Sorry to tell you, you’re missing out on yoga if all you think of and do are yoga poses (aka asana) when you hear the word yoga. Sure yoga does consist of postures, poses, pretzel shapes or whatever you want to call them. An asana practice is key for waking us up to our bodies, releasing tension & toxins and helping us move through life with a sense of lightness. This is a wonderful aspect of yoga but there is so much more.
Beyond moving, yoga is learning to breathe in a way that will transform your body, mind and emotions. On the spot in the midst of the chaos life throws your way, tapping into your breath power can elicit a strong sense of calm. The various practices of yoga breathing (pranayama) can be extremely cleansing, healing and energizing. To name a few, alternate nostril, ujjayi and kapalabhati breathing are all extremely effective and easy practices you can do almost anytime, anywhere.
Yoga is also about our actions. It’s about extending kindness to yourself on and off the mat, and just as much to strangers who cut you off in traffic. And the kindness comes in all forms of thoughts, words and actions (ahimsa). It’s also about being honest (satya) with everyone and everything in your life – including you!
And for the most part, yoga teaches us not to multitask our way through life. Other than juggling breath with movement like in a vinyasa class, yoga teaches you maintain complete focus on one thing at a time (dharana). In today’s world this can be more challenging than getting your foot behind your head. Concentration can come in many forms but probably the most important is in our relationships. When you talk with others, can you pay 100% attention to what they are saying in the moment?
Yoga is also about opening up. When we start to stretch our bodies via asana and breathing our minds to calm, we start to open up on another level unexpectedly. To me this is the bonus part of yoga: we begin to view things, people and all of life from a more receptive standpoint. We discover the courage to try things on and off the mat that once appeared daring or impossible at first. We learn with practice, patience and discipline (tapas) anything is possible. A handstand that once seemed like a pipe dream becomes an effortless part of your daily asana practice.
To wrap up, yoga is so much more than what I have simply shared here. The beautiful thing about yoga is it is very personal for each yogi and yogini. For me, yoga is appreciating what every moment, every being and every breath has to offer. It requires discipline and faith beyond the yoga mat. Yoga is full participation with life!