What is Yoga?

YOGA means UNION. Union with what or union between what? Between the parts of ourselves that are divided from each other – our bodies, our minds, our hearts. One wants one thing, another wants something different. There is not consensus within ourselves and this feels very uncomfortable. Incoherence is suffering. We suffer when we are not at one within ourselves. But there is another way. It is truly possible to experience Union with the Present, Eternal Now. Union within ourselves and union with the Divine. Yoga is a path to that Oneness, to re-connection, to remembering that we are always connected.

In my paradigm and work, Yoga is not the asana (the poses). That is a small, small part of Yoga and yet it is a vehicle to the real Yoga. Yoga asana is about cleansing, focus, balance, presence, becoming self-aware. Learning – can I do this pose? Where does my mind go when my body becomes still? How do I talk to myself when I fall out of a balance pose? What happens to my breath when things get hard? Whatever shape my body or mind are in – can I find the place of stillness inside me?

Yoga is do I know who I really am? It’s can I touch the place inside me that is who I really am … that is unconditional peace and equanimity? Why don’t we have peace? The mind takes us away. Peace is here. Peace is always here. But it is only here. It is not in what’s gone, and it is not in what’s not here yet. The mind keeps looking, looking, looking for peace. For answers. For resolution. It looks in the past and it looks in the future because it is sure that the present is not enough. “There must be more.”

This is why I teach Yoga. I don’t care if you can ever put your foot behind your head or touch your toes. I truly don’t. But I do care if you can relax into the perfection of the present moment as you struggle to get your hamstrings to lengthen. And I do care that you learn what it feels like to be gentle with your spine in that twist instead of forceful. I do care that you learn how to unite your body with your mind with your heart via your magnificent breath.

So Yoga is a mind/body/spirit practice. Yoga says we are the vastness that can hold the multi-dimensionality of our Being, but that we don’t know it. We identify as the body. Or the thoughts. Or the emotions. And they all pull us in different directions. We are not at home in ourselves. Yoga is a practice of becoming aware of this and intentionally re-connecting, or yoking, myself with myself. How do I do this? By moving with the breath in a posture I yoke the body with the breath. By being with the body sensations in a difficult pose I yoke the mind with the body. By training the attention of the mind on the breath I yoke the mind with the present moment.

So Yoga is not a workout; it is not strictly physical. It is infinitely more than that.  And I do mean that literally.  Yoga is about refinement, focus and presence moving us toward awareness, release, surrender, and ultimately, absorption in the Divine.