Updated: Sep 29, 2021
When I ask people what they think yoga is, I hear many different explanations. These range from "a stretching class", to "gymnastics" to"union of mind & body". All of these interpretations are perceptions of modern yoga so not 'wrong'. But would you be surprised to know that yoga is in fact around 5,000 years old and up until recently (1800's) is was not a movement class?
So what is yoga?
I could spend hours sharing the ancient wisdom of yoga and its roots with you (as it's my favourite part). It's deep and multi-layered so I am going to share with you the really basic, top line insight into what yoga is:
'Yoga is the psycho-spritual union of your highest self with something greater than you.'
We don't need to know 'what' that greater thing is. Yoga is not a religion.
Yoga is not a one size fits all practice either as we are all so unique. The heart of yoga is about going within. The word 'yoga' means union in Sanskrit. It's a psycho spiritual state of complete integration of you coming home to yourself.
“The truth is One, the paths are many.”
While we strive to connect to the One (source / the 'something' greater than ourselves), the road we take is our own.
It’s a State of being that is already within you. We look at practices that remove our own obstacles to return to that state. But you are already a yogi - you've just forgotten how perfect, whole & complete you already are in this exact moment.
Yoga is thought to be around 5000 years old and derives from the ancient texts called the Vedas.
The modern Western world has incorporated more physical poses and movement into the practice which is a positive evolution but if you think yoga is just about the physical poses you’re not necessarily experiencing the magic and deep layers of the yogic state (unless you dedicate your yoga practice off the mat too). The physical aspect we see today helps us to anchor the state of yoga in our body. For thousands of years Yoga practices were meditation, ritual, mudra, intention setting, and chanting. The Asana (poses BUT in Sanskrit it actually means 'seat') is a gateway to a deeper practice. If you’ve been put off yoga as you do not think you are fit enough or flexible enough you are missing out on yoga. Yoga really is for all.
Group classes create community and build on physical mobility, strength, stretching. Home practice can be even more personal. Due to my own bodies needs following spinal surgery and other physical challenges, I very rarely take studio yoga classes. My home practice is where I am able to go more personal and deeper.
2 ways to create a yoga practice with little time at home...
1. If you’ve had a very busy day with more stress than normal light a candle, gather a bolster (or cushions), blankets, a mask and lie down in Savasana. No distractions, no phone, no lights for around 15 minutes. This can be really rejuvenating.
2. Create a sacred space, set an intention, connect to a sense of gratitude in silence for 5 minutes.
Traditionally there were only 4 types of yoga practices. Today there are many different types too many to talk about in this short blog. Here are some of the yoga types I practice and teach myself.
“Bliss that I am, please help me be more kind and compassionate to all.”
If you'd like to delve deeper into yoga, I offer face to face and online Beginners Yoga programmes that explore the roots of yoga, basic poses and modifications, breath work, meditation and relaxation. I also offer a 6 month Serenity Experience which includes yoga as a tool for bliss. For more info explore the offering my my website or feel free to reach out and ask me anything here
The author Rachael is a 500hr+ Yoga Master and founder of Eva & Alma.