What is Yoga?

Yoga is a tradition that started thousands of years ago as a spiritual and reflective practice meant to prepare the body for holding a meditative position. In modern times, however, yoga is mainly taken as another form of exercise or fitness lifestyle. For some, yoga is a type of stretching that resembles Pilates. For others, yoga is a type of body weight exercise that takes the body into many different positions and movements resembling Gymnastics and/or Calisthenics. There can be as many “yogas” as there are practitioners, and that indeed can be confusing and misleading.

The word “yoga” means union or joining. It is a practice that more thoroughly integrates the physical with the mental and spiritual. There are numerous systems of yoga that provide different ways to unify the various aspects of man (body, mind, and spirit). To eliminate confusion, the system of Yoga that we practice in Yoga Bohol is Hatha Yoga — the physical aspects of Yoga, a practice to improve one’s health and well being. This system of yoga aims to balance different energy flows within the human body.

There are numerous schools within the Hatha Yoga system, each following different teachings and disciplines. To name a few, Hatha includes Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Bikram, and Iyengar Yoga. Some of these schools we will explore in our practices in Yoga Bohol.

Yoga, in the Hatha Yoga perspective, uses physical poses to explore the inner structures of the body, the mind, and the self. It is a path, a guide, a step-by-step method that can lead you to greater self-knowledge. Each pose is a means to feel inwardly, to discover where you are strong, tight, weak, or dull. It provides the framework for the experiences of physical, mental and spiritual wholeness.

What does yoga achieve?

Yoga helps you find balance in your own body. When the body is balanced, it is neither too hard (susceptible to injury) nor too soft (incapable of supporting the joints properly). When the body is balanced, the skeletal-muscular system facilitates movement rather than hinders it. Balanced movement is self-perpetuating; the more freely you move the more you can move. You will be able to move without pain and free from any injury.

What you must do is practice the poses. The means to physical, mental, and spiritual wholeness are your own body in the poses and your own willingness to observe closely how you feel. Learn a new way to look and feel in order to bring about a more satisfying harmony that comes not only from physical equilibrium but from mental and spiritual balance as well.

Yoga not only strengthens the body and mind but it also establishes a process that applies equally to the instruction of yoga and to life off of the yoga mat. This process acknowledges the dynamics of life and gives you the tools to deal with each changing day with equanimity and grace. Tools such as asana practice, breath, and intention are meant for use in all aspects of life. These tools we will explore in another post. =)



*Jean Couch, Yoga Book pp. 3-5

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