What is yoga? When the word yoga is mentioned, most people think of the physical practice of the poses, or "asana" -- stretching, and meditation to help you reduce stress and relax. The actual meaning of yoga is the science of the mind. I can never seem to have the exact words to surmise what yoga actual is or what it actually does for me to my friends. My answer to them is always just try it on for yourself it's something you have to experience.
As human beings, we all have one desire in common: happiness. No matter how we go about achieving it, it is the ultimate form of fulfillment. The path we take to obtain this desire is what makes us individuals. What is "happiness"? "Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy." So if happiness is the ultimate goal; how do we achieve it and how do measure my happiness?
Finding the key to unlock the mystery of "happiness" is to understand the complexity of the mind and delve into the practice of yoga. In my experience, when people come into the practice they are not usually certain about why they come to their mat for the first time other than it was recommended to them by someone for some reason. Then after the practice they feel different somehow and feel a compelling desire to try it again. Then begins the path down the "rabbit hole." It becomes something they crave and enjoy in their everyday routine.
The science of yoga allows us to experience a total union three main components: the physical, mental and spiritual. First, let's look at the physical practice of the poses. In yoga practitioners take on the asana practice to ground themselves. This is the physical point to the physical space. Our actual feet connected to the earth/mat.
In the Baptiste methodology there is a concept used within our practice: "Sweat, Awaken, Inspire & Empower," which equals transformation. In the practice when I sweat, I become present or awake, which allows inspiration for me to empower myself and those I encounter. As a yoga teacher, this is my own personal understanding of what yoga means to me and why I practice yoga. My personal path is one of presence, spiritual awakening and elevation for myself and those I touch.
Currently, I study, teach and practice the Baptiste Power Vinyasa Power Flow. The Baptiste flow consists of 11 sections that compose of about 55 poses or "asanas.. These poses are broken down within the 11 sections as a way to come into personal transformation through: Integration, Awakening, Vitality, Equanimity, Grounding, Igniting, Stability, Opening, Release, Rejuvenation and Deep Rest. With each and every class I practice and teach, I am constantly humbled by this science of the mind called yoga. It actually works. Working through the sequencing of this practice brings the practitioner through all of these phases to a higher state of awareness of the body, mind and spirit. This awareness brings a sense of clarity that evolves into a peaceful transformation for the individual practicing. Often time, a person appears to be happier, calmer, affectionate and relaxed.
Second, let''s take a look at the mind or our mentality. In the yoga practice, practitioners take on breathing tools and techniques to give us mental stability. The mind is very complex and its job to think is complicated. The mind will try to suffocate the desire for one thing over another. For example, I have a fear of heights. My perception is that I will fall, get hurt or die but actually that is not true; this conception has been cultivated by my mind that keeps me from being in high places and trying on new experiences. When I started enjoying activities like hiking, zip lining and rock wall climbing, these fears that my mind had cultivated had to shift into something else. I'm not completely over my fear but I'm more accepting of experiencing my feet being off the ground.
This false cultivated conception can also take on the form of success, money, careers, family, being right or create cause for looking good, worry, doubt, shame, over stimulation, drinking, pleasure and any other imaginable form. The yoga practice allows you to differentiate when your mind is cultivating ideas that are not true from what is actually true. As a practitioner, you use your breath to connect you to mind and body which allows the central nervous system to become calm and at ease instead of anxious. When you identify with your real essence or your truth, you escape the imprisonment of the intellect and you connect to infinite power that is the sense of unbound freedom.
Third, let's take a look at the spiritual component. In the yoga practice practitioners take on the practice of meditation. In the meditation practice practitioners discipline the mind to become aware of the concepts of choice, non-attachment and non-judgment to experience clarity, ease and the acceptance of facts from untruths. The soul or spirit is the essential you surrounded by a field of pure conscientiousness. This is our higher power of self that connects us to our Higher Source and the Universe. Our ultimate desire for happiness is something that already exists within us.
Having the connection to our pure nature allows us to experience what is. What is, is that that is true and our connection to it. In the Baptiste methodology it's referred to as our "True North Alignment." Our feet grounded to the earth, connecting us to our core, gut, instinct; the source of where we make our decisions. The crown of our head reaching to the Heavens, connecting us to our heart. Our soul or essence, connecting us to Our Creator.
These things that make us feel whole and completely "happy." This wholeness is pure joy, love, happiness, power, freedom and grace for ourselves and one another. Through the yoga practice, practitioners peel away the layers of lies, deceit, fear, worthlessness, greed and those negative forces that take us out of our "True North Alignment" or higher sense of integrity that connects us to the Universe or Source. The yoga practice keeps practitioners constantly evolving towards higher enlightenment and connected to each other and the Universe.