Who is yoga for and what is the ultimate goal of yoga?
Contrary to what some believe…yoga is for every—body. For all humans no matter the size of your waist, bust line, shoe size, how tall you are or how great you smell or if you stink. It’s neither about lifting your foot behind your head or touching your toes, nor is it about your age, views, or dosha sign.
I had the extraordinary opportunity this weekend to share the healing powers of yoga with someone with absolutely no yoga experience. She comes from a camp of people who think yoga is a weird, new-agey, touchy feely, almost naked, hipster exercise. By the grace of a tension headache, she allowed me to guide her through a few restorative posture to relieve her pain. Despite her reservations and limited flexibility, she was willing to shed her apprehension and explore the gift of yoga. She walked away feeling lighter and more free. So yes, yoga is for everybody.
Yoga’s rich history dates back 5,000 years but some researchers believe the birth of yoga may have originated 10,000 years ago. Its origins date back to the Vedic period, which began in 1500 BCE. The simple definition of yoga means “to yoke,” “to unite,” or “to join.” Yoga is a way to calm the fluctuations of the mind stuff (citta vritti). “Yoga is a profound science of unfolding the infinite potentials of the human mind and soul.” That yoga truly is a work inward or union: “of the individual consciousness or soul with the Universal Consciousness or Spirit.” Yogananda
Yes, we come from different backgrounds, cultures, sets of beliefs, yoga styles, likes, and dislikes. The ancient wisdom of Patañjali is interwoven in our modern day woes and worries, anxieties and anticipations. The yogis and gurus also wanted to find joy, to be happy, have contentment, freedom, and fulfillment. That is why these ancient teachings are relevant today. One of the main focuses of practicing yoga is to feel uplifted, inspired, and to have an overall sense of wellbeing, perhaps even a chance to awaken and heal. The ultimate goal of yoga, according to the yoga sutras, is to calm the fluctuations of the mind and turn inward. We use the asana (postures/shapes) to unfold the body to the breath, to allow our minds to relax, so that we can allow our own divine light to come to the surface. We embody yoga to unfold the constrictions we place on the mind and the habitual conditions we place on the outer world. “Yoga is a simple process of reversing the ordinary outward flow of energy and consciousness so that the mind becomes a dynamic center of direct perception no longer dependent upon the fallible senses but capable of actually experiencing truth.” Yogananda
The widespread popularity that yoga has gained over the recent years and its branded, long list of pre-packaged yoga for entertainment…almost defeats the purpose. If we refuse to buy into all the fluffy yoga hype and instead, choose to peel back the layers of the heart and core of yoga…we might return to yoga’s original purpose…To sit. Be still. Meditate. Breathe. To know thyself. It’s a practice (abhyasa) of letting go (vairagya). We don’t live to do yoga. We do yoga so that we may live - more easily, joyously, and gracefully.
Om Namaste ~
“With each forward bend posture - we bow to God in some form that has meaning to us and with each back bending posture, we offer up our hearts, so that we may carry out the will of the universe with every thought, word, and action we take.” - Sofi Dillof