The practice of yoga is so vast that people who start with their practice often get overwhelmed. In this post, we would try to demystify what is yoga and what yoga is not.
What is yoga and what yoga is not?
What is Yoga?
My favorite definition comes from the preface of the amazing book, “Light On Yoga” by B.K.S. Iyengar.
“Yoga is a timeless pragmatic science evolved over thousands of years dealing with the physical, moral, mental and spiritual well-being of man as a whole.”
That’s quite a different definition than the one we are used to hearing in the west: where yoga is a physical exercise similar to Pilates or aerobics.
But as you can see from the definition above, yoga is much more than that. It’s a whole-body, whole-life philosophy.
What Yoga Is Not?
1. Yoga is not a religion
As we’ve already discussed, it is more than just exercises. It can more accurately be described as a way of living.
This may lead you to believe that yoga is a religion. I personally do not view it as a religion, and most people agree. Here are some reasons why.
- No assertion or denial of a God or deity
- No creed
- No rituals that must be completed in order to label yourself a yogi
- No church
- No prayers (although there are meditative mantras).
- Many different religious followers (Christians, Jews, Jains, Hindus) practice it despite their different religious beliefs.
I like to think of it as a spiritual practice rather than a religious practice. Of course, there are many different opinions of this. If you feel uncomfortable practicing yoga because of your religion, inquire with your own religious leader on their thoughts.
2. You May Lose Weight By Practicing yoga, But Don’t Expect Instant Results
Although there are an enormous amount of health benefits associated with the practice, if you are looking for a quick way to lose weight you probably won’t be satisfied with your practice.
The Western mind-set has become obsessed with instant gratification. When we want something, we want it now. That’s what microwaves, canned foods, Internet downloads, and telephones have done to the human psyche. They’ve made us believe that quick and fast is more than normal – it’s expected.
Yoga is about the opposite. It’s about slowing things down, enjoying them for what they are, and accepting whatever pace they may contain.
However, what’s ironic about this – is that by slowing it down, but enjoying each moment, and by being consistent – you will become a healthier and less-stressed person – which most likely will lead to weight loss.
3. Yoga is not easy (but it is worth it)
Like all things worth doing – starting the practice is not easy. As a beginner – you’ll likely find many of the poses challenging (but always doable if you are patient if you follow the steps and remain patient)! There are days where you will be sore, you’ll be resistant to practice, you’ll be tired, or you may even be bored.
Meditation, although not physically difficult, can be by far the hardest thing you’ve ever done. As Westerners, we have a hard time waiting in line at the grocery store – let alone sitting in a somewhat uncomfortable position with our eyes closed.
And practicing Pranayama can be extremely difficult. So much so, that I will always advice you to got slowly and especially I advise against the beginner practicing Pranayama alone. If done improperly, there can be dangerous side effects.
However, the payoffs of a regular yoga practice will follow you for the rest of your life. You will feel mentally, physically, and spiritually healthy. You may even begin to see things from a different, calmer perspective. If kept up, you will start to notice things going differently in your life. Small things, but always for the better.