When I tell people that I am a yoga teacher they would look at me with big eyes asking if I could really live from that. Actually there is nothing that makes me feel more alive! Another thing I hear often is “You must be very flexible”. If you put it on a very superficial level you could simply agree with that but if I feel like challenging my opponents mind I would respond: “It makes you not only physically but also mentally flexible.”
Yoga deals with the connection between the physical, mental, energetic and even higher components of the self. If I keep talking about things like “Self” and “Connection” many people might turn their back because they start panicing if they have to deal with topics like that. Anyways as a teacher you know you must not take things personal even if people would judge you for that while degrading you from your status as a kind of sports teacher to just a mad person talking about some spiritual stuff 😉
For those who are interested in the deeper meaning of yoga philsophy however I tried to sum up my personal opinion on the whole yoga topic.
Most of the people coming to my classes share the same background: They feel stressed out because of their jobs, they suffer from backpain and tension in their shoulders or they are frustrated about the fact that they are not able to reach their feet anymore when they are trying to tie their shoestrings. Suffering seems to be the first step on the path of Yoga which is quite memorable since a constant state of happiness is an essential part of yogic philosophy.
Of corse definition of joy is subjective. That is why the expression of joy and happniess varies from one person to another. Buddha knew already that material wealth is not the key to happiness and even Notorious B.I.G. taught us: “Mo Money, Mo Problems”. Material wealth, personal relationships and physical appearance are often seen as a necessity for joy. But even the one who has managed to fulfill those needs will have to admit that the joy about these things will get lost after some time.
It is man’s nature to strive for change and progress but at some point we have to accept that joy is not a goal. So life is not about striving for a certain aim. The good news is tho: You don’t have to struggle since happiness is omnipresent for those who are really open to it. The yogi believes that everyhting we need to be happy is already there. Not depending on influences from the external world yoga helps us to connect to this feeling of inner joy and peace again. Through asana and meditation we are opening heart and mind to make ourselves receivable for the deeper core of joy and happiness inside us.
After the back pain is gone the yoga student might find the deeper and more subtle effect of the yoga practise. At the beginning it might be hard to grasp but oftentimes students would tell me that they feel simply good, relaxed and in a way light and graceful after a yoga session. Unfortunately this feeling of lightness often disappears already while leaving the yoga studio and entering the outside world again.
As soon as we are going back to the material world the mind is prompted to react and to select between all the influences given to us by the external world. It won’t leave us space for inner peace. The excessive supply of media, commercial advertisments and communication literally forces us to react on outwardness rather than connect to ourselves.
Often we feel under pressure by the decisions that have to be made and the tasks that have to be fulfilled so we unlearn to take life as it is. Mechanisms of control rule our actions because we are afraid of making mistakes. The simplicity of life which we might experience after the third day of our beach vacation is replaced by a constant state of tension and stress.
Yoga teaches us how to let go of controlling things and guides us back to feeling of lightness so we are able to do what we were doing when we were still pure and innocent children: listen to our intuition instead of overthinking everything.
Stress and tension has become a constant state of our society. That is why more and more people are getting in touch with old living concepts such as yoga. Between all those expectations caused by society people are trying to find a way restoring their energy and feel alive instead of being exhausted all the time.
The feeling of lightness is aimed by the physical yoga practise. Asanas which are performed on the mat should not be used to push the ego but the energetic flow within the body. Movements of the body connected to breath let the life force called Prana flow fluently again and therefore destroys any kind of energetic blockades. The feeling of being connected to the own body again might be the reason that many people leave a yoga class in a balanced state of peace and calmness.
Anyhow Yoga shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for sports or other acitivites. Other than in sports it’s not about exploit one’s power. The asana practise should inspire you to get to know the own body in a better way and to develop a kind of sensibilty towards one’s own physical limitations. In order to treat oneself with respect and gratefulness it is important to accept the limitations of the body without being overwhelmed from emotions like ambition or pride.
A constant practise will show you how to deal with the body and its functions best so you can move freely and without any pain. Once you have optimized the muscles and joints functions you will know how to use the energy reserves in a smart and balanced way. All in all yoga teaches you how to appreciate the body so you will exactly know how you feel, why you feel in a certain way and most important: how you make yourself feel better.
Universal law tells us that everything in this world exists of two sides. Without sadness, there can’t be joy, without life there is no death. This principle of polarities could give the impression that we have to take sides by judging certain circumstances in order to make a decision. It seems to be easier to take sides and therefor stay in our comfortzone. But shutting off any change of perspective will result in a feeling of being separated. By identifying ourselves with habits and mind patterns we will more and more remove ourselves from the inner core. Living together peacefully with others and with ourselves requires taking chances from both sides so we can feel the connection between each and everything. In psychology we use the word “empathy”. Yoga helps us to find the balance between the polarities of life which enables us to act in a respectful and understanding way.
As a Yogi you can’t avoid a regular meditation practise since meditating is the essential tool to connect with the deeper layers of the self and to reach different stages of consciousness. Being caught between financial and social commitment we often forget that we are much more than our jobs, than out bodies and the role society might have given to us. Meditation helps you to become aware of your own potential again so you won’t be bounded in the superfical world of matter and social restraints which are holding us back from the essence of life. At the moment we manage to calm the mind down we will find peace, harmony and all the answers we need to prepare ourselves for the actions challenging us in the external world.
If you are still not sure about the meaning of Yoga you should just go out and try it on your own while visiting a yoga class. Yoga taught me to shut off the head from time to time and just let my inner feeling speak to me again. Anyways the probably most important principle of the ancient teachings in yoga is: True knowledge comes with experience only! Knowledge on a theoretic and intellectual level doesn’t mean anything if you are not open to put it into action.
Mittag, Martina (2018): Hatha Yoga – Das komplette Buch.
Aachen: Meyer & Meyer.