What is Yoga?

A question I had to answer in my yoga philosophy exam. A question that came back into my mind yesterday. My classes this week were different. For one time no smooth asana flow, but hard work on our foundation and stability. Seems not everybody expected this in a yoga class. No? Well, I’m curious to see my student’s reactions when I introduce them to mantra chanting… 😉

Anyhow, this brings me back to the question „what is yoga“? There must be millions of different views on that, when looking at all the different yoga and teaching styles! And new styles popping up each month…

Finally, it’s about our believes, our view of how something should be. There is no right or wrong. Lot’s of people — including me — started their yoga practice as exercise. A different form of gymnastics, work out. Which is absolute fine, even if this means not using the full potential. Yoga asanas are a very efficient way to train our bodies. But yoga is so much more. If you stop here, you’ll miss a lot. My view is, the beauty of yoga is not IN the asanas, but comes to us THROUGH them.

„Yoga is an inner practice. The rest is just a circus.“ – Sri Pattabhi Jois, the founder of Ashtanga yoga.

Boom. What? The guru himself kind of disclaims? Why not using the one to achieve the other? Give it a try. Practice the circus, use the asanas to go internal, to connect with your SELF.

YOGA is usually translated as UNITY. Or as the Bhagavat Gita says, „The journey of the self through the self to the self.“ 

Asana, the yoga posture, is just one of the 8 limbs of yoga. What we practice as yoga in the western world is just a very small part of yoga. The 8 limbs of yoga are:

  1. Yama – ethical discipline
  2. Niyama – self observation
  3. Asana – posture
  4. Pranayama – breath control
  5. Pratyanara – sense withdraw
  6. Dharana – concentration
  7. Dyana – Meditation
  8. Samadhi – state of joy and peace

Yoga is also about not judging. Just practice and see what happens. In your mind, in our body. Watching, recognizing, without changing anything.

Give it a try. Start your next class open. Give your believes a time out. For an hour, no judgement, just do it. Breathe through your practice, connect with yourself, go internal and enjoy your progress.


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