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What is Yoga?

This time of year usually brings more people to yoga, many of whom are complete beginners. With this in mind, I offer my thoughts on what (briefly) yoga means to me.

Yoga is a system for us to arrive in this present moment. We deepen our awareness and become more balanced. Through the physical practice the body becomes healthy, strong, flexible and vibrant. Emotionally and mentally we find calm and clarity. Yoga is freedom, as we return to the present moment we experience the true nature or our natural mind and a state of complete happiness.

Yoga is an ancient tradition which was developed in India and has existed in some form since at least 500 BCE (quite possibly longer), with the aim of using the body and breath to tame the mind. There are many paths of yoga, some which use the body, some which focus on devotional or intellectual approaches.

Many people are drawn to yoga thinking of it primarily as a series of postures. The physical elements of building strength, balance and flexibility are wonderful, but as one practices a profound depth to its teachings emerges. With the physical practice we learn to balance strength and flexibility, and we are able to apply the lessons learned through our body into other areas of our life. The practice of yoga should be your own personal self discovery: a place to experience, explore and express whatever it means to you.

Yoga is not necessarily a quick fix to life’s ups and downs. Problems can’t be solved with good intentions alone. There is work to be done. Yoga allows us to really look at ourselves, and gives us tools to be kind enough to work through our problems without continually sabotaging ourselves or making the same mistakes. We find our moral compass, but we still have to do the work. Sometimes we fall down the same hole again and again, but as we work with patience and compassion, we become the person we really are, the person we have always been, before the stuff of life took over. We learn to value ourselves, value our relationships, and realise our intrinsic wholeness.

It’s a way of living which makes real happiness possible. When we focus our attention on the body and on the breath, there is a taste of stillness which calls us back again and again to this beautiful practice. We begin to wake up and remember our true nature, essentially joyful and peaceful.

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