In my experience as a yoga practitioner, teacher and advocate, I have noticed that, like many things, yoga can be largely misunderstood. It is no doubt that yoga has hit the mainstream, pervading popular culture in practice, commercials, TV shows, movies and conversation. I am all for this—the more people that are exposed to yoga the better—but I can’t help but notice that the recent “hype” has created a flawed and limiting perspective on what yoga actually is.
Yoga is not a posture or pose, yoga is not exercise, yoga is not a religion…Yoga is a path to self-realization and acceptance, it is a path to bliss, the earliest accounts of which are found in the Vedas, an ancient Indian text dating back 8,000 years ago.
As this ancient eastern philosophy has made its way west, it has adapted to our externally focused culture; thus, it makes sense that we have understood yoga to be largely about the body, and more specifically about improving the body—the external manifestation of ourselves. In the east, yoga is not so much about the body, but about controlling and calming the mind to attain inner peace and ultimately universal consciousness, the pathway to which starts not only in the body, but also in the way we breathe and exist in the world.
This adaptation of yogic philosophy is a natural progression, as us westerners try to make sense and use of a concept quite foreign to the cultural inertia that we are born into. In theory, yoga—in it’s true sense—is difficult to understand by someone brought up in a culture focused on external gains and monetary definitions of success—and it is not my intention to suggest that these motives are all bad—however, it is in practice that we truly begin to experience the eastern tradition of inner peace, the benefits of which are far reaching.
“Yoga is 99 % practice and 1% theory.” -Pattabhi Jois
People practice yoga for many reasons, and often these reasons change with the ebbs and flows of life. For me, at this point in my life, yoga continues to strengthen my mind-body connection, laying the groundwork for my health on multiple dimensions, and can bring me into a boundless place of genuine acceptance, awareness and non-judgment.
Why do you practice?
About the Author
Allie Andrews is the Founder and Program Director at OmBody Health. She is a Certified Health Coach, author, and is pursuing her Master’s Degree in Education with a focus in Corporate Wellness. Allie and her team have been transforming employee wellbeing since 2014. Learn more.