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What Is Yoga, Really?

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I started practicing yoga in the late 80s/early 90s when yoga was already very accessible, but not practiced by many. Back then, classes were only available in a yoga studio that was strictly dedicated to the practice of yoga. Now we are in a different time. Today, yoga is discussed in film, television, commercials and gym environments, allowing for more people than ever to have the opportunity to experience some form of yoga.

Why now, more than ever, is yoga considered cool and hip? Why now, more than ever, is it so popular? Is it because the level of consciousness is rising and more people desire and seek a deeper connection in their lives? Or am I the only one who wants this?

Perhaps the more important question should be "What is yoga, really?"

I was recently listening to one of my favorite and well-respected yoginis, Donna Farhi, and her view on the meaning of yoga. It inspired me to write this article.

Yoga, by definition, is the union of the body, the mind and the spirit. It seems as if it focuses more on the individual, but it also refers to the union of the self to the whole. What is the self, and what is the whole? I see it the following way: we must do our inner work to such a degree that we begin to know ourselves so deeply that the self is no longer separated from the whole.

The work of Joseph Campbell suggests that we see the other person as a mirror of oneself. Each person with whom we engage comes to serve us so that we can begin to know ourselves better, whether we shine brightly or sit in darkness. The point is to see our reflection through another person.

What is yoga?

The teaching of yoga reminds me of what I aspire to be, and what human beings are truly capable of becoming. It is the part of our self in the purest form without injuries or false beliefs. Yoga helps us to remember who we truly are. It is the child heart filled with wonder that is inspired by the ordinary and doesn't need the extraordinary. Yoga is here to point you to the light. Yoga is a place where you remember that your essential nature is one of compassion, kindness and open-mindedness. Because yoga is a way of life, it is here to remind us of our true nature.

There are dos and don'ts (like the 10 commandments) of yoga called the Yamas and Niyamas. "Satya," which means truth, and "ahimsa," non-harming, are ethics for a teacher. They are there as a reminder for both the student and teacher of what yoga ethics look like. But the truth is, we wouldn't need the commandment or the Yama or Niyama if we remembered them. We forget that in our essence we are already the Yama and Niyama. In our essence, we are goodness and we are not separated. A skillful yoga teacher will remind us that we have these things in our true nature and invoke those qualities in us. The teacher's gift is to see this great light in you and hold it high so you can see it as well. We call this yoga a place where you can start saying yes to life again.

I believe that yoga is a place which lives inherently inside of us, and that we need to reinforce this place everyday so we don't forget, and we keep it sacred. It's a place where we know the difference between the ego and love, between the dark and the light, between God and illusions. It's a place where truth does not need to be spoken or explained, because it just is. Yoga is where you make a choice not to forget. It's a place where you are determined to see that God lives inside each one of us as the highest, and that we can become a good container to let this light come through us and live vibrantly inside of us. We can shine this light in our own personal, creative ways. From that yogic place we can be of great service, and we can say "yes" to life.

To learn how to practice breath work, watch my video, How to do Breath of Fire:

With love,
Osi

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