There seems to be this new conversation showing up in Yogaland that's being ignored in Fitland. Yogaland is bringing to light the fact that solely focusing on fitness and movement in a room of people and calling it yoga is... disrespectful? dishonest?
Sorry, I'm trying to get the right word here. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that movement classes that disregard anything that isn't physical and calling it a yoga class goes against the meaning of the word yoga. So...
What does the word "yoga" mean?
(WARNING: This next paragraph is a bit boring and gibberish. Feel free to skip to the next section.)
“The word ‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Yuj’, meaning ‘to join’ or ‘to yoke’ or ‘to unite’. As per Yogic scriptures the practice of Yoga leads to the union of individual consciousness with that of the Universal Consciousness, indicating a perfect harmony between the mind and body, Man & Nature. According to modern scientists, everything in the universe is just a manifestation of the same quantum firmament.”
My interpretation of all this jargon speak?
Yoga is believing in something bigger than yourself and tuning into that vibe/ frequency/ energy, whatever you’d like to call whatever it is that we’re tuning into. (Click to Tweet!) This statement is backed by science which says everything in the universe is made up of the same stuff: matter/ atoms/ nuclei whatever the word is… I am a yoga teacher, not a scientist.
So… traditionally speaking, yoga has nothing to do with fitness nor any kind of physical practice. Which then beckons the question, how do we practice both tuning into and out of ourselves (which we already discussed is the definition of yoga)? Which sort of answers the original quandary, what does a physical movement practice have to do with yoga? We create movement with our bodies to tune into and out of our selves and tap into the Universal Consciousness.
It’s cool. I feel like most yoga explanations just end up inviting more questions and confusion than answers. One of my new goals for this blog is to turn daunting yoga verbiage and concepts into understandable human word blogs. Which is hopefully why you're still with me!
Ready to break it down? Leggo.
How do yoga and fitness connect?
↳The word yoga roughly translates to “join,” “yolk,” or “unite” from sanskrit to english.
↳However, the word itself does not say what two things are uniting. We'll get to that, just stick with me.
↳Yoga is so old it predates written communication, so a lot of what we know comes from stories passed through the ages. These stories were mostly in Sanskrit, an ancient spoken language with no real concrete translations available at this time. This may be one explanation as to why there are so many different kinds of yoga, yoga philosophies, cues, styles, etc.
↳Eventually, at some point, a long time ago, someone wrote some of this stuff down. There’s a debate about who did what when. For our purposes, it doesn't matter. #shrug
↳The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is the eight-limbed system we now generally follow and call yoga. Let it be known that the following interpretations of these “limbs” are from my personal lineage and understanding of the yoga sutras. Without further adieu, the eight limbs of yoga as they’ve been presented to and researched by me, and me alone:
1. Yamas: 5 rules as to interacting with the outside world. Aka the social contract.
a. Ahimsa: Nonviolence. No violence. No ifs, ands, ors, buts.
b. Satya: Truth. Don’t lie.
c. Asteya: Non Stealing. Don’t steal.
d. Brahmacharya: Self-Restraint
e. Aparigraha: Non-Possessiveness
2. Niyamas: 5 rules as to relating inwardly. Aka a lot of stuff therapy recommends.
a. Saucha: Purity. Cleanliness.
b. Santosha: Contentment.
c. Tapas: The self discipline needed to stay true to oneself.
d. Svadhyaya: Never stop learning about yourself.
e. Ishvara Pranidhana: Surrender to higher power.
3. Asanas: The physical practice of postures.
4. Pranayama: Control of life force. Aka breathwork.
5. Pratyahara: Withdrawal of the senses. Passage of outer to inner. Sensory deprivation.
6. Dharana: Concentration
7. Dhyana: Meditation
8. Samadhi: Absorption into Universal Oneness with god. Nothing affects you. Realization of Higher Self. Nirvana.
AHA! There it is!
#3 on the list: The connection between physical fitness and yoga. The physical practice of yoga is just a single part of yoga as a whole, just an eighth of the entire understanding of what we call yoga! We’ve hit the tip of the iceberg.
If yoga means union and we're practicing in a way that only honors the physical movement aspect of yoga, we're not really practicing yoga.
This blog is becoming a space of inquiry and development for me.
Hopefully it can become a space of information and safe inquiry for you. I'm also hoping you can learn more about my teaching and philosophy by reading.
Moving forward, I'm hoping to use this blog to help me create a better connection between the physical fitness aspect of yoga and the seven other limbs. I'd like to develop a deeper practice and philosophy that honors all of what yoga has to offer, my students as and where they are, and my personal journey and place in all of this.