Most people think of Yoga as a physical practice.
Something to experience in a Yoga studio or  the Gym. And yes, part of Yoga are the physical postures, called asanas, but „true yoga“ starts in the mind.
I invite you to forget about the physical postures for now and think of yoga as a way of living life.

What Yoga really is about

Yoga derives from the sanskrit word “yuj” which means to join or unite.
The goal of Yoga is the union of universal and individual consciousness.
This goal will be reached by leading a certain life, bringing body and mind into harmony through different practices.
There is so much to write about Yoga. So many books have been written on all the health benefits of Yoga. Not just for the body, but also, if not mainly, for the mind.
To really understand what yoga is, and its broad horizon and different applications, we need to understand that yoga is not (all about) fancy poses. In fact, it may not even have anything to do with physical postures. There are yogis who hardly ever practice the asanas as they are nowadays taught in Yoga studios and gyms, instead they find themselves devoting their life to serving others lovingly. This is the path of the Bhakti Yogi and the Karma Yogi.

Different Yogic Paths

Before diving deeper into the benefits of a wholesome Yogic lifestyle, it is worth mentioning the different ideas and the broad spectrum that yoga consists of.
There are different paths of yoga, four of them are;
Bhakti Yoga – the path of devotion
Raja Yoga – the path of mind and body control
Karma Yoga – the path of selfless service
and Jnana Yoga – the path of knowledge and study.

Raja Yoga – the Royal Path of Yoga

The raja Yogi focuses on mind and body control.
The royal path of yoga, which raja yoga is often called, consists of eight limbs (that is why it is called ashtanga yoga, first mentioned in Patanjalis Yoga Sutras). These eight limbs are:
Yamas – external observances, ethical guidelines. Read more about them in this article
Niyamas – internal observances. Read More about it in my next article and find the Niyamas here.
Pranayama – Life Force Energy/Breathwork to control mind and body
Asana – physical postures
Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the senses
Dharana – Concentration
Dhyana – Meditation
Samadhi – Enlightenment. State of Bliss
Some describe these limbs as some sort of “stairs”, which would incline that you can not simply go to the asanas without first checking in with yourself, your morals and your ethics.
Personally, I think they are interwoven and work interdependent of one another.
When we are being good humans, keeping our ethics and morals in check, we will have an easier time meditating, and vice versa; enjoying a meditative state of being allows us to tune inwards and apply ethical and moral observances.
  1. Yoga is a lifestyle that encourages us to life a meaningful life

The Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita encourage us to be good people. Being humble, helping others and living peacefully are a huge part of yogic philosophy.
One of the first Yamas being “Ahimsa” – meaning Non Violence- says it all: Do not harm others, no animal, no human being.
This alone sets us free from any guilt – in the end we all want to coexist safely.
  1. Yoga brings us into the state of Bliss – for good

Unlinke feelings of joy and happiness, bliss is a long term state we can be in. Once we realize that our thought patterns are what is standing in the way between us and eternal bliss – we set ourselves free to tackle into this blissful state. Yoga helps us observe ourselves and discover all that chatter hindering us to life to our full potential. Yoga can help us finding our way into a blissful state – now and always.
  1. Yoga humbles us

A big part of Yogic philosophy is to be humble. Helping others, removing our ego. Unfolding all the layers of our existence, so we can experience the true „I“. Discovering that we are in fact a microuniverse within the macrouniverse. We are not separate from the world, we are part of it. We are interdependent on our surrounding – therefore, when we hurt others, we in fact hurt ourselves. Yoga humbles us, because it teaches us to not take ourselves too serious. It teaches us not to separate our identity from the collective identity. It helps us to realize the big picture. And Yoga helps us to remove egocentricity and ignorance.

  1. Yoga invites us to be less competitive – more supportive

The ego wants us to compare ourselves to others, to go into competition. Competing is not something inherently „bad“, for it can help us to achieve great results. It can work as a catalyst for ambition and success. But as always, it may also separate ourselves from the people around us. When competition becomes ego-driven elbow mentality, it turns into something toxic. Mainly to those competing. Yoga invites us to be ambitious, to achieve great results, but not because our ego needs validation. Instead, Yoga teaches us to become our best version in order to life out of our full potential. It will help us be blissful, joyful and happy.
  1. Yoga makes us strong – inside and out

When we practice Yoga, we learn to become resilient. We practice discipline. We let go our ego-identity. This in itself can be painful at first, since our ego is there to protect us. Once we realize we do not need this protection at all times, we become strong and independent.
And, when teaching asana practice, we learn to accept discomfort as a sensation that will pass. In Yoga we learn to surrender and let go. We become strong in our minds and bodies.

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