What is YOGA? (And why as a yoga teacher, I still don't call myself a Yogi...)

Updated: Oct 23, 2020

"Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodha" - Yoga Sutras of Patanjali - Chapter 1, statement 2. (1.2)

Most of what we now know in modern day Yoga practice has come from the Sutra's written by Patanjali. No one really knows a true answer to how long Yoga has been around or where Yoga has come from. The Sutra's are a compilation of teachings from different Sage's and Gurus. The practice has evolved a lot throughout the years with many new 'styles' developed. There is no concrete evidence for when Patanjali's Sutra's were written but there are links of it dating back to 2nd Century BCE (that's between 1,700 t0 2,200 years ago...)

So what does it mean?

Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodha - direct translation from each of those Sanskirt words is:

- Yogas - 'Yoga is'

-Chitta - mind

- Vritti - Activities / fluctuations

- Nirodha - stopping

Therefore - Yoga is the stopping / stilling of the fluctuations of the mind.

Often you hear people saying ' Yoga is the union of the mind and body' - but Yoga is a union of all things - not just within yourself but around you and all that is in the Universe. Connection between all to remove your ego and reach Samadhi (enlightenment, Nirvana, union with the universe, higher consciousness however you want to understand it.)

In order to reach Samadhi - there are the 8 limbs of Ashtanga to grapple through first. Only once we are successful in those are we likely to reach Samadhi.

A quick run down of the 8 limbs - you are to follow it in numerical order... (for full breakdown here is it )

1) Yama - Self- Restraint of :

  • Ahimsa - Non Violence in the physical or thoughts.

  • Satya - Truthfulness

  • Asteya - 'Non stealing' - fulfillment of responsibility

  • Brahamscharya - 'celibacy' - Non temptation

  • Aparigraha - 'non collecting' share, service and keep balance.

2) Niyam - Rules to follow or personal discipline :

  • Shaucha - cleanliness, purification, personal hygiene

  • Santosha - contentment and satisfaction of what we have

  • Tapa - self discipline and continuous efforts towards your goal

  • Swadhyaya - self study or self observation

  • IshvaraPranidhana - God - devotion and surrendering to God.

3)Asana - postures ***NOTE*** this is what majority of people who practice 'Yoga' only concentrate on. This as you can see is only a small part of the Yogic way of life...

4) Pranyama - expansion of life force within (Breathwork)

5) Pratyahara - withdrawing of the senses or discipline of the senses.

6) Dhana - Concentration

7) Dhyana - Meditation (Raja yoga - Raj literally means 'Royal' or 'King' or 'Emperor'. Meditation is the KING of the practice and all the steps before strive to enable meditation.)

8) Samadhi - dissolving "where there is no 'I'"

And so - this is why I would not call myself a 'Yogi'. There is so much more to Yoga than being upside down and doing the splits. Yoga is a way of life, a quest real spiritual realisation and real discipline. It is not a trend, it is not an instagram picture, a brand or a buzzword.

The above is barely even skimming the surface of the practice. - There is a reason why Yogi's dedicate their life to studying and working because there is SO much to unpack. I would, in an ideal world, call myself an Asana and Pranayama teacher, but it might take a bit too long to explain each time. Whilst I try hard to work on elements above, I am by no means as dedicated as real Yogis who truly seek the enlightenment the Yogic lifestyle advocate to be able to bring.

I feel it is my duty as a (western) Yoga teacher to explain and very importantly respect where Yoga's roots and traditions are.

If you do not want to practice to such extremes or even participate on the Chanting during classes then it is A-Okay to me! (I would suggest you do try it though! Some people feel a little silly doing it but therein is where you need to relax your ego and forgot what people think and try it. See if it brings you connection to your body. Blog post later on Chants - the why and how's!) But I feel it is my DUTY to continue teaching this as it is a very integral part to Yoga.

If you liked this post, like, share and comment!

I'll be continuing on with some other important Yogic topics soon :)

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