Recently, I have been asked the same question by friends and colleagues and the answer is so easy, yet complicated, that I cannot accurately describe this ancient “science” in few words or sentences.
Let me use some of my favourite quotes to introduce you the subject:
“Yoga is like music: the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life.” - B.K.S. Iyengar
“Yoga is the practice of quieting the mind.” - Patanjali
“Yoga is the perfect opportunity to be curious about who you are.” - Jason Crandell
Yoga means union between body, mind and soul; it is a path that we choose to follow, a lifestyle that we want to integrate into our lives. Yoga is the ability to focus on the moment, to study ourselves and to question our mind.
Nowadays it is mistakenly labelled as a training session where we stretch and embellish our figure; but this practice does not only have a physical aspect, otherwise it would be called circus. Though asana (postures) we develop balance, strength and flexibility but to a deeper level, we practice yoga so that our body is strong, healthy and ready to open and listen to more profound meaning.
“The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.” - B.K.S Iyengar
As B.K.S. Iyengar clearly states, yoga practice in terms of asana is important, through yoga practice and adequately balanced eating habits, we keep our body in excellent condition creating a positive and healthy environment for the soul to live in.
However, being able to perform challenging poses or being super flexible is not the ultimate goal and this does not mean practicing yoga.
Yoga has a much deeper meaning: yoga opens our own gates and destroys walls that we have built around our true nature, freeing us from lies and ego and letting us observe inwardly, recognising our true selves, changing and improving what we can, and accepting what we cannot change.
“The success of Yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships.” - T.K.V. Desikachar
Yoga changes the way we see and perceive things around us making them clearer in front of our eyes. Our actions and reactions are often grounded on a distorted reality, that has been altered by our feelings and past experiences. Sometimes, we see and feel what we want to see or feel, which in reality it is not what lays in front of us.
Yoga lets us free ourselves form the cloud that surround us, creating a genuine affinity between us and the surrounding, being this the nature around us or relationships that interconnect with our lives.
Through Yoga, Pranayama (breathing exercises) and Meditation the mind quiets, the scattered thoughts start to align in order and no chaos is heard inside. This is true not only on a spiritual or mental level, but also on a physical stage. Body and mind are balanced, creating more stability and we begin to feel stronger and freer, our levels of energy increase and we find ourselves more focused on day to day activities.
Yoga practice also intensifies the connection within ourselves, clearing it from the dust that falls on it when we do not listen inwardly, and creates a better and clearer comprehension of what is really happening with our body, mind and soul. Doing so, we are able to identify negative behaviour and thoughts towards others and more importantly ourselves. We can recognize the right action and paths to follow when in doubt and we lead a more peaceful life, knowing that we enjoy the present and breath in/trough the moment.
Practicing yoga does not have to be complicated and it is not a chore that we HAVE to do to achieve serenity, otherwise the profound meaning of yoga is already cut out. Yoga, Pranayama and Meditation must be approached voluntarily and at the right time. We go through different life stages, and with those come different attitudes, behaviours and mindsets. What we practice today might not be aligned with what we felt and understood yesterday; on the same level as what we perceive today might not be what we will notice tomorrow.
Therefore, be patient and take what works for you today, in the moment. Leave the rest and one day, maybe you will randomly bump into it, recognizing its true meaning. In that instant you will be ready to distinguish and comprehend what was not accessible a while ago.
Be patient. Everything comes to you in the right moment. – Buddha
Yoga has a huge positive impact in our lives, when practiced mindfully and with continuity. Changes cannot be seen and perceived if we attend to sporadic classes or take only few minutes for ourselves whenever we remember to do that.
A beautiful plant would never be able to prosper without devoted attention; watering, appropriate location or temperature and accurate trimming are necessary for a healthy and strong growth. Yoga can be seen as a little seed that needs precise affections to sprout into a gorgeous and vigorous flower. We need to take care of it and with time, patience and practice we will see it flourish and brighten up our days.
Do your practice and all is coming. – Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
Last but not least, yoga is very personal and it is a unique and never ending journey that we undertake. Do not be afraid to ask for advice or support, but consider that this is a private practice, a tool to discover and listen to ourselves, a device to learn from our own experiences and feelings and use them for a better and clearer understanding of your present moment.
I hope my article has shed some light on the topic, making it a bit more understandable and approachable. Also, I hope to see you soon in a future yoga practice (with me as a yoga teacher perhaps); but even if you decide to follow some other teachers, or a different approach to yoga, give it a go and see and feel the magic spreading around you, your relationships and your life.