what is yoga?

Ironically enough, it’s never an easy task to answer the question “what is yoga?”. However, one thing that I can tell you is that it always rubs me the wrong way when I get questions along the lines of “do you practice other sports?” or “what’s this exercise called?”. Because I don’t consider yoga a merely physical practice, and because my goal for practicing yoga goes beyond the tangible results, I always find myself struggling to respond to such questions in a way that doesn’t reduce or dilute yoga into something that doesn’t define it for me.

So, what is yoga?

Is it all about balance?

Is it all about love, about cheap positivity, good thoughts, prayers, rainbows, and unicorns?

Or maybe it is about honoring your uniqueness, because surely you must be a special being?

And it feels so good — doesn’t it feel good?

It must be the joy of being able to accomplish a pose, to realize that your body can do things you never imagined possible?

What if I told you that the answer is neither of the above? That, while all of the above may be byproducts of the practice of yoga (except the cheap positivity, the rainbows and the unicorns, maybe), none of those is the true goal of this 5,000 year old practice that has, almost miraculously, survived its way through to this day.

Yoga means “union” and, as its very name indicates, it’s the science of self-realization or, in better words, the state of unification or enlightenment.

What is commonly called “yoga” in the West usually refers to the practice of physical postures or asana, which are but one of the eight limbs of yoga.

The practice of asana comes with many general benefits, such as increased strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance. In addition, each posture targets a different area of the body, both externally and internally, meaning that we’re not just toning and stretching our superficial muscles, but also our internal organs. Asanas also work on an subtler energetic level, helping mobilize stagnant energy, thus purifying the body in preparation for the path of spiritual practice.

     “Yoga is the supreme science of contacting reality. It is perfection in action. It is equanimity of attitude. It is perfect peace. Yoga is union with God.”

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