When you hear the word ‘Yoga’, what comes to mind?

Do you think of skinny Gandhi-esque loin cloth clad men, hovering off the ground in deep meditation, their legs crossed gracefully in padmasana (lotus) ? Or is it skinny, scantily clad new-agist hippies, on brightly coloured yoga mats,  their legs in places  they simply ought not be in? You would be right either way, but Yoga is older than Gandhi and cooler than hippies or hipsters for that matter.

Yoga is an ancient Indian culture that dates back more than 5000 years. The word “Yoga” came from the Sanskrit word “yuj” which means “to unite or integrate.” Yoga is about the union of a person’s own consciousness (spirit) and the universal consciousness (God or who I like to refer to as Holy Spirit).

Ancient Yogis believed that in order for man to be in harmony with himself and his environment, he had to integrate the body, the mind, and the spirit. For these three to be integrated, emotion, action, and intelligence must be in balance. Yoga is the practice of achieving and maintaining this balance. Yoga has three components.  Breath, (pranayama), poses or postures (asana)  and meditation (prayer). Traditional Yoga finds it’s roots in the Yoga Sutras (texts) of Patanjali, however, Patanjali was not the founder of Yoga, but one of the main expounders of it over the years, writing a great body of text on Yoga traditions, purposes and benefits.

In this day and age, it’s not rocket-science to see the benefits of Yoga in terms of physical, mental and spiritual well being. Yoga never stays on the mat, it joyously and compassionately leaks out into your life. It changes how you view the world and your place and purpose in it. Yoga teaches us how to be loving toward ourselves. How to be compassionate to ourselves, because human beings have self-defeating and self-limiting tendencies. We are our own worst critics. Practicing yoga brings the content of our beings to the surface so we can see it. Inside the muscles, we hold the memories of every emotion we’ve ever experienced: sadness, fear, anger, etc. Through the asanas, we can tap into these memories and process our pasts. It’s the asanas that release the emotions out of the body. Being a yogi really means engaging in the process of healing: mentally, emotionally, and physically. Yoga helps us learn how to accept all the parts of ourselves that aren’t as evolved as we might like them to be. If you need convincing, come to a class! I’ll be gentle with you, I promise!