What is Yoga anyway?

What is Yoga anyway?
What is this magical, mysterious thing that you love, that has been having an impact on your body, your mind, and perhaps your life… what is it?
There are many, many teachings on and descriptions of yoga encoded in Sanskrit in many ancient texts of the yoga tradition, not to mention all of the modern books, lectures, blogs in so many languages…that seek to define yoga (and all the ones that talk about the teachings of yoga, without even using the “Y” word!). Let’s explore one such definition of yoga now… ?
Okay, let’s get one thing straight. Yoga is NOT about the body! The yoga poses, and other physical practices (such as pranayama) are just one aspect of yoga. In fact, yoga is all about the inner experience, and the knowledge of the Self. The physical practices are just one aspect of this path. The most important text on yoga, Patanjali Yoga Sutras is most predominantly a text on the mind (because the whole problem of the human condition is essentially traced to a problem of perception). ?


One such text, is in fact the primary text on yoga itself, is called the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Patanjali codified the complex teachings and practices of yoga into a short, concise collection of sutras. A sutra is a compact, concentrated statement that gives a profound and expansive view or teaching that must be unpacked with more detail and context in order to be understood.Two sutras near the very beginning of this text, essentially define yoga.  Much, much more can be said about yoga than what is offered here… however, in the midst of the inner openings you are getting from your yoga practice, and the quiet mind that is cultivated within, a brief contemplation from an ancient text can sink in deeply and have a trans-formative effect on your perception of yoga (and of yourself).

Patanjali Yoga Sutras, Foremost Text on Yoga Defining Yoga

Sutra 1.2: Yogash Citta Vritti Niroda?

  • Translation: Yoga is the resolution of the vrittis of the mind.
  • What this means: Yoga is the process (and the experience) of the resolving of the mind’s activity (thoughts, experiences, moods, imagination, feelings, identities, etc.) 

Sutra 1.3: Tada d?a?tu svarupe-avasthanam

  • Translation: And then, you abide in your true form.
  • What this means: And then (when the mind’s activity resolves), you abide in the Truth of your being (the changeless Self.)

To sum it up… 
What happens is, the minds excessive activity distorts, or covers up our ability to see the Self as it truly is. Yoga is the process of settling this mental activity so that what remains is the clarity to simply see what is and always has been, the true reality of your existence. 

The Rope and the Snake


A common analogy in the yoga tradition is known as “rope, snake”… if you walk through a dark alley and see something that appears like a snake laying across the ground, you will 100% see a snake. The snake is absolutely real, true (and terrifying!) to your perception. If you were to suddenly shine a flashlight on the ground and see that in fact, the “snake” is a rope (and was never not a rope) you immediately “come to know” the truth of the snake, which is rope. ?

Self-knowledge is like this. I believe I am my body, mind and personality. I believe I am my thoughts, my personal history, my roles. But… if all of those identities (and all of the mental activity associated with those identities) were to suddenly resolve, the way the snake resolved in the light, what would remain is the TRUTH of my being (the rope, if you will). Yoga is the practice of turning on the light!One of my teachers, Swami Dayananda, puts it this way…

“Yoga is the resolving of the vrttis (thoughts, moods, imagination, feelings, identities, etc.) into the very truth of your being.” 

Of course, much more can be unfolded… but this will support your ongoing learning, experience and understanding of yoga.

Want to know my favorite Patanjali translations? They are this one, and this one. If you want something a little lighter on the brain… try this one.

Kaya Mindlin

Kaya Mindlin began her exploration of eastern studies in 1998 with Vedic and Buddhist philosophy and have been teaching deep release yoga for 14 years. Over the course of ten years She delved into intensive yoga study reaching 2,000 hours of professional yoga therapy training with a specific emphasis spinal decompression.

Alongside her study of yoga therapy she dove into full-spectrum exploration and training in the vedic and yoga tradition with formal study and certifications in advanced Yoga Therapy, Ayurvedic Medicine, Vedic Astrology (Jyotisha),and Vedic Design and Arrangement (Vāstu). After a decade of study, teaching, and travels to India, Kaya began teaching and mentoring other yoga teachers so they could refine and advance their skills to more effectively work with their students. She spent several years on the board of, and as a teacher trainer for a large yoga foundation and traveled on the east and west coast to teach teachers.

In 2011 she came back to re-focus her work with her local (Northern California) community of yoga students and teachers and she am currently the master yoga therapist and spinal release teacher at Emeryville Yoga Center and am on the faculty of 800 hour yoga therapy trainings at the Stress Management Center of Marin. Her present focus is working with experienced yogis, healers, meditators and explorers of the body, mind and self to help them cultivate deeper experience and understanding of the underlying principles of this amazing tradition. She is registered at the highest possible level with the National Yoga Alliance (E-RYT 500) and Kaya have continued her studies with renowned Vedanta teachers including Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Carol Whitfield and Swami Tattvavidānanda.

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