To sum up and define yoga into a few words has been quite difficult for me, mostly because yoga and all its benefits are not meant to be written nor memorized, but to be constantly practiced and experienced. During my first years as a yoga practitioner, I attended a David Williams workshop; a very experienced yoga teacher who I felt truly embraced yoga as a way of life. During one of his lectures, he mentioned a phrase that marked my path as a yoga student, “Before you’ve practiced, the theory is useless. After you’ve practiced the theory is obvious.”
So, ever since that moment, I always try to remind myself two things: What does yoga mean to me? And why do I practice yoga? And what amazes me the most is the answers to these questions have challenged me over the years. Yoga has been a way to cope with stress and anxiety, a way to open my heart to grace, love and compassion, and an opportunity to connect with the inner silence and peace inside. It has been a challenge, in a physical, mental and emotional level; an opportunity to stretch and bend in different ways, to sweat, release toxins, be present and realize life is happening now; a practice of surrendering, dropping my expectations, judgments, and be at peace. Mostly, yoga has been a path to connect what’s really important for me and what makes me happy and content.
The Father of Yoga
In a brief definition, Patanjali, known as “the father of yoga”, said, in a very simple way what he thought yoga is for him; “Yoga is the practice of quieting the mind.” But to give meaning to those simple words, practice and discipline are required. Other ways to define it could be by saying that yoga means “union” or “ to integrate” which means to unite mind, body and spirit. Many descriptions long and short can be found among books, websites and schools. Theorizing and describing yoga, would be just the same as defining love: many dictionaries and books can explain the term, but in order to truly understand, and more importantly, to find your own definition you have to practice and live both of them.
Finding Your Own Answers
I highly recommend to my yoga students – and I keep reminding myself – to not worry so much about the specific definition of yoga, but more importantly, to be aware of your own personal answers to three questions:
- What does yoga mean to you?
- What is the intention of your yoga practice?
- What does yoga represent in your life?