Yoga, an ancient Indian science and philosophy has roots in major texts like the Vedas that were created over 5000 years ago. The practice of Yoga encompasses a wide variety of tools to aid individuals in their pursuit of happiness and union with God. Yoga is such a large and complex entity that is practiced very differently in the east than in the west. Within the USA the diversity of hatha Yoga is incredible! Truly there is a type of Yoga for every person on the planet.
Due to the great diversity in the practices it is a very challenging to task to define the word in a timely manner. Astanga or Raja Yoga is the most popular of the Yoga's here in the West that is an eight-fold path with many options for practice. Astanga Yogas' eight paths or limbs includes the practice of hatha Yoga (physical practice of Yoga on mats). There is a lot of variation between the many paths of Yoga however they are all pointing toward the same common goal.
We all find ourselves practicing Yoga of many forms for a wide array of reasons, with unique bodies, and life experiences. When a group of students join together to share a hatha Yoga practice they are choosing to unite in the present and inspire one another to breathe deep and let the mind calm. No matter what brings you to your Yoga mat in class or what brought the person next to you there today - you have all chosen to join together.
In order to walk the strong, healthy, body you are blessed with into the Yoga room you had to make a choice to be active and engaged, to go out and avoid those urges to be lazy at home, and let go of all the pressures of daily life. That choice is powerful. The options for one moment are absolutely limitless and you chose to put everything else aside for a bit of time to share Yoga with others, calm your mind, promote your health, and enliven your spirit!
Life is truly perpetually presenting us with the opportunities to make choices. Every choice we make will undoubtedly have a consequence and even a lack of choices has consequences. This, choice, or growing awareness of choice is to me one of the more subtle lessons of Yoga.
In hatha Yoga classes we take charge of the parts of our being and spend time listening in. The simple yet daunting task of quieting the mind and tuning in is a devotional practice and with time leads an individual to a greater understanding of themselves, their relationships, and the nature of life itself. Knowing more about themselves, one is greater able to evaluate choices, and to do more feeling when it comes to decision making. The dual nature of emotions, all of which stem from a place of self-love or self-hate will become gradually more apparent. Normal scenarios that would set you off into a panic or rage begin to feel more surreal and one day you find yourself mentally debating whether or not you are going to cry or smile.
The more you practice Yoga the more in tune you become. The more in tune you become the more aware you are of an underlying choice in every situation. When you become aware of the choice you are empowered to direct your life in the pursuit of your own happiness and connection to God. We are all individuals and define God in a variety of terms, like: life force, breath, love, universe, Allah, Jesus, Krishna, or energy. No matter how you define God sending gratitude and love to a higher cause of any sort is good for the soul :-)
The practice of Yoga is what you make it... the choices are limitless!