What Yoga Is & What Yoga Is Not

Yoga is pretty popular these days. On one hand, this is awesome — the more people practicing and reaping all of the mind/body/spirit benefits, the better. On the other hand (like most things that get Westernized and become mainstream), the original roots of Yoga can get twisted and lost in translation.

This is something I have never spent loads of time thinking about — I am normally on my mat deep in my own practice. However, after a seriously sprained wrist, I was given six weeks to sit on the sidelines and just observe.

This brought up some less than comfortable emotions and I could honestly compare it to the longest roller coaster ride of my life. Who would have guessed? I am finally off the ride, and grateful for having been on it because all of that observing has given me a deeper and fiercer love and understanding of what Yoga is.

Before reaching that bright, illuminating clarity on what something is, it is often easier to start with what something is not:

Yoga is not a purely physical practice. It is not 100 chaturangas. It is not pressing crow into handstand. It is not getting your foot behind your head. It is not a one-armed handstand lotus balancing on your pinky, nor is it holding boat pose for 10 minutes.

Yoga is not about killing yourself to perform the most advanced postures and running your body to a point of insane exhaustion and injury. Yoga is not competition, comparison, or jealousy. Yoga is not about what is the trendy, newest way to get the flattest abs and ‘hottest’ body. Yoga is not drinking Chai lattes or making green smoothies in your Vitamix.

Yoga is not about mala beads, wrap bracelets, and it definitely is not about f*&@$%! Lululemon.

Phew. OK, now that we got that out of our way, we can see what is left.

What Yoga is about is bringing your mind, body and spirit in sync.

It is about surrendering. Surrendering to whatever lesson your mat has for you that day. Surrendering to life. Surrendering to your body. Surrendering to living from a place of love. It is about feeling and learning how perfect you are in your imperfections — how there are no imperfections at all. It is about burning through the story your Ego has told you, and being able to see clearly again.

Yoga is about knowing and trusting with all of your being that you are exactly where you need to be. Where you are supposed to be, with all your injuries and strengths (they are all lessons, I assure you). Where you are supposed to be, during light and darkness. Chaos and bliss. Challenges and peace.

Yoga is letting go of attachment; embracing the present moment, the adventure of the unknown, and your own perfection. Let go of attachment to the outcome of a pose, and love the journey of getting there. Love where your body is right now.

Let go of the attachment to how happy you will be when you can balance on a handstand, when you can fit back into your size four jeans, or when you buy those sweet new yoga pants — because when you get all of those things, you will still be the exact same person with the exact same struggles and issues!

Yoga helps you keep your cool when life challenges you. It is about seeing your challenges as something you get the chance to overcome. Seeing them as an exciting chance to learn from, grow, and build your strength, faith, and courage.

It is about staring your challenges in the eyes calmly, with a smirk — saying “Thank you for all you are about to teach me!” It is about learning to enjoy every part of the ride: twists, turns, bumps, sudden stops, and gracefully reaching the destination.

Yoga is about learning how to live from a place of love and compassion. A place where you are your authentic self, where you do not let fear drive you, where you can infuse faith, passion, honesty, and gratitude into every breath.

Stop making your practice into a competition with your neighbor, an unhealthy obsession, or what you think you ‘should’ be as a yogi.

Allow your Yoga to be what it truly is.

Allow your sacred practice to teach and nurture you, guide and love you.

By Grace Hildebrand via Rebelle Society

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  1. Joy cantor says:


  2. This is wonderful; I began studying yoga in 1969; a period of time, especially on the East Coast, where and when yoga was not at all understood, accepted or taught formally; I have stayed with it since ( with many fall backs); I did study it privately, in college, and privately again. This was long before it became a trend. I’m sad it’s a trend, too, but I keep working it and hoping for less set backs.

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