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The meaning of Yoga

August 2, 2010

The original yogis were rebels. They rejected tradition in favor of self discovery to achieve self realization. They used their bodies as a vehicle to find God. To unify with God. Often leaving the comforts of a normal life for the harsh conditions of a cave or mountain hut. They practiced extreme forms of breath control, twisted and bent their bodies, chanted, meditated, starved and generally pushed themselves to the extremes. The practice of Yoga came from the realization that union with God (self realization, enlightenment, Samadhi, bliss) was possible with a disciplined approach. The word yoga means union. Sometimes, it is misunderstood as the union of body and mind. More accurately it is the union of one with all that is. Union with God. If you don’t like the word God, substitute with any term that you like. Creator, energy, the universe. The words do not matter they simply act as signposts to what is.

Through the practice of yoga it was only natural that the yogi’s attitude towards all living things became one of kindness and compassion. Of non violence, non harming. These were not rules that needed to be obeyed. It is the natural state. We don’t have to go to the extremes that the original yogis went to. The path has been forged. Yoga texts provide us with an insight into the nature of yoga. With a little dedication and an open mind and heart we can enrich our lives with this practice. When we say we practice yoga (or teach) we should be aware of what the word means. Coming to the state of yoga is the purpose of the practice. It is not a stretching class. It is not a calorie burning workout. It is an act of devotion.

Written by: Andrew Gowans.

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