You often ask yourself the question, what is yoga? Are these the beautiful positions found on Instagram or the one practiced by Buddhist monks? Or did your neighbor test Yoga bikram under 40° and one of your colleagues practices it at the fitness? But can we consider these practices as Yoga simply because the name suggests it?
There are no right or wrong answers. We can therefore estimate each example mentioned above as a type of yoga. That being said, all are from Hatha Yoga,the original Indian yoga.
If we go back to the definition of Yoga, it is more of an ancestral way of life, combining physical and mental exercises. All this put into perspective by a philosophy. The ultimate goal is the union of the three bodies constituting the individual: physical, mental and spiritual.
A Little history
Yoga – in Sanskrit योग "yug" – means "union". It has been practiced for millennia in India, its country of origin where it has been transmitted in its most oral tradition. It experienced considerable development in the first millennium BC, when it was broadcast thanks to the philosophy of Sāṃkhya and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali which constitute the first major texts on yoga. He begins his work by mentioning the fundamental quality of yoga as "stopping the fluctuations of the mind" – Yogascitta vrtti nirodah (Patanjali Yoga Sutra, 1-2)
During the first two millennia of our era, yoga influenced the cultures of Muslim and then Western colonizers. Finally in the twentieth century, it makes a new appearance in America and Europe under a more contemporary approach, the one we know today.
An art of life above all
In a word, to be aware of the present moment. Practicing on a mat makes it possible to gather the ideal conditions to be able to observe oneself without judgment, let go and accept what is presented. The goal is ultimately to be able to practice everywhere! Every situation in everyday life can be an opportunity to embody in real life what we have learned in silence during the session. Yoga is therefore present for everything, everywhere, all the time.
In India yoga is practiced silently, in sober outfit, often white, wide to allow to perform the movements easily and covering the whole body so as not to mislead our mind in the judgment. Practice venues are generally clean, quiet and minimalist. Regardless of age, people do yoga since they consider it essential to health and as an essential passage to raise consciousness.
How it works
In order to follow the Western way of life, adapt to economic pressures and make yoga "popular" with everyone, many varieties have been created.
Now many studios offer all types of yoga: Hatha, Ashtanga, Vinyāsa flow, Kundalini, Yin, Bikram, Iyengar, Jivamukti, Anusara, Power, Nidra, Fly, prenatal… and so many others!
But the goal remains the same: union!In other words, each practice must allow us to reconnect with our self, to refocus on the present moment. It's up to everyone to find their own method!
Nowadays asanas (postures) has become the only image or at least the most represented of yoga. You have certainly already seen these figures that require flexibility, balance, concentration and strength.
These postures make it possible to work on the physical body. Indeed, this first envelope is the easiest to work with because it is visible and palpable. Postures also act on the more subtle layers of our being such as the energetic body and the mental body.
But yoga is not just that!
Pranayama or the science of breath is also part of the practice of yogi. Breathing bridges the gap between the physical and energetic body, soothing the mind and gaining access to greater concentration. In practice it is said that the beneficial effects of yoga are estimated at 70% thanks to breathing and 30% thanks to postures.
This is therefore the key not to be overlooked!
Meditation is the goal of yoga.
Physical and breathing exercises help us greatly in maintaining sitting posture and concentrating on the breath. We can therefore say that asana and pranayama are only techniques of preparation for meditation! Indeed, these exercises will put into circulation the inner energy in order to harmonize the different bodies with each other (physical, mental, energetic) and allow to channel this energy.
In other words, if a course of asanas does not allow you to enter meditation more easily, then you must review your way of practicing. Ideally, meditation should not occur only when the body is exhausted or totally lethargic.