What is Yoga?
If you look at the meaning of the word, yoga means "union" (coming from the word yuk = to unite). There are many different approaches on how to describe this union based on different ancient spiritual texts:
The Bhagavad Gita
Yoga: (from yuk “to unite”) Union with God, realisation of the unity of all life; a path or discipline which leads to such a state of total integration or unity. Yoga is also the name of one of the six branches of Hindu philosophy, and as such is paired with Sankhya. (or Samkaya, the dualistic concept of Purusha and Prakriti)
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
I.2: “The restraint of the modification of the mind-stuff is Yoga. If you can control the rising of the mind into ripples, you will experience Yoga.”
Verses 43-45: “Understand that enlightenment is yoga. (yoga is enlightenment), and yoga has eight limbs. Yoga is said to be the union of individual self and the supreme self.”
Hatha Yoga Pradipika
State of union between two opposite poles, viz. Shiva and Shakti, body and mind, individual and universal awareness; process of uniting opposing forces in the body and mind in order to realize the spiritual essence of being.
But when I look at my journey in yoga, surely I didn't want to unite anything with anything since I had such a little knowledge on it. I used yoga as a tool and I still am using it today, to balance and strengthen my mind and body, to create space in my head for self-reflection and growth, to start breathing as I wake up and carry that practice throughout my day. Following the Sutric way with a Hatha Yoga practice I find most my values in this system. I challenge my body with my Ashtanga Practice, I calm my mind with my Pranayama practice and I am creating space and aiming to empty my brain of useless chit-chatter through my Pratyahara, Dharana and Dhyana practice.
But most importantly if I had to say what yoga is for me, I would say it is healing. Healing the wounds of the past, rewriting the patterns of the brain that do not serve me anymore, healing my nervous system and healing my gross body so I can be ready to see myself from the inside.
I always considered myself a lucky person, I mean I am, after all I am sitting at my computer writing a blog, that makes me feel I am privileged and comfortable. I am grateful for it every day and working on shining my light into this world, but it is not a doubt that we all have stuff to deal with. We all have our past Karma, whatever it may be that is embedded in us. Most the times we can create perfect illusions on the surface to not have to deal with it, because self-realisation can be a painful journey. But it is essential.
Healing cannot take place without facing our true inner self and allowing it to reflect back to us unmodified of expectations. Our expectations, our families expectations, our teachers expectations, society's expectations and so on. Believe who you are and who you want to be for sure, but don't hide who you are right now because that you also need understanding. How could we build a house on a loose foundation, on something broken or dis-functioning? I know I can not and I don't see the point because from personal experience, I can only lie to myself for so long.
So I do yoga. To clean my mind, to clean my body, to come to understanding with myself who I am and what I want to do in this life. It is not always easy, it comes with letting go a lot and setting challenging tasks for myself. Letting go things that I may wanted in the past (or so I though) and worked towards for years, and setting new tasks that frighten me and I feel I know nothing about how to complete them.
But it is ok. Slowly developing into being comfortable with the need for stepping out of my comfort zone, I of course know it's going to be nerve-racking at points but I also know it is the strongest me that is dealing with it all. Yoga is a space where I can heal and build myself, my goals and dreams, a tool but it is also much larger. A mansion with many rooms, where I can always return to no matter how long I've been away. When I live in that mansion every day I take good care of it and keep it clean and sparkling, when I'm not home the dust covers all the furniture and belongings. They are still there, just need a bit of extra work to come back to the right state. But similarly when I'm home I am improving this space, I grow flowers in the garden and I make up the bed nice every morning. I can go to work still, I can make money, I can interact with people and do everything else of course!
So for me that is yoga. And this though may manifest in many different forms, being kind, not harming other beings, being truthful or not stealing and so on (Yamas & Niyamas) or in my Asana Practice or Meditation. It is all yoga and it all helps me on my spiritual journey and allows me to heal on the way.