(Photo: Lois Greenfield)
There is great confusion in the yoga world: the basic Western misunderstanding of yoga is that it is merely separate positions to be mastered.
It is not!
Yoga is not just physical training, positions, or movements — it's not even primarily about exercise! Yoga is an ancient, practical system for accessing, healing, and integrating your body and mind. Yoga practices can involve your feelings, your thoughts, even your emotional flexibility.
In yoga, it doesn't really matter if your hamstring muscles are tight. Yoga is much more a state of mind than having to touch your toes.
The principles of yoga teach that all parts of the body and mind are interconnected. If we influence one part, we influence all others. The ancient yogis developed the art and science of yoga to affect overall change in the system through the various techniques of movement, breathing, meditation, and chant. Through these practices, we learn to transform negative qualities of the mind into higher states of order and clarity, which promote overall physical and emotional well-being.
The Art of Linking
The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means to "join, link, or connect." The essence of yoga is yoking or uniting, and to practice yoga is to "join with" — to reach a new level of integration within yourself.
Yoga is the art of linking to all parts of yourself — your body, your thoughts, your awareness, and your emotions. Each time you attempt to link with any aspect of yourself or your world, you are doing yoga.
As you link your awareness to the movement of your body and mind, your attention is naturally drawn inward — you start listening and begin to "work out" from within. This feels entirely different from simply working out your muscles, because you experience the movement "from the inside out." You create a natural state of rhythm and grace, an exquisite sensitivity of awareness.
This becomes the real goal of exercise.
Lean more about the multi-dimensional benefits of yoga in my book: Emotional Yoga: How the Body Can Heal the Mind (Simon and Schuster)
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