By Wendy Lim, 3 minute read
I can give a very academic answer as a yoga teacher that goes into the history and philosophy of yoga, and how it has evolved over the last 2000+ years but I think that is too abstract and hard to comprehend in just one article. Instead, I want to give my perspective and understanding from years of practising yoga, which I think is more relevant to you.
PHILOSOPY VS PRACTISE
Yoga is a life philosophy, a way of living and acting in the world. But more than anything, Yoga is about action, it is a practise, it involves doing, making effort and surrendering control. Yoga is something that can only be truly understood through practising and experiencing it, rather then talking about it or watching someone practise yoga. It is like the difference between thinking about swimming versus actually swimming.
THINKING VS DOING
We can speculate about what it takes to swim, go into the biomechanics of doing different strokes, think of the best way to breath and figure out the right gear to wear. But it doesn’t compare to feeling the water against your skin, learning how to float, working out when to breath or kick, and getting past the fear of drowning. Everyone’s experience of swimming will be different, and you don’t fully understand it until you have made the effort to dive in.
THE STRUGGLE IS REAL
Like any skill, it takes time to develop the techniques that work for you, and you cannot expect to master the practice straight away. Some people have the right temperament and just have the knack. But most of us struggle because our minds are easily agitated when we discover resistance, such as when it feels too hard or uncomfortable. It reveals inadequacies which we don’t want to face - or are not ready to face.
THE INTERNAL BATTLE
Yoga is about learning to find comfort in uncomfortable situations. Learning to breath in those situations. Exactly how we find ourselves in life - in a constant battle with ourselves and the world around us. It isn’t about forcing our bodies to conform into challenging positions or getting physically fit. Although if that is your goal, then that is fine too. But there is so much more to explore and discover through practising.
BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Yoga to me, when distilled down means:
Being in the present moment. Not thinking about the past or future. Experiencing the present moment in high definition. I think something similar happens when we are completely focused on our work, completely absorbed in the task we are doing, when we are in a “flow” state.
WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE?
So it’s a practise, to get into a state of “being completely present”. Think about how often you are wrapped up in your thoughts. It might be new, and strange to experience being present for the first time.
Another moment that feels like ‘Yoga’ to me, is when I’m out in nature and just in awe of the landscape in front of me. The first time seeing the scale of The Grand Canyon, Uluru or seeing the stars from Mauna Kea. Those moments when I feel so small and insignificant, those are freeing to me.
Yoga is both a practise (a conscious choice of acting), and a mental state of being. The journey and the destination.
I like to think of yoga and life more like music. It’s about enjoying every single note, every high, low, slow, fast beat and then stepping back and appreciating the whole musical piece.
Practising yoga helps me do this. This is why I practise.