Yoga is a practice that integrates the different levels of human existence.
The word “yoga” literally means union in sanskrit. This practice seeks to create a union between all the different parts of yourself. This is how you create wholeness within yourself. Once you are whole, a union is automatically created between you and God. You don’t need to look for or search God out, yoga gives you a constant awareness of God.
“If the root of a tree is weak, the tree itself cannot be strong.” Iyengar
This experience is life changing. Your connection to the deeper parts of yourself and the creator are your roots, your core, your foundation. When you strengthen this connection, your life has the potential to become limitless. You remove the boundaries of inflexibility.
So you see, yoga is not just a physical exercise, although it’s great for that too. Yoga, even if you only use it to get fit, brings you deeper into who you are. You may lose weight, but you will also stand a little taller, walk more confidently, and see clearer.
Where Did Yoga Come From?
Yoga is thought to have originated in ancient India, but I believe yoga is as ancient as man. History is only a written record of existence. I believe yoga has been passed down from civilization to civilization and the oldest record we have is it’s prevalence in India and hinduism. There is also evidence (hieroglyphics and scholarly writings) that ancient Egyptian and Greek cultures practiced yoga.
Can I Practice Yoga If I’m not Hindu?
Absolutely!! Like many of the healing practices, yoga does not belong to hinduism. Never get caught up in the cultural associations of a healing practice. Just like incense and herbal medicine is used in hinduism too, but we don’t stop using these things just because we’re not hindu. Yoga is a practice used to deepen our relationship with ourselves. It is the ultimate self care tool. It doesn’t matter what religion you practice or even if you’re an athiest. Yoga can be and should be practiced by everyone.
The actual word yoga first appears in the Hindu scripture, Katha Upanishad, in Chapter 3 verse 11, which states:
When the five senses are stilled, when the mind
Is stilled, when the intellect is stilled,
That is called the highest state by the wise.
They say YOGA is this complete stillness
In which one enters the unitive state,
Never to become separate again.
If one is not established in this state,
The sense of unity will come and go. (10-11)
This quote reinforces the goal of yoga, which is union, stillness, and living in the highest state of awareness. Although this word yoga first appears in a hindu text, this concept of unity with oneself and divinity is common to all religious and spiritual practices.
Take a look at this bible verse that expresses the exact same idea.
“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” James 4:8
How Do I Get Started?
Yoga helps heal the mind, body, and spirit. When you’re first getting started with yoga, choose one aspect of yoga to focus on. What appeals to you the most? Yoga involves breathing, stretching, and meditating. Whichever of these practices appeals to you, get started with it and slowly branch out into the other areas.
If you want a new exercise regimen, choose stretching. (Read: 4 Lessons Learned from Stretching Myself.) If you want more inner peace, choose meditation (Read: What is Meditation? and 3 Tips to Quieting Your Mind.) If you’re seeking more concentration and focus, choose breathing. (Watch: Relieve Stress in 5 Minutes or Less.)
“In any yoga pose, two things are required: sense of direction and centre of gravity.” Iyengar
However you decide to start your yoga practice, first determine what you seek to get out of the practice. Define your purpose for doing yoga. Then, logically choose the path that is right for you and you’ll be guided by your defined purpose.
As in a yoga pose, in life we must always keep a strong core and sense of self, which is achieved through balance, and we must have a sense of direction. Always define the “why” before getting involved in any new practice.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
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