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What is Yoga?

Hello Yogi friends, I start my Yoga blog with a question, a very big, vague question:


What is Yoga?

Many of us do Yoga but do we ever wonder what are we doing?

As a Yoga teacher, this question is vital to my Yoga teaching. Through time, the answers have changed a lot. Like any other ideas in our mind, they always change.


But let me try to put together the idea of Yoga:


Yoga is a system of health care from India.


There are different practices of Yoga, according to the Ashtanga - 8 Limbs of Yoga:


- Yamas & Niyamas are the Abstinences and Self Observations, simply know as what you should not and should do to other people and yourself.


- Then it comes to the Asana practice, or Physical Poses, which is the most popular practice of Yoga nowadays, but it was not at all, until let's say more than 100 years recently.


- Pranayama is the Control of Energy (Prana), in the form of breaths.


- Pratyahara is the Withdrawal of the Senses. From this step on, we practice Yoga to our higher self. This is when you stop paying attention to the outside using your senses, and rather turning inside.


- Dharana is Concentration. One step before Meditation. When we practice this step, we often have a Focus Point: it can be your breaths, your body feeling, candlelight, a bindi or the middle point of a mala painting, or your thoughts, etc.


- Dhyana is Meditation. This is when you can focus and bring Concentration into any situation without having to use a Focus Point.


- Samadhi is Enlightenment. I can't explain this state. Sorry friends.



Knowing this, now we can come to the next question, that lingered on my mind ever since I started teaching Yoga:


Why do we mostly do Physical Yoga - the Asanas nowadays?

Let's not talk about how this question went around in my head, and how I attempted to introduce other practices of Yoga into my Yoga class. Because I have found an answer that feels solid and logical to me. Let's imagine:


Thousands of years ago, Yoga was mostly Spiritual, a lot of Meditation, probably in a cave. People got enlightened and left words of wisdom to us. In the old texts of Yoga, the Asana was not mentioned.


However, let's imagine more about life back then: no TV, no Internet, no phone, very few people, a lot of nature, very little distractions. It would be easier, if not nature, for humans to concentrate and be highly aware of what they were doing.


Nowadays, life has changed so much and we humans have evolved away from who we were. Our brain has changed. Our attention span is much shorter, due to technology and endless entertainments created around us. We can't just sit down and do nothing so easily, let alone meditate.


Moreover, we have given up the active lifestyle of our ancestors: running, walking, climbing, working with their hands all the time. Now, our life is stuck in a routine that restricts our movements and postures to mostly sitting and rounding forward.


The physical practice of Yoga, Asana, is excellence to bring our body back to healthy and stable movements so that we are physically healthy.


Through the Asana, we can also learn to Concentrate, with the Focus Point is our body in the poses.


And that is also the goal of my Yoga classes.


Do you have any idea or meaning of Yoga? Please share with me.


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Ha-My Le, RYT500 Vinyasa Yoga teacher

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