Yoga 101: What is Yoga – Basic Guide towards Understanding Yoga Practice

What is Yoga?

Rocky Mountains Sunrise. Photo Credit: Anna Sheinman

If you google “yoga,” you will find many colorful pictures with pretty and fit people.  They typically dressed in revealing attire, adopting some complicated physical and often gymnastic postures. Other pictures of people sitting cross-legged with eyes closed, looking blissful and relaxed. This is how most of you probably think about yoga.  It is commonly known as a fitness regime or a relaxation tool.

In the same fashion, I’ve started practicing yoga as physical fitness. As time passed, the practice of yoga is so much more than just physical fitness and relaxation. From my understanding, yoga is a practice to cultivate sustained attention.  As the result of sustained attention, we learn how to know ourselves and to understand the world.

Why Is It Challenging To Quiet The Mind?

In our social and economic twitter culture of instant texts, our minds are always jumping from one thing to the next. This means we get distracted and confused. Our natural rhythms get muddied and out of sync and we’re driven by our senses – emptying the cookie jar, filling another liquor glass, adding yet another charge to that already maxed-out credit card. By contrast, yoga is a means of refocusing and ceasing the endless jumping of the mind. But this is counter-intuitive to our modern culture. Though,  to remove your mind’s clutter is an active act of rebellion!

What is Yoga Practice?

The deliberate yoga practice is a means to replace unwanted patterns and behaviors with productive ones. Undoubtedly, you have much more control than you think. People you surround yourself with, what you eat, watch, read, and where you live. To do that, you need to stop the chatter and find the inner voice and guidance within.  In fact, the correct practice of yoga aids you with tools to reach your full potential.  Imagine a perfect diamond, covered with mud. You are just like this diamond, whole, perfect but the mud is preventing you from truly shining.  Correct yoga practice is about removing what’s not shining.  It is tricky to stay on the path of practice. We tend to head towards the familiar territory, reinforcing existing and not-so-helpful tendencies. Traditionally, a good yoga teacher is a great help.

Did Someone Say Self-Reflection?

You can think of self-reflection (svadhyaya) as your antenna.  Instead of going through life on auto-pilot, we stop and ask ourselves: “Where I am now?” and “What is the direction I am heading towards?” Eventually, we can understand our patterns and motivation behind our actions.  In fact, self-reflection will help you with your practice.  A mindless application of yoga practice is not only useless but dangerous.  In fact,  some of us get injured practicing yoga.

To conclude, yoga is a journey in which progress is measured by the inner experience rather than by changes from the outside.  Your ability to live life in balance and harmony and to bring this harmony to your daily lives and in each moment as it unfolds. If you want to know if your yoga is working, take a look at your life and your relationships.


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