Five Things Yoga is NOT...
Yoga is many different things to different people; it has helped people heal their bodies, calm their minds, de-stress, and find peace. Yoga is your personal journey and it will evolve as you do. On my journey I have discovered what yoga is for me… and I have also discovered what it is not. So, in my humble opinion, here are 5 things that yoga is not…. for me.
1. Yoga is not about self-improvement or making ourselves ‘perfect.’ Yoga is about connecting to our true essence, who we really are. Throughout life we have learned patterns and built barriers with the misguided belief that we were protect ourselves. Yoga is the process of deconstructing all the barriers. These barriers and patterns prevent us from having a true connection with our world and ourselves. We cannot strive toward ‘perfect.’ We already are perfect.
2. Yoga is not a performance, a competition, or just a workout. Sure we do physical postures on the mat, but we also do so much more. We breath, we connect, we build awareness and mental strengthen. The physical postures are a moving meditation to calm the mind so that we can become masters of it. The physical benefits are just a byproduct of a much deeper practice of calming the mind in order to ‘know thyself.’ If you use the physical practice to feed your vanity and ego by performing or competing with others (or yourself) then you are losing out on the deepest benefits, and it is not yoga, it is merely a workout. As Osho said, “Yoga is not about putting your foot behind you ear, it is about what is between the ears.”
3. Yoga is not a cult or a religion. In yoga we do not blindly follow any doctrine or leader. We adapt the systematic science for our self-discovery. We all have different personalities, learning styles, and histories and these differences must be taken into account when going within on a journey of self-discovery, or uncovering the self. We can take in knowledge from experienced yogis and the classic texts, but it is ultimately up to you how, why, and if you apply something on your journey. You decide what you believe, where you want to go, and how to get there.
4. Yoga is not just following your yoga teacher. Yoga is about connecting with your true self and learning to listen. Every yoga instructor, no matter how amazing you perceive them to be, is just a human. They will make mistakes. They are on their own journey, learning their own lessons. Love them, accept them, and maybe even learn from them. However, know that your lessons, your true guidance, come from within. If something a teacher says doesn’t feel authentic for you, trust that. You are the only one who knows yourself and knows what is right for you.
5. Yoga is not only practiced on a mat. Yoga is a lifestyle, a way of being in this world. It is a practice that involves being present, to the best of our ability, every moment of everyday. For me, it is easier to practice this presence and awareness on the mat when the lighting is soft, the music is calm and the setting is just right. However, as our mind gets stronger and it becomes easier to be present, we must take that lesson out into our lives off of the mat. To be present and ‘do’ yoga in every relationship, every action, and every breath.