What is Yoga and Who Can Practice it?

Yoga is flexible. It means different things to different people. Many practitioners in the Western world think of Yoga as a purely physical system of body toning, stretching and general conditioning. Yoga has been with us for thousands of years and has many facets. Perhaps one of the reasons that it has endured over centuries, is that at it’s very heart, is a philosophy that compliments, gives strength to and nurtures the human spirit. Whether you come to Yoga through recommendation, injury or poor health, a need to lose or gain weight, improve your physical and/or emotional well-being, or simply through curiosity, many people find the practice enriching and life-affirming in ways which are hard to define.

I prefer to describe Yoga as a discipline. At its centre, although there is a rich and deep philosophy which can be explored through wonderful ancient texts, is a simple, non-threatening truth: IN YOGA, WE ARE ENCOURAGED TO QUESTION. If something works for us, providing we are satisfied to the best of our ability and belief, we can take it on board, if it doesn’t, we can chose not to. The emphasis is on enquiry, and the body and mind’s response to this enquiry. In this respect Yoga compliments other belief systems. Yoga is the very opposite of a dogma.

Thought to originate in India approximately 2000 years ago, Yoga is a potent combination of physical movement, breath work, conscious relaxation and meditation. The three essential elements of body, breath and mind are the driving forces behind what separates Yoga from other forms of ‘exercise’. When we practice Yoga we unite these three facets of our being, drawing the mind away from its everyday [and for many of us, every second!] engagement in thought patterns, and focus our thoughts on the unification of our breath with our body’s movements. This is the true art of Yoga. Whether in a graceful flowing sequence of poses such as a sun salutation, a still pose or during relaxation, the mind is encouraged to stay with every moment as it happens, teaching us to be truly, consciously in the present. Sounds simple doesn’t it?

No matter where you are from, what you believe in, how old you are, what condition you are in physically, emotionally or spiritually, YOU can practice Yoga!