What is yoga?
Yoga, to me, is the freest expression of body and mind; it is the most true and powerful way to manifest life energy and simultaneous connectedness with both the world and the authentic self. It allows the practitioner to find inner peace while, at the same time, sharing his/her essence of spirit with many others. Within an individual, this practice promotes positive transformation and pilots a playful and non-judgmental state of candid awareness. As a result of yoga, the personal release, healing, and mutual giving that can occur amongst and within members of a community are unbelievable and can even, at times, prove to be overwhelmingly beautiful.
As I reflect on what yoga really means to me, the subject actually brings up a great degree of emotion, which includes some pain and sadness but is also doted with a feeling of wonderful freedom and joy. This, I think, is due to the fact that yoga has, little by little, replaced much of the negative force that seems to have defined the way I once (not so long ago!) viewed both my own identity and the world in general. I’d go so far as to say that when I finally made yoga a discipline, I reclaimed my body and mind, which I felt that I had lost, or at least, had lost sight of and control over, during one of the darkest periods of my life, when I nearly lost my father. I literally somehow came to think, although I was unaware of it, that my true existence was unmerited, that destructive self-sacrifice was in fact my duty. Suffice it to say that the journey of yoga has so far brought me further and further away from the ego while, all-the-while, I trek closer to my, dare I say, “best”, and certainly, most genuine self.
The healing force behind yoga has been unconditionally present ever since I began the practice. Some days, body aches miraculously seem to go away, or shortness of breath emerging from anxiety subsides, or a fellow yogi or yogini gives me a much-needed hug. Other times, I find that practice makes me realize how stressed or sad or happy or lonely I am on a particular day. The yoga studio is the only place I feel utterly at ease bawling my eyes out in public or making bizarre noises in order to release stress and toxins from my body and mind. The yoga mat has the power to encourage people to be themselves, but also to step outside of themselves and, in turn, it allows them to experience just how closely linked all beings, and all elements, are.
In short, yoga leads the body and mind, the individual and the group, to move toward a state of absolute clarity, awareness, openness, acceptance, intuition, discovery, playfulness, focus, and freedom. And of course, in addition to all of that, it has the added benefit of being extremely fun, rewarding, energizing, and good for your mental and physical health! I am amazed at how transformative a yogic lifestyle has been for me. As I continue to explore how yoga shapes our worlds, I am eager to continually share and learn a practice that so extensively redefines us.