Sorry Brenda, but Yoga is not (just) about wearing super cool "LaLaLime" pants...
There can be a little bit of that, but ultimately, there is waaaay more to Yoga than the western eye usually can see… Let's have a look, shall we?
THE YOGA VIBE - TRIBE - RIDE
As you would have all noticed by now, Yoga has spread around the world like good old Vegemite on a piece of toast. The "spreading" is not New-New of course, but you have to admit that in the more recent years, yoga studios have popped up everywhere like beautiful pimples on a teenager's face, which is great of course (for the studios not the teens), and which also means you probably already have a rough (or good) idea of what Yoga is about. You might even own one of those fancy mats (we do), and go everywhere in your "Activewear, Activewear" (we may have done that too...)
However, in the euphoria of this cool "trend", your cores may have gained some serious ground but the core message of the Yoga philosophy, maybe not so much... So just for the sake of it, and because we can, here is a quick reminder of what Yoga is NOT about.
1. Yoga was NOT born in a studio in LA
Although the US have been pretty switched on for many decades now with the whole Yoga Boom, Yoga wasn't born in the US, let alone in a studio in downtown LA. Yoga emerged in India approximately 5,000 of years ago BC, through the Vedic culture. Four main books emanated from this era - The Rig Veda, Atharva Veda, Sama Veda and Yajur Veda. Veda is the Sanskrit word for 'Knowledge'.
The Vedas are a compilation of sacred hymns that were heard by the Rishis (Seer of Truth) in meditation. These hymns represented an immense body of wisdom that discussed all issues relating to daily life. They were revered as the ultimate authority for any question, and provided different approaches to deal with the issues of daily life. The aim of the Vedic culture was to attain the final union with the Source of Existence - 'to live in the consciousness of eternal joy'.
Around 700-300 BC, the Upanishads came along. These texts are a beautiful collection of writings from original oral transmissions, and described by Shri Aurobindo as "The Supreme work of the Indian mind." The term Upanishads literally means 'sitting down near', and implies listening closely to the doctrines of a teacher who has cognised the fundamental truths of the universe.
From 300 BC to 300 AD, Patanjali, along with multiple other authors, 'arranged' this approach of Life into a coherent & comprehensive system called the Yoga Sutras. These are 196 aphorisms outlining the 8 Limbs of Yoga which are:
1. Yama - Ethical disciplines
2. Niyama - Rules of conduct
3. Asana - Postures
4. Pranayama - Restraint or expansion of the breath
5. Pratyahara - Withdrawal of the senses
6. Dharana - Concentration
7. Dhyana - Meditation
8. Samadhi - Absorption
Yoga is therefore a Philosophy/Science of Life, not a fashionable trend. One could say that Yoga is as old as Humanity itself, for the search of a higher state of consciousness has always, and will always be, an inherent part of the human psyche.
"Yoga is the culture of tomorrow. It is a science that leads to the development of the human personality and the awakening of untapped energy sources within the brain and mind."
- Swami Niranjan
2. Yoga is NOT a Vegan dish
Although it does sound like a cool name for a new Food frenzy, Yoga is not (only) for the Gluten Free, sugar free, dairy free, nut free, meat free people. It is for EVERYONE & ANYONE.
Yoga does not exclude, does not judge, does not compartmentalise. It encapsulates EVERYTHING & ANYTHING. It literally means UNION.
The word is derived from the Sanskrit root 'yuj' meaning to bind, join, attach & yoke. It is the union/yoking of the Body, Mind & Soul with the Cosmic Order.
In his introduction to the Gita according to Gandhi, Mahadev Desai describes Yoga as "the disciplining of the intellect, the mind, the emotions, the will, which that Yoga presupposes. It is a poise of the soul which enables one to look at life in all its aspects evenly."
Yoga is NOT an ephemeral trend.
Yoga is a lived/active philosophy, One that is Timeless & Ageless.
"Yoga is equanimity in success and failure. Yoga is skill and efficiency in action. Yoga is the supreme secret of life. Yoga is the giver of untold happiness. Yoga is serenity. Yoga is the destroyer of pain."
-The Bhagavad Gita
3. Yoga is NOT a training program for the Cirque du Soleil
Although you might see some people perform amazing postures, Yoga is not an acrobatic contest ;) Quite the opposite actually. Yoga is about not comparing yourself with anyone, not judging neither yourself or others. Yoga is about revealing your True Nature, your True Self. The one that is powerful beyond measure and yet goes on humbly through life, knowing that It is neither beneath, nor superior to anyone.
Yoga is a way of experiencing life, not a sport, and the poses taught in Yoga studios are actually called Asanas, not 'Yoga'. True, these are technicalities, but it is also a good thing to be aware that those poses were in fact elaborated by the sages in order to eliminate the physical obstructions that hinder our ability to meditate, and not to win the contest of Handstand without the hands......
The word 'Asana' is derived from the Sanskrit root 'As', which means 'to sit' , 'rest' or 'be present'. Asana is therefore any comfortable seat or posture you take for the practice of meditation. So when you enter a yoga class, or simply unfold your mat at home, leave the ego on the side for the time being, and just BE. This is a moment for yourself, a moment to be with your body & your breath. It is not a competition where you will be given a score at the end of the session, nor a fitness contest where you need to account for the poses you've achieved.
And it does not have to happen in a studio either (but we understand that for some it might be "easier" to practice with a group). We can assure you though that a simple 30 mins of "basic" stretches & conscious breathing can easily take you to that place where the mind & the body breathe in unison. It is just a matter of being in the present moment, to be focused on one point & to slow down everything.
Note that your body can be as flexible as an over-chewed gum, if your mind remains as stiff as a stick, you ain't goin' nowhere Bro... Oh, you'll be an acrobat, for sure, but the mental aches will still be there. The ultimate objective of Asana is to realise neutrality of the body or, as B.K.S Iyengar states: "to put an end to the dualities or differentiation between the body & mind, mind & soul."
But Yes, Yoga-Asanas are a form of physical exercise. And Yes, it does tone up the body and can contribute to the shaping of a beautiful 6 pack, but this is NOT the ultimate goal.
The goal is YOGA itself - to reach a state of blissful Union between Mind, Body & Soul.
"Yoga is not for him who gorges too much, nor for him who starves himself. It is not for him who sleeps too much, nor for him who stays awake. By moderation in eating and in resting, by regulation in working and by concordance in sleeping and waking, Yoga destroys all pain and sorrow."
- The Bhagavad Gita
4. Yoga is NOT a sect governed by Lululemon's MD
Although they could definitely have arranged something here, Yoga wasn't developed by Lululemon and/or to support the sportswear industry. Okay, their clothes are pretty damn cool & comfy, but to be honest, practicing in the most simple apparel is quite enjoyable, and we can guarantee you that the asanas will still work their magic! So, jump into a pair of good old knickers and hop la, on your mat you go! (No Brenda, not if you're actually going to a Yoga studio, then you need to wear clothes...")
So, even though there are some funky outfits out there to perform Yoga, Looks & Style really are not what one should be focusing on. Of course, there is nothing wrong with getting yourself a nice pair of yoga pants, but what we mean is that the clothes definitely do not shape the man.
The philosophy of Yoga is, amongst many other things, about letting go of the Self-Image and loving the Self as it is. Yoga teaches us to find fulfilment within oneself by mastering the restlessness of the mind & intellect, and reconnect with our true essence.
The ego is not to be denied nor annihilated, it just needs to be disciplined. To Yogis the ego is an instrument to be used for as long as it will take to reach an even more profound state of self-identity. They say that the path of Yoga does not annihilate the ego, but fulfils it.
So be prepared, because on Tuesday you might be able to fly in Crow pose, but on Friday you might f*** it up badly! And that's okay, because You Know what? THIS IS LIFE. On one day great things happen, and on the next one, not so much...
The Strength & Flexibility acquired on the mat shall manifest as Adaptability & ability to Rebound in your life.
"Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing there is a field. I'll meet you there. When the Soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about."
5. Yoga is NOT Yoda's father
Although very similar in sounds, no the word Yoga is NOT "Yodalated" (or is it...) But because Yoga is about Life in general, you will obviously find it everywhere & anywhere. In the words of a book, the lyrics of a song, the lines of a movie, the smile of a child...
Some might say that Yoga is a religion, a cult or even a sect, but that is simply missing the point. Yoga emerged from our own outlook on Life & the intricacies of human consciousness. It came along because of the inherent faculty of human beings to question, think & reflect.
"A deliverance from contact with pain and sorrow - this is the real meaning of Yoga."
- Sri Krishna
This article is only a tiny little glimpse of what Yoga is about. If you ever want to read more, think more, experience more about Yoga, we recommend you one of the key books - Light on Yoga by B.K.S Iyengar. But most importantly, we recommend you to study Yourself, because you are, without the shadow of a doubt, the most Enlightening Book of all.
Thank you for reading.