MMYC: What is yoga?

Flying figure four

Flying figure four

MMYC = March Madness Yoga Challenge

When I tell my clients that I am into yoga, they ask, “Well, that’s like stretching, right?”

Sort of.

Yoga is so many things. Because of this, yoga is often misunderstood. Yoga can mean spirituality, stretching, strengthening, sweating, postures, practice, mindset, and/or presence, depending on who is asking, who is answering and what type of yoga the asker or teller is referring to. It gets complicated from here. I’ve practiced a variety of yoga types, including Hatha, Bikram, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Zen/Restore. Depending on who you ask, similar styles can have different names. It’s extremely hard to keep track.

In addition, the language can be confusing and slightly off-putting; moon flows and sun salutations, chakras and third eye centers. Sometimes I find myself wondering, “Is this all bull shit?” Even though I know it isn’t. Even though I know yoga has been around since, well, a time I am not capable of fathoming. It’s lasted because of its profundity and its humbleness. How varied and daunting and sacred it is. It’s lasted because it makes people like me, and my sister next to me, and the older man in the back, and the gay man in violet booty shorts in the middle, and the professional runner front and center, feel good. Really good.

You’ve probably heard of the term “runner’s high”. Well, this exists across the physical activity spectrum. There’s a weight lifters high and swimmers high and, of course, a yogi’s high. After every practice, when I lay flat on my mat, a pool of sweat on the floor beside me, and the skin-crawling sensation of sweat beads cascading from my forehead, my knees, my chest and my shoulders, I get high. And not in the way that the world somehow makes sense and I know my purpose. I just feel euphoric. And light. My mind is still wandering to lunch options, work to-dos, worries and fears, my eyes pop open and stare at the ceiling even though the instructors tell me to close them, and close them again, but my body feels alive. And light.

So, what is yoga? I get asked this all the time. For me, and I am not speaking for anyone else, yoga is a mindset. An outlook. Yoga is a state of being. And if it leaves me euphoric, light and damn near close to high, I will take that state of being and run with it. Stretch with it. And share it as often as possible.

This entry was published on March 6, 2013 at 10:26 pm and is filed under Yoga Challenge. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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