What is yoga?

Isn’t that a loaded question. When I took Rusty Well’s “Bhakti Yoga Teacher Training” in November of 2016, he would walk around the room after our morning Kirtan, look someone gently and lovingly in the eyes and ask, “What is yoga?” Sometimes it would be more specifically Bhakti yoga, but either way the point was that he would approach us a s a beginner genuinely interested and looking for insight. If was an extraordinary practice to help define the term for ourselves, so that we could effectively communicate it to others.

अथ योगानुशासनम् ॥१॥
I.1 atha yogānuśāsanam
atha– now; yoga– yoga; anuśāsanam– teachings
Now, the teachings of yoga

योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः ॥२॥
I.2 yogaś-citta-vr̥tti-nirodhaḥ
– yoga; citta– the mind; vrtti– fluctuations; nirodhah– restraint, control
Yoga is the stilling of the changing states of the mind

Yoga is the practice of experiencing the present moment, without a story of attachment or aversion, the practice of quieting the mind so it can focus on what is happening right now, what is arising and what is decaying, so that we can draw insight into the true nature of reality. Many people experience this journey in different ways. All ways are valid, all ways are yoga. It is the process of discovering your true nature, and how it is connected to the universe at large.

Different yoga texts detail different people’s experience in their own words, and may help you understand better what you are experiencing during your practice, but ultimately reality is beyond the scope of our language and can only be experienced.

When we can quiet everything going on around us and in our minds, when we can detach ourselves and experience truth, we find comfort and contentment, peace and focus. The practice of yoga meets us where we are at, wherever that it. The practice of yoga is right now, in the present moment, the realization and appreciation for that present moment.There are so many different things that go along with this practice, that we discover and that reveal themselves to us. All of it starts with the present moment, atha, now, and a quieting of the mind, citta vrtti nirohah.

The Eight Limb Path