Ask a Yogi: What is the Purpose of Yoga?

Some students of yoga are focused on flexibility and mobility.
Others are concerned with building physical strength and an exercise regimen.
Maybe they start a yoga practice looking to relax and de-stress from their busy lives.

Everyone has their own intention for practicing yoga. The purpose is different for everyone.

However, yoga's original intent is actually self-refection. The word "yoga" has been translated from the Sanskrit root word yuj which means to contemplate. Yuj has also been translated to the English root word yoke, which means to join or unite.

Typically, yoga teachers talk about yoking or uniting the mind, body, and spirit.

what is yoga

But what exactly is the point?

A yoga practice focuses on the breath. When we become conscious of the breath and the body, it can produce a sense of harmony. We become aware of our truest self that is free of desire or anxiety.

We find peace with ourselves.

When I first started practicing, I doubted a lot of yoga's metaphysical, woo woo principles -- separating myself from those who believed in energy bodies.

I promised myself I wouldn't become brainwashed by the yoga community who all seemed to buy into the practice of sage burning. No chakras, no oils, no mala beads, no "om" chanting, no saying any of the following

I focused on the physical benefits of yoga. I enjoyed the way the poses felt in my body -- the way triangle pose opened my sides, and how locust pose strengthened my back. With my background in dance, I became entranced by vinyasa yoga and how it interconnected all these poses into a beautiful flow. At the end of each class, I felt relaxed and refreshed.

After practicing for almost year, I felt strong and pain-free. My goal shifted from nurturing my own body with yoga to helping others feel confident in their own bodies through yoga. I enrolled in a 200-hour yoga teacher training a year after starting my regular practice.

As I learned more about yoga, my perspective gradually began to shift from an asana focus, worried about the alignment and muscles involved in each pose to a more meditative experience. I realized my journey into yoga had just begun.

Our world is changing faster than ever before.
Our universe is expanding from order to chaos.
Our minds are constantly consumed with thought and inundated with stimulation.

So when I take a step back and notice my breath, I find that time slows down.

I am present. There is no other feeling more whole and satisfying.

My yoga practice means much more than holding Warrior 3. I can always stretch and strengthen my muscles at the gym.

Yoga is much more than exercise...

Yoga is about discovering yourself.

There are many things outside of our control.
Our situations will forever change and fluctuate. We may envision ourselves as the victors one month and victims the next.
However with practice, we can observe and begin to change how we perceive our situations. 

Yoga is a process of observation and change.  When we are able to free ourselves of worry or thought, we can sit with the self in its purest form.

This is a skill that doesn't come easy to most of us, and it took me years to understand.

As I continue to practice yoga, the more I notice the subtler benefits-- the sensation of freedom not only in my body and mind, but even in my soul.

While most yogis believe yoga is a union of body, mind, and spirit, I believe it's more of an evolution than a trifecta. First, we learn to experience the body. Then, we learn to observe the mind. Finally-- we can recognize our spirit.

What does yoga mean to you?

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