Ok guys…so FIRSTLY, I realise I’m shooting myself a little bit in the foot with the title of this post. Yes I’ve JUST done my 200 hour yoga teacher training, and yes I whole heartedly appreciate that yoga is inherently difficult to ‘define’ in a ‘nutshell’. However, through my own practice and thereafter, yoga teacher training I have come to realise the main essence of yoga and what it can mean to different people. Essentially you define your own yoga practice and what it means to you. For the newbies (and perhaps those who haven’t really thought about yoga and what is is) here’s a cheeky summary of what I (and many others believe) to be the essence of yoga (in a nutshell)….
What the Books and Iconic Yogi’s Tell Us
There are many forms of yoga world over, but all with same aim. In B.K.S. Iyengars’ book “Light on Yoga” (one of the most famous yogic texts), he describes how “the word Yoga is derived from the Sankrit root: ‘yuj’ meaning to bind, join, attach and yoke.” (B.K.S. Iyengar, preface, Light on Yoga, 2002). Here Iyengar is alluding to the idea that yoga can be seen as a way of ‘yoking’ oneself (through the use of yoga) to connect to an experience that is greater than the self. Another term that yoga is frequently translated into is “union”. Similarly here, one could say that through yoga, one can attain a “union” to their ‘true divine nature’ (whatever they perceive that to be in their life).
Patanjali’s famous definition of yoga brings about the the idea of consciousness by describing the idea of yoga as “yogash chitta vritti nirodhah”(B.K.S Iyengar, 2002) which roughly translated is the cessation of the fluctuations in consciousness. The idea that regular practice of yoga in all it’s forms (meditation, pranayama, asana), can bring about the conscious, uncluttered mind. Patanjali famously uses the phrase “atha yoga anushasanum” in the sutras 1.1. Here he is demonstrating how yoga teaches the need to be present. The need for now. Not as you are reading. Not in the future. Right here, right now.
Yoga can mean different things to different people. Essentially, the practice of yoga is much more than the (very Western perspective) of yoga being just about the “fitness and health benefits” or all about the asanas (postures). Crucially the practice of yoga brings about far greater life affirming changes in the lives of many people the world over. My yoga teacher Lara Baumann (founder of Quantum Yoga) summarises nicely “ultimately yoga is a state when you need nothing”.
What Personally Yoga Means for Me
Before I went on my 200 hour yoga teacher training intensive course in Sri Lanka I wrote a post called: “Why YTT?” (found here). Here I share what yoga means for me personally. Yoga has been a large part of my life, sometimes I do yoga all the time, sometimes there will be weeks where I go without it. Fundamentally what never changes is my knowledge of what yoga brings to my life. Yoga keeps me grounded. It stills my otherwise insanely cluttered mind (typical in Vata types like myself – more on that in a later post!). Yoga travels with me throughout my journey, through the world and in life. It is the constant that keeps every element of my being, happy, healthy – regardless of the external turbulence and environment that we are regularly subject to on a daily basis. It brings me into consciousness (more on this in my post about meditation!). Yoga will always serve you throughout your life, young, old, beginner to advanced. It is most important to recognise is what it brings to a yogi off the matt. Away from the postures. The presentness and consciousness it brings to your life.
Of course, yoga has numerous aesthetically pleasing benefits. The nature of the practice nourishes the body inside and out. Whether it be the massaging of the internal organs through twists, opening of the whole anterior body through backbends (much needed in our Western culture) or the toning of the entire body by using every muscle group throughout the numerous asana. The physical benefit list is endless. However, where the magic REALLY lies are those benefits the yogi receives in addition to this. What it does for the mind and the space that the prana (breath) creates for the human being in their entirety.
What Yoga Can Mean for You
Most importantly, what can yoga mean for YOU? Whether it be getting your body moving, getting the mind open, more light in your being, reaching that something that is ‘greater than yourself’. We owe it to ourselves to acknowledge what yoga as a whole brings to individuals.
I can’t wait for my yoga journey to continue to evolve, to continue to teach me and to share my learnings and journey with you! I’m forever being humbled by what yoga brings to me both on and off the mat. Stay up to date with little old Kimmy the newbie yoga instructor on the blog and through my social media channels!
Till next time…Namaste!
Sending health & happiness,