What is yoga to me?

yoga pose - upward facing dog - yoga practice

We seem to be particularly good at having days for pretty much everything at the moment whether it be awareness of a good cause or something completely random like doughnuts. Today is one of those such days being the International Day of Yoga. A day to focus on all things yoga and what it means.

Which got me thinking what is yoga? And in particular what is it to me?

For most of us the word yoga would conjur up people bending themselves into pretzel like positions, breathing deeply, wearing leggings and practicing on a rectangular mat. It is no secret that there is a physical side to the practice of yoga, the movement of the body into different shapes and postures, but yoga has become so much more than this for me.

I use the physical practice of moving my body as a way to ground myself. A way to tune in to how my body and my breath feels at that exact point. This physical movement doesn’t always look how a classic flow class would look. How we would often think yoga should look. Sometimes it is taking a moment at traffic lights to check in with my breath, other times it’s spending five minutes breathing in childs pose and sometimes it’s going for a walk.

I love a sweaty vinyasa class as much as the next person and am so often in awe of what my body can achieve but that is not the only way I can check in to my body.

Physical body aside the word yoga also touches the intangible for me. The feeling of being. How I feel and how the world feels around me. The space that I am taking up within it and how I react to that. This encompasses a lot I know but it harks back to the yamas and niyamas, the codes of conduct that are to be lived by. I’m not necessarily talking about living them to the letter but instead being aware of what is going on around me. Being helpful, courteous and useful to the world. Hopefully making the small parts of the planet I touch a little better when I leave them than when I arrived.

It’s a connection, to myself and the others around. A building of community of like-minded individuals that by coming together strengthen their own connections to the world and mine.

Yoga for me is a way of being. It boils down to the oft overused word balance. Balancing my energy that I give out with what the energy that is coming in. Balancing the wants of my body and my mind against their actual needs. Balancing looking after myself as well as my loved ones.

Without the physical tools taught to me by my yoga practice of postures, breath and meditation I’m not sure I would even know that I required balance, let alone be trying to find it.

The balance may not always be possible but the intention and work for it is and I guess that is the practice. I am learning through yoga on and off the mat to treat myself with kindness. To know when to strive and when to let go.

Ultimately yoga has been and is right now getting to know myself better and being in union with what is around me.

Yoga for me can be summed up in three words. Balance. Connection. Self

So on this International Day of Yoga maybe just have a think, what is yoga for you?

(Image credit – Photo by Sam Lindlay for Nitara London)

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