What is Yoga

On a crisp, wintry December morning in 2010, two days after Christmas, a new member walked into my Gentle/Beginner yoga class and came towards me. She said, “I am new to Yoga and not sure if this is the right class for me”. I smiled at her and said, “It is perfectly fine. Listen to your body and mind and just go as far as they will let you go. Listen to yourself more than listening to me. Follow your body, be aware of your breath, and you should be good. Just Remember – If it hurts, you are not doing Yoga. This is the right class for you.”

She smiled back and rolled out her mat for the class. She was working peacefully and calmly throughout the class, starting from the triangle pose to the cobra pose. At the end of the class, she did not want to open her eyes and come out of the Pranayam/relaxation/meditation.

As soon as we hear the word yoga, our mind instantly connects to a picture of a tall and slim body in a tree pose, a warrior pose, or a meditative pose in the beautiful surroundings of a beach or mountaintops. Some feel it is a religious practice, some think it is a great physical exercise sequence to make the body flexible while others think it helps you relax. . . Well, all of these answers are partially true, but these are just a few small pieces of the whole pie – Just a few pieces of the whole universal Yogic puzzle.

So here’s a question for you.

Have you ever stopped to think and notice how you are breathing?

I mean, consciously and with an intention?  Probably not. We have too many other extremely urgent tasks at hand.  Yet, we roam around with knots on the back of our heads, tensions on our faces or migraine headaches all the time.

We are all Living in the 21st century modern life styles  where multitasking and constantly reprioritizing our priorities is considered to be a great skill in corporate environment and where there is not much time left for paying attention to the one most important part of life.  Our breath. The one extremely important bodily function that keeps us gets every thing done from the time of birth to our last breath in this human body.

Do me a favor, Right now, as you are reading this page, notice how your breath is moving within your body.

Is it fast, is it slow, or is it deep or shallow? How far is it going within the body?

Notice this- as soon as you start watching your breath for about 2 breaths, it starts slowing down.  Notice if the belly is inflating with inhale or is it pushing itself towards the spinal column?  Oh Yes, as we were growing up, we were taught to suck it in. That’s right.  Already there is a struggle within you of what is the right way to breathe.

Have you also ever noticed a new born baby’s breath and belly synchronization?

If not, next time try to pay attention and you will be surprised at how different it is from your own breath. How far you have come from the way nature intended us to breathe?

This very breath, relaxes the muscles and in turn helps you with your physical asanas (postures) to go deeper within the practice. Eventually making it more flexible and strong. During practice, try to keep your eyes closed if possible to get in touch with every muscle in your body and feel its twists and turns and see the difference it creates within yourself. Remember this will take patience and time but it will happen.

In a yoga class, remember it is all about the connection between the body, the mind and YOU. The physical body sometimes has limitations and that’s ok. If there is one thing to remember, it is to breathe in and breathe out with the Asana (posture) flow. Listen to the body, bring awareness to the breath and follow the heart. When all of these are in sync you are a true yogi.

They say the mind’s flexibility brings the body’s flexibility and a flexible body has a flexible mind.

Let’s compare this body with a car.

You take it for car wash every so often. You have a moon roof and 6  cd changer.  You get the tune up and  oil change done religiously……but the batteries never get checked or the engine is never serviced. The exhaust is not taken care of. Pretty color and pretty paint and the shiny sleek design headlights are great but this car will go only so far.

Likewise, we take extreme care and pampering for our outward appearances but have we ever thought of keeping the insides clean? How can we do this? Surely not with any soap, detergent, perfume, or shampoos…..Breath control, and Pranayam is the key and answer to this internal  cleanliness.

Yoga- if done the right way, services the mind and body from within and Pranayam cleans the internal system. They go hand in hand and need to be practiced as a whole to get the maximum benefits.

Let’s take this one step further. They say, ego is very loud but the tiny little voice within we tend to ignore is the real you….Listen to that tiny voice.  Always ask yourself, why am I doing this and what is the real purpose behind this act? It this what I really want?  After a few days of constant self awareness questions, the answers will begin to amaze you.  With practice, this will bring peace and joy to yourself and those around you. …Try it for a few days and be truthful to yourself.  As the mind starts getting clearer the body will start getting into better poses as well.

Most importantly it is YOU trying to slow down and re-discover the real you. Tuning or synchronizing your mind, your body and your breath to help you reach the ultimate state of physical, mental, scientific, spiritual and Blissful state of happiness – the true happiness.  The one that really does not need long travel plans or spend too much money but still get the happiness you want and deserve.

Yoga is simple.  Get in touch with your self. Your true self. Take it off the mat and into the real world as that is what it is.  It is a lifestyle.  It is how you look at life how you feel towards yourself and the world around you.

Unfortunately there is so much commercialization and chaos all around connected to so called “yoga”, that the true meaning of Yoga is yet to be brought home. All of us in the yoga community are trying extremely hard to do this as best as we can.

Enjoy. Until next time, watch your breathing and just let it go.

Remember, if it hurts it is not YOGA.


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