What is Yoga?
Derived from the Sanskrit word ‘yuj’, meaning ‘to unite or yoke’ and most commonly translated as ‘union’, Yoga is a 5000 year old Indian body of knowledge which focuses on harmonising the body with the mind and breath through a variety of breathing techniques and physical postures.
The father of Ashtanga Yoga, Patanjali Maharishi defined Yoga as ‘the control of thought waves in the mind’. Through Yoga we learn to develop a greater awareness of our physical and psychological states and as a result, we are able to better manage our reactions to the thoughts, feelings and responses we have to the various situations we deal with every day.
Yoga for fitness and development
Yoga is a wonderful form of exercise providing a great way to keep fit and supple and to build strength and flexibility. It’s fun, it can be adapted to most fitness levels and you can be sure your own individual Yoga practice will always evolve and change as your relationship with asanas (postures) and your levels of fitness change. Even if you don’t feel very flexible or strong to begin with, these things will improve the longer you practice.
Yoga isn’t a competition. One of its most liberating gifts is to help us let go of ego, accepting that we are all equal and we are all just doing our best on any given day. Yoga gives us control of ourselves and allows us to look at the universe around us in a more fulfilling way - it teaches us to be present, to quiet our minds and to be happy with who we are.
"It doesn’t matter how deep into a posture you go – what matters is who you are when you get there".
Physically, many people think that Yoga is simply stretching and whilst stretching is involved, Yoga is really about creating balance in the body through developing both strength and flexibility. This is done through a series of physical postures each of which has a specific health benefit. The poses can be done quickly to create heat within the body (vinyasa) or more slowly to create stamina and alignment.
You can choose to take from your Yoga practice what you wish and there are many different types of Yoga all of which believe at their heart that true happiness, liberation and enlightenment come from union with the Divine. But what if you don’t believe in talk of enlightenment or already have firm religious beliefs? You can still practice Yoga - the techniques developed by the yogis can still help make you feel healthier and happier and remove the physical and physiological blocks that often keep us from being happy in our daily lives.