What is Yoga?

What is Yoga?

I guess we’ve all been in this situation. Finally, you have a chance for meditation or you reach your seat on a long haul flight and you’re seated next to a young child screaming! They say to be with a child is real yoga. Yogas chitta vrtti nirodhah [YS 1:2.] “Yoga is stopping the turbulence in the mind” To be with a child can in fact be a useful barometer of where we are at in our practice. Our patience will be tested. Can we keep a quiet and calm mind regardless? Challenging or difficult people also test us beautifully. Some traditions say that we should even feel grateful for people who push our buttons because they are in effect ‘tools’ that can be used to remember and to improve.

“You cannot do yoga, yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state.”
— Sharon Gannon

Gardening can be yoga. Simply walking down the street and fully integrating that experience can be yoga. Doing your asana (physical posture) and yearning for transformation or the next “advanced” posture is not – that’s really more about ego. Sitting still, chanting (or any yoga technique) has the capacity to increase awareness and generate integration. If we push ourselves into a (yoga) pose huffing and puffing without respecting the limitations of our physical and mind body, the Yoga is long gone. Asana practice should lead towards some form of silent sitting/meditation/inner contemplation. I am careful with the word “meditation” as it’s big! I like to use instead silent sitting. Doing our best to sit still for a while (which is way easier said than done). Watching the breath, witnessing the stream of thoughts without clinging onto them, just letting them go. For people who find silent sitting with breath focus too challenging, I recommend mantra meditation. You can repeat either a mantra or simply an affirmation which resonates with you and with your personal life situation. Remember to keep your sense of humour. Do not take yourself too seriously, neither the practice! Seek for inspiration, study the ancient texts, try different teachers, find your own Truth AND keep a light-hearted attitude. Also remember this, the “practice” never stops. It does not end when we leave our yoga mat.

I remember one of my great teachers advising that it is relatively simple to be an accomplished yogi when you’re locked away in a cave and far away from society. It is so much harder and more valuable to be a yogi when you’re amongst people – especially ones that push your buttons. And I think it was the Dalai Lama that said ‘ if you think small things don’t matter, try sleeping with a mosquito in your room’ or a newborn child.

Radhe Shyam! Love, Sanna