Here’s another of those questions: so what is yoga exactly?
It’s not one I get asked as openly and often as the ones we’ve looked at already. I guess that’s because everyone initially thinks they know what yoga is. They hear the word and an image pops into their head – maybe of some ancient Indian guru in Lotus position or of one of these Instagram yogis in Lycra pulling off a breathtaking pose on a beach in paradise.
And then they look at me. And the questions start to form in their mind.
I’m not like the image of someone who practises yoga. No one pictures me when they think of yoga. I’m short and overweight and inflexible and not particularly calm.
So if I say that I practise yoga, then what is yoga exactly?
Actually, it’s a pretty tough question to answer. Ask a hundred people who practise yoga what yoga is and you’ll probably get one hundred different answers. Yoga means different things to different people.
I’ve been reflecting on that in my daily morning practice (yes, I’m still hanging in there with that – are you impressed?). My husband practises alongside me, you see, and yet our practice is very, very different. I do my own thing. I arrive at the mat with no agenda, no idea of where I will go in the next half an hour. I try to listen to my body. I try not to perform and show off because there is someone on the mat next to me. I try to relax into moving very little some days. I prefer to practise in silence. This wouldn’t even look like yoga to anyone watching in, sometimes.
My husband is different. He’s following a thirty day programme on Youtube. He prefers to be told what to do. It’s a vigorous practice and sometimes I feel bad, lazy somehow, for not breaking a sweat like he does every day. I compare myself to him and worry that he is judging me. Which is not the spirit of yoga at all – and that letting go of ego is as much part of my yoga practice as any difficult pose I might pull off.
So what is yoga exactly? Is it what I am doing or what my husband is doing?
OK, here’s my answer.
Yoga is mind body connection. Anytime, anywhere.
The time I spend on the mat is the time I set aside to really focus on what that means for me, but actually, it takes place throughout the day off the mat too.
And so yoga will mean something different to each of us as we each work out what mind body connection looks like for us. Our minds are all different. Our bodies are all different. And so our connection will be different and our yoga will be different.
So don’t ever let anyone tell you definitively what yoga is.
What is yoga exactly?
That’s a question you need to work out your own unique individual response to.