What is yoga?

The word ‘yoga’ is translated to mean ‘join’. Over the centuries there have been many definitions. As there fewer words in Sanskrit and we have lots of words in English that mean just about the same thing, we can choose our own to suit ourselves. We can choose something that appeals and strikes a chord within us – a bit like the drop-down thesaurus when we are typing in word.

YOGA – to join, unity, oneness, to yoke, to harness, bring together, gather in, consolidate

This ‘unity’ described in the ancient writings relates to our consciousness- joining our individual consciousness with the universal consciousness. But on a more practical level, and before you can get to the consciousness, you have to begin with the person – the individual. We have to bring together the individual person so that they are happy in their own skin – and as we say somewhat crudely these days – ‘have got their shit together’.

Yoga works on our physical body, emotional strength, vital energy and our spiritual quest. By regular practice of a variety of exercises we balance all the systems of the body and bring them back to how nature intended. A familiar starting point for this is the asana (physical postures). Other exercises that are important for all students are the breathing exercises and time for relaxation/meditation/reflection.

I began our classes this term with the following poem – it struck me as eloquently giving the quest for yoga from a student seeking a path to peace…


By John Roedel

My brain and heart divorced a decade ago over who was to blame about how big of a mess I have become.

Eventually, they couldn’t be in the same room with each other.

Now my head and heart share custody of me.

I stay with my brain during the week and my heart gets me on weekends.

They never speak to one another.

Instead, they give me the same note to pass to each other every week and their notes they send to one another always says the same thing: “This is all your fault”

On Sundays, my heart complains about how my head has let me down in the past.

And on Wednesday, my head lists all of the times my heart has screwed things up for me in the future.

They blame each other for the state of my life there’s been a lot of yelling – and crying.

So lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time with my gut who serves as my unofficial therapist.

Most nights, I sneak out of the window in my ribcage and slide down my spine and collapse on my gut’s plush leather chair that’s always open for me. And I just sit, sit, sit, until the sun comes up.

Last night, my gut asked me if I was having a hard time being caught between my heart and my head. I nodded.

I said I didn’t know if I could live with either of them anymore.

“My heart is always sad about something that happened yesterday while my head is always worried about something that may happen tomorrow,” I lamented.

My gut squeezed my hand.

“I just can’t live with my mistakes of the past or my anxiety about the future,” I sighed.

My gut smiled and said:

“In that case, you should go stay with your lungs for a while.”

I was confused.

The look on my face gave it away.

“If you are exhausted about your heart’s obsession with the fixed past and your mind’s focus on the uncertain future, your lungs are the perfect place for you.

There is no yesterday in your lungs.  There is no tomorrow there either.

There is only now.

There is only inhale. There is only exhale.

There is only this moment.  There is only breath.

And in that breath, you can rest while your heart and head work their relationship out.”

This morning, while my brain was busy reading tea leaves and while my heart was staring at old photographs, I packed a little bag and walked to the door of my lungs.

Before I could even knock, she opened the door with a smile and as a gust of air embraced me she said: “What took you so long?”

Published by yogadeb

Yoga teacher in Stamford, UK, and online

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