What is yoga?

Classical yoga is an eight-step path toward understanding the self in relation to the universe. Around 200 B.C, Patanjali described the process in his Yoga Sutras. Patanjali was a sage and the sutras are notes written by his students. The 200 sutras are short phrases that describe a systematic approach to awareness of the self. The intention was to understand and describe the nature of the mind and learn to harness restlessness – the monkey mind. Thus, the practice of yoga is a multi-step process that results in knowledge of the self.  

Is there a goal of yoga?

The intention of yoga is to find peace within. It’s a disciplined approach to knowing that true happiness comes from the self and that attachment to external forces is only a fleeting sensation of joy.

Finding this state of peace does not have an end point but rather is a lifetime’s worth of work. Yoga is the guide towards ease and flow. Flow state can be achieved momentarily from other activities – like athletes or artists who lose themselves in their work. That fleeting moment while performing a task and the mind becomes completely focused on the moment. There is no future or past, just here and now. It’s a loss of sense of time. Flow state is the goal of yoga.

With practice, the flow state, the blissful awareness of now, the peacefulness of self, can become part of daily existence.

How do you do yoga?

Since yoga is a multi-faceted technique for peaceful existence, doing the practice is more than hanging out on a yoga mat. Doing yoga is adhering to a set of guidelines for coexisting with the world. Life is full of challenges and moments of euphoria and sorrow. Doing yoga is allowing the moments to happen, but being non-reactive to their outcomes.

Life includes possessions. Things, relationships, jobs, friends, experiences. Possessions contribute to a rich and fulfilled life, but their presence is temporary. Doing yoga is allowing those things and experiences to gracefully come in and out of your life without letting them cause suffering. Pain from their loss is inevitable, but suffering due to that pain is optional.

Doing yoga is accepting that everything is impermanent.

Why teach?

As you start teaching yoga, your students will ask you these questions. What is yoga? How do you do yoga? Is there a goal? The answers are elusive. But, by maintaining your own practice, understanding yoga in your own life and sharing your lived experience, you will be able to guide students to their own answers.

You have likely asked yourself why you practice and what it means to you. There are infinite reasons for stepping on to your yoga mat and as you continue to practice, the reasons will evolve.

Be compassionate to your students and their reasons for doing yoga. There is no wrong reason to do yoga, but some of your students’ reasons will be incongruent with your own. As the teacher, you are the purveyor of knowledge. From your experience and knowledge, you are providing a template for students to find their own practice.

What is Yoga Assignment

Write down three reasons for teaching yoga. Let your intuition guide the answer. As you work through this program, after graduation and in the years you spend teaching, refer back to this answer. Note how your reasons evolve!