This may seem like the weirdest question with the most obvious answer, but I'd like to invite you to pause and think about it for a few minutes.
The root of the word yoga in Sanskrit is YUJ, which means "to yoke", "to unite", "to join". You may have heard this a million times already, but do you go on autopilot and not think about what we are encouraged to unite and join ?
It's not just the physical movement and the breath. What about uniting mind and body, what does that even mean ?
Until we stop and think about the words and expressions we use repeatedly, we can't really explore the depth of yoga.
The intention of "uniting" and "joining", to me, implies fluidity, cohesion and truthfullness.
When we want to unite the movement and breath, we are aiming for smooth connection, for an experience of wholeness, and trying to limit separation of the 2: one is in service of the other, like a dance.
When we want to unite mind and body, we are truly looking for is a human experience of belonging. We are aware that the mind and body get easily disconnected: we are all in our heads, not paying attention or listening to the body; or we use the mind to find clarity and are then unable to support the body in taking action. Yoking mind and body implies creating a beneficial partnership that serves the whole of who we are, feeling our emotions, thoughts and actions aligned, experiencing a deeply felt sense of connection between the various components of us.
What else is yoga ? Where else does the "yoking" intention go ?
Over the years, I have listened and acted on deep desires to:
- feel united to nature and the natural world around me. Same intention: when I realize I am a part of the whole, the journey home is to consistently take steps to nurture and remember that connection. In Ayurveda, we often refer to this as the microcosm being linked to the macrocosm.
- connect to a Higher Power. If everything is connected, if I am a part of the whole, then my individual consciousness is also expressed and connected to a Higher Consciousness.
The question "what is yoga ?" does not stop there.
What we see and call yoga is really asana, one of the 8 ways to explore these unions (mind/ body; microcosm/ macrocosm; individual consciousness/ Higher Consciouness).
We forget, dismiss the other limbs because they are not as trendy, may not feel as easy, or just don't fit in our busy schedule. They are not a priority, and whether we like it or not, we relegate the asana practice to a form of exercise that makes us feel good.
I'm going to get a little heavy handed here, but we miss the point and the sacredness of the existence of Yoga.
So, I invite you to reflect on the 8 limbs of yoga, or Ashtanga, their order, and how your life would feel if you started prioritizing these explorations (hint, hint, the last limb is where we might get...)
Unsure what these mean or how to explore them ? Great ! We are privileged to have a lifetime of exploration in front of us, if we choose to.
I'd be honored to support your exploration.