Around the world on the Summer Solstice (21st June) people will be celebrating international yoga day. But where did yoga come from, what is yoga and why do it?
A very brief history of yoga
Nobody knows exactly when the practice of yoga first began in India but it’s origins can be traced back to over 5000 years ago. However, it not was until 2000 years ago that the philosophy behind yoga was documented in two writings; the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. It was sometime in the late 1800s and early 1900s that the yoga masters began to travel and started to introduce yoga to the West.
What is yoga?
The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word “to yoke” or “bind together” and it is used to represent the union of body, mind and spirit that takes place in yoga.
BKS Iyengar says in his book Light on Yoga that:
“The primary aim of yoga is to restore the mind to simplicity, peace, and poise, to free it from confusion and distress.”
I particularly like this quote as dispels the common misconception that yoga is all about being able to put your foot behind your ear, when actually moving the body is just a tool in bringing about mental peace and calm. In fact, the early yogic texts focus more on the attitudes and attributes required, breathing and meditation practices rather than the physical yoga postures themselves.
Why do yoga?
Over the years that I have been teaching yoga I have found that people do yoga for a variety of reasons. Many want to connect with the physical aspect by strengthening the body or improving flexibility. Some people come to yoga to feel calmer, to create more mental harmony or to touch that point of inner stillness. It was as a new mother that I really started to connect with yoga myself. I enjoyed stretching and the feeling of realigning my body after the work of caring for a small child. It gave me a chance to move in a way which replenished me rather than depleted me. It also gave me an opportunity to have some “me time” and reconnect with my sense of self. In short it was my little oasis of calm. This is something that I know that many of my yoga students identify with.
Play the long game
But why stick with a yoga practice? Well to put it simply the more that yoga becomes part of your life the more benefits you get. A calm mind creates a relaxed body; one which can rest and digest with ease. A strong body creates a robust and resilient mind that can view the world with truth and discernment.
Yoga together with its sister science of Ayurveda provides a framework of practices and lifestyle habits to live life from a place of thrive. It incorporates such a wide range of techniques that there really is something for everyone and at any point along their life journey. Movement, meditation, breathing, nutrition and massage all have their part to play in creating an upward spiral of empowerment, vitality and optimum health.
I met a lady this week who told me that she hardly ever gets ill and always has the energy she needs. How does she do this? She has finely tuned her self-awareness to create a perfect balance of the right movement practices, food and mental outlook to nourish, support and take care of herself to the fullest. Sounds good doesn’t it?
Yoga is my “go to” tool to help me manage my energy levels, calm my thoughts and balance my emotions.
If you would like to find out how ancient yoga wisdom can help you to improve your long term health and wellbeing then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Align me.”
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