What is Yoga?

I find myself not being able to sleep some nights because I am trying to come up with short, concise explanations for the questions I keep getting asked from family and friends. It is hard to explain to someone, who has limited knowledge about Yoga, what Yoga is. It might seem silly but I kind of equate it to the question “What is God?” How do you accurately describe something that is different to each individuals experience and is “beyond description”. I read something,…. somewhere, that if you are able to describe your experience with God you probably didn’t experience it at all,.. because it is beyond description. Having said that, I think we get glimpses and hints as to what we are working towards and these are enough to keep us coming back to our practices. I don’t really equate Yoga with religion or God, I just love that idea of the indescribable.

I know when I practice the physical aspect of yoga, my body feels …..empowered. When I make time to meditate, or just sit, I am overwhelmed with creativity, a more open mind, more joy. When I read about Yoga philosophy I find all kinds of connections to other books I’ve read, I find ways to apply the knowledge to make my life fuller, I make better decisions, become a better parent. Pranayama has made me more sensitive to the depth and quality of my breath, I notice when I am breathing shallow or when my exhale is longer than the inhale. These things matter, they make a difference in our lives. I notice the moon now. I always liked the moon, but I mean I really notice it. I see it as something new, symbolic, full of insight and magic. The moon hasn’t changed, but how I see the moon has. Yoga has changed everything.

It is funny how profound a simple idea or change in thought can be. I find myself looking at my children and I see them differently. They have become these little manifested souls, and I feel both removed and apart of them. I see how they are affected and influenced by myself, their father, their experiences but they are also these divine creatures beyond my control. They are on a path that is unique, and totally dependent on how they choose to see the path. I cannot control them, the path or the outcome. What a relief! Even the most evil humans on earth were, at some time, somebodies innocent baby. What happened to them? What purpose do they serve? Tantric yoga philosophy teaches us that everything is divine. I love this idea. If everything is a manifestation of the divine then we have to see the divine in everything. After all, everything and everyone has a purpose, or a role, to fill. Sometimes to feel happy we have to know what it is to feel sad. If we can view negative events in our lives as opportunities to appreciate the positive, we will all be happier, smarter and kinder.

Why should we do yoga? I would say yoga teaches you to ask “why?”. You will start to ask yourself why you feel good after class. You might start to notice how your thoughts and your emotions affect your body. You just might realize that you have the ability to change things. You might start to question the people in your life, or what your body is trying so desperately to tell you. You might just start to remember your divine origin, the light that resides in us all. Yoga makes you ask “why” to all the questions you never even thought to question. Yoga helps you remember all the things you didn’t even know you had forgotten.

I think, the next time someone asks me why I love yoga I will be able to say, with confidence:

“Yoga makes me ask the questions I never thought to ask, and to remember the things I didn’t know I had forgotten”.

Namaste.

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