Does anyone know the meaning of yoga?

Have any of you been following the huge new (ish) movement to redefine yoga these days?  I’m seeing all sorts of folks changing it up at will and fighting for the privelige – and others hanging on to traditional systems like their lives depended on it.  Leave it to us Westerners to take something sacred and ancient and make it our own.  This is the one thing that perhaps we can all agree on if you start looking at all of the dissention about what “it” actually is.  Innovators innovate, that’s for sure!

In my role as Yoga Therapist and founder of Yokibics Mindbody Fitness, I am currently being interviewed for an article on some of the new yoga fusion programs.  The writer wants my expert opinion on what’s what. Oh boy. She has been re-contacing me to tweak this comment and that – and to tell you the truth I find I am actually delighted to enter the fray on such a broad and timely subject since I’ve been taken with reading much of the hubbub and controversy that arrives in my daily news feed.

Here’s what I commented to the question “what is the meaning of yoga in a yoga-fusion class – and who qualifies and who doesn’t?”

(cue up the theme from Jeopardy…)

OK –  my take on it is this – the good news is simply that the topic itself “the meaning of yoga” is so controversial it is sure to get a rise from readers – which brings attention to the subject of yoga at all.

If you haven’t tuned into elephant journal (out of Boulder CO – birthplace of all things new age and hippie 🙂 that’s one place where you too can subscribe and see what their bloggers are constantly arguing about – some tongue in cheek, some just cheeky – in addressing who is right and who is wrong and who is full of the most hot air…and what a modern definition of yoga might be.  The conclusions are allllll over the place from hot-body-sexy-chick-never-say-ohm types, to Bikram and his tribe, to traditionalists who are surely moaning as I write.

Given that – for me – and I am certain of what “for me” is – the meaning of yoga would signify the essence of “to yoke the powers of body, mind and spirit.”

If one or another of the parts to that three legged stool goes MIA in anyone’s class, then perhaps it’s time to find another definition.  “Asana” is one of the eight aspects of yoga and signifies the purely physical part of practice for example and nobody has to imagine it to be anything more or less – but the essence of yoga itself includes and addresses body-mind and spirit as part of the equation.

Another question was “how is meditation related to yoga?”

According to the ancient texts of Patanjali there are eight limbs (aspects) to the practice of yoga.  Like a tree, yoga embodies each of the eight limbs equally. Meditation (“Dhyana”) is the aspect of yoga that invites the practitioner to witness the difference between their ego self and their essential self – and to be in contact with the essential self through observing and stilling the wandering mind. Wiki says ” In Dhyana, the meditator is not conscious of the act of meditation (i.e. is not aware that s/he is meditating) but is only aware that s/he exists (consciousness of being), and aware of the object of meditation.”

A practical example exists in my classes as we continually breathe through the presence of meaning in every action we create. We allow meditative moments to flow throughout our physical practice. Being brought to conscious awareness in this way allows the mind the actual experience of observing – and releasing – negative self-talk, comparative thinking, one-upmanship, imperfect body “stinkin’ thnkin'” and all manner of upsetting mind filling junk.

Just like a good teacher needs to correct someone who is butchering an exercise movement – hopefully so they don’t kill someone, especially themselves! – so too will a good “yoga” teacher bring attention to the thought processes that don’t belong through the discipline of a meditative mind.

Well, my interviewer is off to write what she writes – and I’m sure she’s having a heck of a time putting it all together with what everyone else is coming up with besides.

For more of My Take check out my new e-book 40 Simple Steps to The Eight Limbs of Yoga online.

Now I want to know – what do you think?


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