What is Yoga? – Julia’s final Exam during ISHTA Yoga Teacher Training

Union. Union of body and soul. Union of male and female. Union of positive and negative. Union of sun and moon. Union in Love. The biggest illusion is that we are separate. We are all one. We all came from love; we all are love in our innocent state of nature. We – our souls – are having a human experience to learn what love is. The world programmed us differently. The universe send us to experience fear, the opposite of love. Our purpose on earth is to find our way back to love and to help others on the way.
The world is in desperate need for more kindness. Yoga is a centuries old method to return to our inner true self, to the love within. In our essence we are love. Yoga does not use fear but joy to reveal who we are and what we are capable of.

In our western world we mainly think that yoga is all about crazy postures, bringing our leg behind our head and standing head over for hours. Common prejudices are, that it is aerobics for ladies only etc. Yoga is a path and we can practice it everywhere, any time in any age with or without any gender on and of the mat. Pantajali one of the fathers of yoga describes yoga as a method to our inner self in 8 steps. Our innerself can only be when the mind is quite.

He established 10 qualities of goodness which we should apply as good as we can to ourselves and others day in day out. Those guidelines are called Yamas and Niyamas.
The next one is what is commonly understood to be yoga: Hatha. It is active meditation. We silence the mind while using ancient body postures to get into our body. Those postures are called asanas. And the importance here is not to use the body to get into the posture, but to use the posture to get into our bodies (physical as well as our energy bodies). Besides the active meditation the postures also provide strengthening and stretching of our body, so we can sit still and without pain in meditation.
Pranayama is also a form of meditation. Focusing on the controlled moving of our prana, energy and breath. The quietness of the mind and the rhythm of our breath are interconnected. When we can control our breath we can control our mind. The last 4 steps of Pantajali’s method can be summarized in meditation. Whereas we slip from one into the other in the progress. First Pratyahara the control of the senses. Besides actively withdrawing one of our senses e. g. closing our eyes in meditation, it can also mean the withdrawal from attachment to external objects. Our senses are the base of cravings.
After Pratyhara follows Dharana, focus or concentration of the mind on one point of awareness, commonly referred to the actual act of meditation. Meditation can be defined as the uninterrupted focus on the subject of the meditation.
Dhyana refers to worship in meditation. The one pointed awareness here has the intention to reveal the universal truth which lies within us. Freeing us from the illusional world we live in. All fear vanishes and we come back to our natural state of bliss. In the final step Samadhi we become the divine. We are in the Universe and the Universe is within us. Commonly this state is referred to enlightenment. The body and senses are in rest. One goes beyond consciousness.

Following the steps with intention will dramatically improve ones health and wellbeing; mentally, physically and emotionally. Understanding that yoga is a path to happiness and not a workout session is crucial. Nevertheless, we all have our individual paths which should be supported. Someone might come to a class to loose weight and along the way feels/realizes that yoga is so much more. Guiding as a silent example is key, the realization has to come from within.

Even on the mat we can practice the other 8 limbs. Steady the mind while holding a pose – Dharana. Accept your limitations – Santosha (Contetment, one of the Niyamas). Test your honesty, are you willing to work with clear alignment or do you just want to look good in the pose – Satya (Truthfullness, one of the Yamas). Not practicing with pain, or practicing in competition – Ahimsa (non-violence, one of the Yamas). Closing your eyes and bring the attention into the body and moment – Pratyhara. Just to name a few. There is nothing wrong if we just go to a class to stretch, but we can give it so much more if we practice with intention. Choosing to invest our time in the human experience to go deeper instead of staying on the surface, our programmed minds. We are limitless, we are happiness and love. We just need to break the boundaries to be free again.

Pantajali’s limbs are part of Raja Yoga. Raja, king, is the royal method and mainly uses meditation as the path to bliss.
But also the other 3 methods can guide you there. There is Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of devotion and divine love. Karma Yoga, the yoga of action. The action is offered to the divine.; not expecting a certain outcome or anything in return.
Jnana Yoga, the yoga of knowledge. The freedom of limitations is the discovery of our true wisdom which lies within us. To know that means to be free.
Expectations are the universe’s way to make fun of us.
Be free of judgment, everyone is on their individual path to return to love.
We are union, we are all one, we are love. We are Yoga.

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