Yoga = Union
The word yoga is derived from ancient Sanskrit and directly translates to “union” or “yoke”. The simplicity of the meaning gives proof that the purpose of the practice is far from complicated, but could be interpreted in different ways. The union of body, heart & mind or oneself to all other. Either way you look at it the intention is clear.
Ancient yoga text, Krishna’s Bhagavad Gita states that yoga is union, love, the source of all things:
He who is rooted in oneness
realizes that I am
in every being, wherever
he goes, he remains in me.
When he sees all beings as equal
in suffering or in joy
because they are like himself,
that man has grown perfect in yoga.
Through yoga we can connect to ourselves and to that which surrounds us. So even though we may not realize it, we are all yogis. We all practice yoga in one way or another through whatever it is we do that makes us feel connected to either ourselves or the world around us.
Let that be your inspiration for wanting to learn more about the teachings and practices of yoga. Don’t let common misconceptions deter you from stepping into a yoga space, onto a yoga mat or into a class where you can learn more about how yoga leads to unification.
After conducting a short survey. I came across several misconceptions about yoga and what comes to peoples’ minds when they think about yoga.
5 Common Misconceptions about Yoga
It’s all about Stretching & Relaxing
The physical postures (asanas) of a yoga practice as well as the meditative aspect could be considered means to an end. Tools to create a healthy body and calm mind in order to reach a higher level of conscious awareness. Heightened awareness that leads to a deeper internal connection to one-self and external connection to the world.
You must be Flexible
Flexibility is a derivative of a regular yoga practice. It is not a prerequisite nor the sole purpose. As stated above asana is used as a form of improving body health and awareness. As every physical body is so different, there is not one body ‘type’ better than the other when it comes to practicing yoga. Everyone can benefit from taking time to move their body in accordance to their breath without worrying about what they look like, how far they can bend or if they can touch their toes. By unifying body movements and relaxation with the breath one can release tension and create space for greater ease of movement/flexibility to follow.
It’s only for Ladies
There is absolutely no reason why yoga would be gender specific unless it is prenatal. All other yoga is equally beneficial for both males and females. The practices target body parts, organs, systems and energy lines that we all share. To put it bluntly, if you can breathe you can practice some form of yoga.
You must be Spiritual
As with flexibility, there is no prerequisite stating that in order to practice yoga one must maintain a certain level of spirituality. The term “spirituality” is extremely broad and in no way definitive of someone who can or does practice yoga. Similar to many other things, spirituality can be a derivative of practicing yoga but should not be a determinative factor when deciding if one should or should not practice yoga.
Must be vegetarian or vegan
Speak to many yogis and very quickly learn that many yogis are not vegan or vegetarian. A yoga practice creates more opportunity for personal or self exploration. Commonly this exploration leads to a deeper connection to the positive effects of a healthy body. For some, this connection creates a greater sense of self appreciation which can then influence one’s choices regarding what they consume. Also, as one becomes more connected to and in-tune with their body on different levels they can become more sensitive to the effects of what they consume. Often times this can lead a yoga practitioner to choose a vegetarian or vegan diet. Although many yogis make this choice, many do not. It does not make them better or more well-suited to the benefits of a yoga practice.
My Yoga is…
Yoga is a very broad term. It encompasses several different teachings and practices. I believe that the most common misconception is that yoga is or must be definitive of any set of certain rules, regulations or expectations. Yoga is in fact a perfect opportunity to free yourself from expectations and create your own individual practice based on elements that most resonate with you, personally. Just as we are all unique individuals, our yoga practice is much the same. It is a unique personal development that gives us a source to tap into discovery of who/what we really are.
The mini survey and it’s results inspired my most recent social media project. Get those around me to share what their yoga is. I asked them to think about what gives them the feeling of connection to either themselves or the world around them and to write it on a chalkboard under the heading “My yoga is…”. I then posted the photo collages on our social media sites to try and inspire others to recognize that we are all yogis and to share their yoga.
And so I encourage you. Take some time to think. What is your yoga?When you find it, use it as your inspiration to explore different types of yoga and learn more ways to feel connected.