What is yoga?

This is a common question asked by new-comers to yoga. I remember when I hung the sign outside of my first yoga studio in Bemidji, Minnesota in 2001. I watched through the window as a woman walking by stopped and looked up, and mouthed, “What’s Yoga?”  Yoga is many things. It depends on where you are coming from. If you are new to any kind of physical exercise, yoga can help you build a body/mind connection. If you are an athlete, yoga can help you release tension from areas that have been overworked, as well as build focus  to improve your game. If you are someone who has just gone through a traumatic time in your life, yoga can help you grieve, release, and find hope again.

On a more traditional note, yoga means “union”. The word Ha-tha means moon and sun, to unite. Hatha yoga is the umbrella to all yoga styles, and there are many. This can be one of the most confusing things about starting a yoga practice; where to begin? Which style is right for me? Hopefully the descriptions of the different styles can help guide you. But like one yoga teacher put it, “Yoga is like honey. I can tell you all day long what it’s like, but until you taste it for yourself, you will never know.”

For myself and many of my students, yoga saved me. I was very stressed out in 1996, working full-time and going to school.  I could feel myself becoming more and more tense and I prayed for something to help me. Then one day I saw a flyer posted at the church I attended for a yoga class. I truly had no idea what yoga was about, but thought that maybe it was a sign, some kind of answer to my prayers. I remember during that first class thinking to myself that this might be something I would like to do, to teach yoga. I have no idea why I thought that. But something inside of me was stirring and I starting to wake up. I didn’t know that this would become my life. That yoga would turn out to be that something that I had always wanted and craved to help me feel complete and content in my life. I had no idea that I would ever be able to meditate, to sit still for more than a moment at a time. And I had no idea that it would transform my life the way that it has.

So when someone asks me, “What is Yoga?” I simply say that it’s a process of peeling away what we are not, the stress and tension, and returns  us to our happy and healthy selves,  our true nature.

Namaste~ Lynne

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