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What Yoga is   -   and what it isn't.

In the simplest terms, Yoga is a combination of three things.

  • A physical exercise.   Stretching, bending and flexing the body using a series of carefully planned and executed movements.
  • Breath control.   Coordinating breathing with movement through conscious thought.
  • Mental discipline.   Calm the mind and reduce stress.   Concentrate on the moment and eliminate trivial and troublesome thoughts.

Yoga is not Pilates or Aerobics.   Classical Yoga has nothing to do with any current or past exercise fad.   If Yoga is combined with any other physical activity it is no longer Classical Yoga, and most of the benefits are lost.

Many people associate yoga with religion, and are put off by it.   Yoga is not a religion or a system of beliefs.   Yoga is not spiritual, except for the benefits to your own spirit through mental discipline and peace of mind.

Yoga is primarily a universal philosophy.   It can apply to and benefit anyone, regardless of age, occupation or religion.   In addition to promoting physical fitness, Yoga also creates mental balance in a society that is becoming more and more stressed.

As the popularity of yoga has increased in Western countries, a part of yoga's authenticity has been lost.   Yoga, in Sanskrit, means unity of body and spirit, but our modern culture is very much about the body only.

Some self-styled "yogis" have tried to modify or enhance Yoga, usually for monetary gain.   One has even tried (unsuccessfully) to trademark or copyright certain poses.   Exercising in an overheated room will often lead to physical illness, and there is never any need to pray to or believe in any deity or idol.

Several physical yoga forms, which are similar to aerobic classes, have been developed in the west.   Although these types of yoga classes do have some physical benefits, they do not lead the practitioner to the real essence of classical yoga.

For instance, if one practices yoga without focus on the breath, then one is not gaining the full benefit of proper breathing techniques associated with yoga.   Correct breathing can relax your whole body.   It helps to rid your body of unwanted toxins and release anger, stress, tension and worry.

There is a very good reason to attend a Yoga class and study with a qualified instructor.   If the poses (asanas) are not properly demonstrated and explained by the instructor, then the student can get hurt.   Also, people with certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure should not do some poses.   A qualified teacher is important so your yoga practice be safe, and you will gain the full benefits associated with it.



Last updated: November 19, 2006