Where does Yoga come from?
Yoga is an ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice or discipline which originated in India. It´s origins have been speculated to date back to the Vedas, which contain the earliest written records of Yoga and Indian tradition and are more than 4000 years old. The principal script of today´s Classical Yoga are Patanjali´s Yoga Sutras. Yoga is now widely practiced across the globe. Despite of Yoga´s popularity as a system of physical across the Western world Yoga – in Indian traditions – more than a physical exercise, it has a meditative and spiritual core. Nowadays, there is a broad variety of schools, practices, and goals.
What is Yoga about?
Yoga is a holistic practice and teaching unifying body, mind and spirit. It is all about relationships – your relationship with yourself, with the people in your life, with the world around you and with the universe / the divine. This makes the yoga path a journey of connection – both internal and external. Yoga is also a way of exploring both the body, the mind and the spirit and through such enquiry, realizing and “connecting with” our vast untapped potential. Yoga on and off the mat offers us a metaphorical ladder toward liberation in life. We take on the yoga viewpoint (see!), and ascend out of a world of stress, worry, drama and limitations. We can learn to see beyond ourselves and develop the relationship with our higher, more contented “self”. Yoga is primarily a practice intended to make someone wiser, more aware & mindful.
What does Yoga mean?
There are many interpretations / definitions of the word Yoga over the time, some of them are:
- A classic definition of Yoga is “to be one with the divine”. Anything that brings us closer to the understanding that there is a higher power than ourselves and we are in harmony with that higher power, is yoga. Traditionally the word yogais defined as the union or integration of individual with universal consciousness.
- Darsana (sanskrit): to “see”, view”, “point of view” or even “a certain way of seeing”. It means we look deeper inside of ourselves (like with a mirror) as we come to terms with the yoga teachings. We change our perception on ourselves and others.
- “To come together”, “to unite”, “to tie the strands of the mind together”.
- “To attain what was previously unattainable”. “To move from one point to the other, higher one”. Finding the means to bring something that we previously were unable to do into action, that step is yoga. To reach a point where we have never been before.
- “Acting in such a way that all of our attention is directed toward the activity in which we are currently engaged.” Yoga attempts to create a state in which we are always really present – in every action – in every moment.
These definitions of Yoga have one thing in common: the idea that something changes. This change must bring us to a point where we have never been before.
Yoga has its roots in Indian thought, but its content is universal, because it is about the means by which we can make the changes we desire in our lives. The actual practice of yoga takes each person in a different direction.
What is part of the yoga practice?
In every Yoga practice there can be woven in some or all of the following different types of practices: Asanas (body postures), mantras (sacred sounds), pranayama (breathing practices), mudra (hand, body or eye gesture), meditation & visualization or bandhas (subtle energy locks), readings of quotes and / or teachings from classical yogic or other spiritual texts.
Where and how does the Yoga practice begin? Should we always begin on the physical level?
Krishnamacharya says that where we begin depends on our personal interests. There are many ways of practicing yoga, and gradually the interest in one path will lead to another. We can start by studying the Yoga Sutras, meditating, practicing asanas to understand yoga through the experience of the body. We can also begin with pranayama, feeling the breath as the movement of our inner being.
Which prerequisites are there for Yoga?
There are no prerequisites for the study and practice of Yoga. We begin where we are today and however we are, and whatever happens, happens.
Who can do Yoga?
Anybody who wants to can practice Yoga. But no one can practice every kind of Yoga. It has to be the right Yoga for the person. My teacher Anna from Davannayoga always says: “Yoga meets you where you are today and takes you one step further”. This means that wherever you are at today, is the perfect state to start with Yoga. If the practice takes you one step further, it is Yoga. Teacher and student together decide what is suitable and acceptable for the person. Also we should always make sure, we are doing your own practice and asana, and not somebody else´s (non competitiveness).
Benefits from Yoga or what does Yoga do to you?
Yoga has many positive effects on our physical, mental and spiritual health and wellbeing. It helps us to balance our energy and harmonizes our body mind and emotions, to become more flexible. Yoga strengthens the body and the mind, calms our mind, helps us to stay in the present moment and focus our energy, to “see” and discern what is true and what is not. It can change our perceptions and perspectives on life and therefore our life. It enhances a feeling of oneness and wholeness as we become aware of the holistic nature of our being, realizing that we are made of body, breath, mind, spirit.
Yoga simply urges us to take the time to look inside ourselves and find ways of reconnecting with who we really are (soulnature), which we all too often lose sight of in today´s fast-moving, achievement driven society.
Another positive effect is the liberation of human potential and creativity. Through yoga the limitations of life can be transcended; greater skills and efficiency in action can be attained which results in the expression of higher levels of creativity and positivity in life.
Yoga can help to deal with mental stress and physical tension and to find ways to ride, and even transcend the sea of sorrows. A regular spiritual, mental and physical yoga practice can empower and ground us, helping us to bring stress under control and to cultivate balance and life-purpose amid the chaos.
What is the aim of the yogic way of life?
The aim of yoga is to liberate us from suffering and ignorance and to create a feeling of oneness, a spiritually connected and meaningful life, a sensation of joy, harmony & peace and inner wholeness. The aim also is to encourage us to integrate yoga, in all its forms, into our everyday life – to “live” yoga no less!
Note to self: you can benefit from yoga´s numerous health-enhancing properties without (necessarily! J) retreating to a mountain top or renouncing worldly living. This is because finally it is about finding a certain quality of awareness, which will enhance your well-being and enrich every part of your daily experience.
Quote from the Upanishads:
„Watch your thoughts they become your actions
Watch your actions, they become your habits
Watch your habits, they become your character
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny“