What is Yoga to You?

When I say the word Yoga, what comes to your mind? Is it turning upside down in a headstand and trying to find balance? Warrior pose? A path of devotion that presents both challenges and victories? Is it study, of the Self and God, and what the difference might be between those two? Or perhaps it is reading scriptures, recitation of mantra, or breathing exercises. Maybe something else came to mind of what Yoga means to you and with reflection you might discover ideas that you hadn’t previously known you had. That, is a step.

Before we embark on a journey, whatever that journey may be, it is often helpful to know, where am I going? What do I hope to receive, to cultivate, to refine in the process? How do I know when I have “gotten there”? How often, though, is that the case? Many come into Yoga with little understanding of what Yoga is really all about, or what gives it meaning on a personal level. It can change depending on who we are learning from, of what is being taught and the authenticity of the teachings, and of our willingness to explore and engage. All things considered, the experiences of what Yoga is has the potential to differ dramatically and if that is the case, than what really is Yoga? What is the aim of this practice? I’m not saying there are universal answers to questions such as these; perhaps rather the answers are more individualized and are meant to be dynamic, more like verbs in action.

Reflection is one way to gather grist for the mill; a contemplative practice that evokes insight and intuition. When you know where you want to be going the Path becomes rich with meaning, alive, diverse. Questions such as what is the purpose of me being here? What makes my life become alive and me become alive in it? These can offer a sense of orientation when we may otherwise lack a compass and walk in circles. This compass guides from the inside so we move with purpose, intention, and ideals that reflect, as a mirror, if we match up with what we said wanted. In that way springs forth the wisdom of no escape, not being able to escape our own self and an invitation towards a ruthless, unprecedented, honesty.

The path of Yoga is no different. To cultivate a sense, or at least a sincere curiosity, of what you think, what you desire from the practice can help reveal expectations, false beliefs, and personal and collective projections. Is Yoga not a path to Liberation? What, then, stands in the way of being liberated? I find, in my own exploration, it is ideas, attachments, outdated stories and narratives, and an erroneous identification of who I believe I am. To forget and to remember is a Divine dance of waking up.

This question, what is Yoga? is a means to open and personalize what Yoga means to you. When the Path becomes personal there is an active and unique role that you play, a role that could not be played by another; there are choices and responsibility. When the practices are lived day in and day out they have a way to expose rather than conceal, to illuminate where the shadow is among the everlasting, eternal sun.

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