What Yoga isn't

Updated: Jun 10

“Some people think yoga will give them a perfect body. And if they practice it hard enough and with enough dedication, it will. That’s possible. But they’re still going to die then they’ll have a perfect dead body.”

Richard Freeman

Before a class recently I was having a chat with my students about what Yoga is but we soon got on to talking about what yoga isn’t. Initially we may be drawn to practice yoga because of a sore back or tight hamstrings but over time we return for something else - often intangible and difficult to explain - a sense of peace, surrender, acceptance perhaps?

The word yoga comes from a Sanskrit word yuj which is a physical device used to join cattle. Effectively the yuj joins together two separate beasts (the cattle) or in our case the body and the mind.

Often practised as a fitness class in gyms or a work out the reality is that yoga is more of a “work in”. One of my teachers Judith Hansen Lasatar says “ Spiritual practice is not the asana but the act of noticing during the practice of asana”.

Beginning with our physical body we practice correct posture (asana) to create comfort and ease as well as eliminating restlessness to prepare the mind to be less distracted. As we become stiller we can focus more on our thoughts and learn how to witness them rather than being pulled in all directions. We become master of our thoughts instead servant.

The time we carve out for ourselves to practice yoga provides us with an opportunity to self observe, self regulate and ultimately transform as we learn to soften - initially in our body - and later in our hearts and minds. As we learn to step away from the busy mind which, in the words of Stephen Covey’ “is a useful tool but a lousy friend” we may become happier as we learn to live and accept ourselves the way we are.

Here’s a reminder of what yoga is (or isn’t) from the Radiance Sutras

I am not a collection of incantations Known only to experts. I am not a ladder to be climbed, A sequence for piercing energy centres in your body. I am not to be found at the end of a long road. I am right here.

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