What is Yoga Anyway?

Updated: Oct 17, 2019


Yoga is a loaded word these days. It augers visions of sweaty bodies in large rooms, full of people who are working hard to build a healthy physique. It may also bring up images of young, healthy people – often well-to-do; often female – who are able to move their body in ways that most humans cannot and who wear tight clothes and fancy accessories. At YogaX, we bring you a different vision – a vision focused on health, resilience, and centeredness in mind, breath, emotions, and body. We offer a vision that honors the deep cultural tradition that dates yoga back thousands of years. We share with you a vision that integrates modern neuroscience with ancient practices to demonstrate the profound wisdom in the original teachings that we are relearning and rediscovering every day.


Our vision of yoga is one of inclusiveness, access, diversity, health, wellbeing, and resilience for all. Ours is a yoga of integration that honors the mind as much as the body, the breath as much as the calming of the nervous system, stillness as much as movement, and effort as much as ease. In our yoga, we honor the traditional eight limbs of yoga practice equally, not raising physical performance above the rest. We begin with the understanding that yoga is first and foremost a practice of mindfulness in all the many layers of our modern conception of a self.


Mindfulness begins in the body, as we tune into personal needs, adapted physical practice, attunement to inner sensation, and interoceptive awareness of how our body responds to different demands and actions. Mindfulness then also encompasses the breath, to help us find attunement to how we move life force through our body, how the breath enlivens the body, and how emotions and sensations arise. Mindfulness moves with greater challenge toward cultivating awareness of the fluctuations in the mind to help us transcend and transform mental and emotional habits that impair or own psychological growth and transformation, affect our relationships and communities, and impede our correct understanding of how life unfolds and interconnects.


From mindfulness in body, breath (emotion), and mind, slowly wisdom emerges and guides us toward an appreciation of life as a journey of connection, transformation, growth, and perpetual change; toward an understanding that when we find the gap between stimulus and response, we give ourselves the gift of conscious choice, novel ways of being, reshaping our lives and relationships. Of course we do not practice yoga with a goal in mind – we simply realize its potential and open ourselves to the journey toward perhaps becoming wiser, more equanimous, compassionate, and joyful.


The journey that is yoga guides us along a varied path of practices that begin with a commitment to ethical practices that encourage us to strive to live peacefully, truthfully, with a sense of abundance, joy in moderation, and non-possessiveness. It includes a commitment to purposeful living that embraces simplicity, contentment, impassioned practice, self-reflection, and dedication to a greater purpose. On the foundation of these ethics and life-choices, we build a physical practice that is mindful, easeful, passionate, and committed to enhancing our capacity to perceive ourselves accurately. Adding mindful breathing to the physical practice adds biofeedback mechanisms that calm our nervous systems, help us regulate physiological arousal and emotional reactivity, and enhance emotional and psychological resilience. As we get to know our body and emotions with greater accuracy and honor our physical needs with compassion, we turn our yoga practice inward. We allow time for our mind to become quiet. Drawing our sense away from constant (over)stimulation, we develop the capacity to recognize how our mind works, how we can transform its fluctuations, and how we can become more peaceful. We develop the capacity to become concentrated and achieve a single point of focus, and ultimately we move into a spacious awareness that forges new neural pathways, creating neuroplasticity, increased decisional control, spaciousness, peacefulness, and loving responsiveness to ourselves and others.


What emerges perhaps spontaneously along the path is a sense of being grounded in community, a sense of belonging to the earth, a desire to connect and preserve, and a joyful connection to something greater. We emerge with a sense of compassion, joy, equanimity, and loving kindness.


All of us at YogaX look forward to sharing with you this amazing journey that is yoga. We look forward to sharing our passion, our love, our commitment, our joy, and our ongoing struggle to live a yogic life, to stay connected to our deep inner wisdom. We look forward to connecting this beauty to modern science and research in a way that translates ancient practice into modern life.


With the joy of anticipation and deep gratitude for this opportunity,


Chris


About the Author:

Christiane Brems, PhD, ABPP, E-RYT500, C-IAYT, is the Director of YogaX, a clinical psychologist, registered yoga teacher, and certified yoga therapist. She has practiced yoga for over 40 years. You can read more about her on the YogaX Team page.


PS The comprehensive set of yoga practices endorsed by YogaX find their philosophical foundation in the ancient Yoga Sutras of Patanjali for which many translations exist and that can be accessed online. For example, interested readers can learn more from the following resources:

Hartranft, C. (2003). The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: A new translation with commentary. Boston, MA: Shambala Classics.

Iyengar, B. K. S. (2002). Light on the yoga sutras. of Patanjali New York: Thorsen.

Maki, B.. (2013). The yogi’s roadmap: The Patanjali yoga sutra as a journey to self-realization. Scotts Valley: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Excellent free online version: https://www.swamij.com/yoga-sutras.htm

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