What distiguishes my yoga practice from stretching exercises is the awareness. In yoga we cultivate awareness in everything we do, not just during the physical exercise. We direct our awareness into different body parts to connect mind and body. We bring awareness to the breath and have profound realizations about this gift of life. Gratitude and self-acceptance often come with awareness; becoming aware of physical limitations during the yoga practice can bring up all sorts of thoughts, from frustration over pushing myself hard to self-compassion. Yoga is awareness. It is observing yourself, your mind, while moving. Cultivating the witness, the observer, is key when we practice meditation. It brings peace of mind to be able to observe emotions, thoughts & stories & to be able to not identify with them anymore. It is empowering. And it is an expansive practice. Awareness doesn’t end on the mat. It expands into everyday life, into moments of tension at our work place & in our relationships. Yoga helps us to connect with ourselves through physical practices & stillness & gives us tools to work through challenges, to clear them out, to remove blockages. Once we start to peel back the layers of the mind & discover what shaped our belief systems, we discover more & more inner freedom. We can decide what we want to believe, we get chances to rewrite & change our story. We are less & less victims of our past & become more & more masters of the presence. This is why yoga is a life long journey. Because it takes time to uncover habits & to replace them with new ways of thinking & acting. It is a journey inwards & forward. It is a journey that connects us, first with ourselves & then with every being & with nature around us.
Yoga is awareness. It is something that needs to be pointed out in a world where yoga is often associated with physical exercise. Yoga is not a spiritually looking fitness practice. It is so much more. Physical exercise is a need in today’s society & does much good. By all means, do yoga Asana (the postures)! But don’t stop there. As yoga teachers I feel we have the responsibility to make other dimensions of yoga accessible & visible to people. We stand for yoga. My teacher pointed that out the other day & it made me think. Where do I embody yoga, and if I embody yoga, what do people think that yoga is? It is ok to be a student of yoga while teaching others. But I truly feel that we should not limit yoga as a practice, it should be our lifestyle. This is the heartfelt message of Swami Niranjananda (Bihar School of Yoga) that he conveys over & over again. Yoga is not a practice, it is a lifestyle. The physical aspects of yoga (originally Hatha yoga) are part of a whole yogic system. The different branches of traditional yoga offer yoga practices for the emotions (Bhakit yoga), for everyday life (Karma yoga), for mind-management (Jnana yoga) & an all-encompassing philosophy (Raja yoga) that lead us towards an experience of union & bliss (Samadhi).
Yoga is awareness. Awareness of the present moment. There lies healing for our fast-paced society. Becoming present & being present with ourselves is vital. The present moment is where life takes place. Not in stories about others, not in fears about the future, not in opinions of the mind. Being present with our emotions, listening to our body & allowing ourselves to simply be for an hour a day can change our lifes. And it will. This is why I love yoga so much. Trust the process; yoga works.
PS: Visit my blog Hippie Goes Lucky for more posts about spirituality, living in a community, mental health & awareness.