How is yoga different from exercise?
There often seems to be a confusion on the exact identity of Yoga. For many people, yoga exists simply as a form of exercise.
This oversimplification leads to a situation where the participant is not able to embrace all the benefits yoga has to offer. Yoga goes much deeper.
The biggest difference is that for true yoga, there are three facets that need to be in sync. Each one of them is equally important and each one takes years to master.
First, is the movement. This is your Asana or your Mudra – taught by your teacher and can often be learned by replicating. It requires strength of the body and of mind. Flexibility is needed as well – You see a gradual improvement on this part as you keep practicing. This is also where many people believe yoga starts and ends.
Second, is the breathing. Conscious breath is an integral part of yoga. This where yoga starts ascending away from being a simple exercise. There is an awareness of breath – a fluidity of Prana as it flows in and out of your body. This is not easy and requires much more practice than the movement part. Even when it comes, it has to accompanied by a conscious awareness – it slips away quite easily as well.
Third, is the mind. Racing thoughts occupy our mind at most times. During yoga, we have to keep a calm mind. Easier said than done! Our mind is far too powerful for us to be able to clear it of thoughts. What we can do is, by awareness, stay away from negative thoughts. As soon as they enter, we have to replace them with something else - ideally with positive thoughts. For beginners, the best way is to focus on the breath itself. This allows you to have conscious breathing and also to clear the clutter from our mind.
Yoga is a wonderful journey but is not for the passive – nor for the weak. The path to success lies with an awareness of what yoga means.
Reprinted with permission.