Yoga is a practice that combines many physical, spiritual and mental elements. Many know it as a series of poses, some more difficult than others, that can be strung together to create a vinyasa yoga flow, but there are many other types of yoga and different principles. Yoga is also about meditation, mindfulness, learning to use breath, becoming one with one’s body, and learning the principles of balance. Yoga is a lifestyle, more than anything else. It is often referred to as a practice because it is often said that one can never be perfect at yoga. There are many yoga masters in the world and all of them are at peace with the fact they still “practice” their craft.
Though there is much disagreement about the origin of yoga, it is widely accepted that yoga began as an Indian practice. It is still studied and taught there extensively. Many people in other countries travel to India to train under some of the world’s most respected leaders and instructors in the yoga community. Many texts assert that yoga began about five thousand years ago in northern India, though not all agree to this.
The translation of the word yoga is also not widely agreed upon. Some assert that “yoga” is a Sanskrit word meaning to connect. This seems logical because of the fact that connection is a major part of yoga. Yoga is about connecting one’s body to the earth, connecting one’s breath to movement, connecting one’s mind to stillness and peace, connecting movements together to create a flow and even about connecting to others who practice yoga.
Other texts say that the word yoga actually means “to control” or “to discipline”. This is a little different than the definition of connection, but still could be accurate. Yoga is a deliberate, slow practice and even during times when the movements are quick, control and discipline are huge parts of a successful yoga practice. Discipline within the mind and body make for a good yogi and a robust practice. In addition, when taking yoga classes, many focus on controlling or disciplining their breath. This is an important thing to learn both on and off a yoga mat
Perhaps the most important way to define yoga is to do so personally. Yoga is a spiritual and very personal journey, so that is perhaps why people don’t fight to lock down and agree upon the definition. Yoga can mean many things to many people and their definition can even shift over the course of their practice. In places like Joy Yoga Center, the opportunity to explore the meaning of yoga is celebrated and encouraged.
One’s yoga journey is a special time and they may find that what it means to them is different than what it means to someone else. The most important thing, however, is that the yogi finds a way to embrace yoga on their own terms. This will ensure a lifelong relationship with yoga and a practice that is always improving and growing.