Yoga is for everybody, including Runners! Part 1 - What is Yoga?

Yes, that’s right. Yoga is for everybody - not just the stereotypical image portrayed on Instagram.

There are, unfortunately, loads of misconceptions and preconceive ideas around yoga that prevent people from giving it a try.

It is believed that on average 80% of people who try yoga for the first time, never return. This is a scary fact for a multibillion-dollar industry.

The message I would like to get across through this platform is that yoga is not just about the asana (the poses) and it is definitely more than stretching. And yes, anyone can do yoga, despite your body and what you think your limitations may be.

So, I will be using this blog (for the next eight weeks) to share some yoga facts and enlightening insights that may leave you pondering about yoga or even, wanting to give yoga a try!

I feel a good place to start is to give a little history about Yoga and to explain the actual meaning of the word (a word that is being used quite loosely in the western world).

Yoga is thought to have originated in India some 4000 years ago as a philosophical and spiritual discipline. Today’s yoga teachings are predominantly based on The Yoga Sutras written by the sage, Patanjali, around 400 C.E. There are 196 sutras (short verses or threads) that form the basis of classical yoga philosophy. These Sutras are written in Sanskrit the ancient language of yoga and have been translated by yoga gurus such as BKS Iyengar, the first teacher to bring yoga to the west.

The 196 sutras are compartmentalized into four topical books:

  1. Samadhi pada (what yoga is)

  2. Sadhana pada (how to gain a yogic state)

  3. Vibhuti pada (benefits of practicing yoga regularly)

  4. Kaivalya pada (liberation or freedom from suffering)

If you ask most people what yoga is, they’ll tell you it’s a sport for flexible people, it’s a bunch of silly poses with strange names, or it’s a type of acrobatics that most people could never dream of doing. Very few, if any people respond, “yoga is about stilling/calming/ focusing the mind” which is the actual definition of yoga; defined by the father of yoga: Master Patanjali, in Yoga Sutra 1.2 “Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodha”. Translated into English: “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind”.

The word ‘yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘yuj’ which means union. Yoga is believed to unify the mind and body to promote mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing as well as unify you with the universe (universal consciousness). Yoga is primarily intended as a means toward increasing self-awareness, to remove suffering and to develop a steady focus.

The shift to an emphasis predominantly on the physical asana (poses) has made an accessible practice inaccessible.

I think, that’s enough information for one week, but I would like to end today with a little self-enquiry or what I call some thought work:

Before we can calm our minds (which usually seems impossible for most people), we need to become aware of our inner dialogue, what we call Svadhaya (self-study).

Have you noticed, that you are always talking to yourself? Have you ever stopped to listen more closely to the voice (or voices) in your head? The real question is who is talking and who is listening? Is the mind in endless dialogue (prayer) with a silent witness?

According to the yoga teachings, we have an awareness or what we call a “consciousness” that is always witness, watching as our mind goes through the ups and downs of life. This “awareness” has always been there, throughout your whole life, and is a part of you that never changes. This silent witness listens to all your hopes and dreams but also to all your worry, stress, negative and thoughts about self and others. Have you heard the saying “worry is praying for what you didn’t want to happen?”. Our thoughts are powerful, and we need to regain control of our thoughts and their content.

Week 1 task: simple thought observation

Sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair, spine tall and take a few breaths in and out through your nose.

· Begin to observe your mind without trying to stop the thoughts

· Become extra observant of your inner dialogue; listen to the tone, content and feelings behind the thoughts

· Listen carefully (we all need a good listener). Hear your thoughts.

We will build on this next week, for now become aware of your thoughts.

The light in me, sees the light in you,

Stay well

Dale Guthrie

Founder of Holism Health

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