What Yoga Really Means

Yoga Is Unity

The common translation of yoga is defined as a verb, to do something — to unite the breath and the body or the mind with the spiritual self or being. But the original word yoga means union; to unite. It means that everything is already inherently and intimately connected.

Defining Yoga from the Inside Out

We often forget that we are complete just as we are. We then begin to judge ourselves and don’t trust the decisions we make which creates a feeling of lack. This lack we feel can be associated with experiences such as growing old, the stress of trying to hold onto things that naturally change, and basic unsatisfactoriness perceived in all forms of life.

This lack is experienced as suffering as if something is missing. So we might try to satisfy this experience of lack and feeling of emptiness with more money, seeking love from someone or other means of short-term, fleeting fulfillment.

In the practice of the true meaning of yoga (union), we are reminded that we cannot ground ourselves through the options outside ourselves. So, we begin with the body. We start with learning and opening to the way the body simply is. We don’t judge how the body should look or perform, but rather tune our body, focusing on balance when certain parts of the body don’t sync up with each other. We aim to foster communication without the body, and then, as we start connecting deep with the body, we begin to experience the union of our body as it connects with others and the world.

The Heart of Yoga

Living in a culture that is attention deficit, it is difficult to truly pay attention. We’re distracted and, at the same time, feel inadequate, which dove-tails with consumer culture that continuously tells us we’re not pretty enough, wealthy enough or safe enough unless we have [insert logo & tagline]. Many have collected all that’s glittering gold, yet this pursuit seems to only increases anxiety and alienation, never truly satisfying that feeling of lack.

To practice yoga though the definition of unity, we must first tune into the interconnectedness of our body. Next, we tune into the relationship of how our body lives in and connects to the world around it. We begin to understand the heart of yoga by working internally, then expressing it externally through a socially engaged spiritual practice. Where we’re not just concerned with our own enlightenment, we can see how our lives truly affects others as well.

Yoga’s Transformative Power

If it’s true that selfish happiness is a dead end, then we come to see that serving others is what opens up our lives. By seeing yoga defined in this way and applying it to our own practice, we can take our inner transformation and help create a social and cultural transformation.

Yoga begins with a commitment to ethics. To not causing harm, being honest, not stealing, using energy wisely and not being greedy. If we we practice working against greed within our own capacity, then we can work against the tide of consumerism and fundamentalism that tells us we’re not enough as we are—a mentality that comes down to being scared of change and being self-centered.

Yoga changes you and you can focus that change through intentional practice to change society. Take a look at your yoga practice and define yoga for yourself. Is it self-centered? Does it fear change? Is it limited to only physical benefits? Or is it defined by seeing yourself as complete, connected and having the ability serve others and unite the world?

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