) when the drishti (gaze point), breath (Ujjayi breath) and movement (sourced by the bandhas) are in union, when the mind is in the Here and Now, when thoughts are suspended and we reach a level of focus that we may not know existed.  This is when your practice starts to become light (not to be confused with easy 🙂
Now, does that mean that we always walk around with an angelic smile on our face after yoga practice? Unfortunately, the path up the mountain is not that easy – we may glimpse these deep states of “suspension of thought waves” and then it is back to our rambling mind and a practice that feels hard and like we are not making any progress.  But that is all part of the journey: to persist through these times where we feel stuck in our practice, unkind and ungrateful, because we have acquired a taste of what we are capable of and what it means to feel unconditional love towards yourself and others.

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