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What Yoga Means to Me

I recently wrote this reflection for an ISHTA Yoga training I am taking through The Table.  While here at IDP we are really focused on secular Buddhism, there are definite parallels with Yoga and I know some other folks here practice Yoga, too.  So I thought I would offer this short piece on What Yoga Means to Me:

I’ve heard many translations and definitions of Yoga.  Yoga as “union” means a lot to me, in terms of being in union with all parts of myself in the present moment.  Practicing yoga means practicing union of breath, body, mind and emotions.  What I mean by union is that these will all be linked together, present together, though they will not necessarily all be doing the same thing or expressing the same experience.  In yoga practice, there could be a moment of an active mind meeting a tired body.

Yoga as “action” also means a lot to me.  I like the definition of yoga that includes my whole life as my yoga.  Like when certain teachers have asked me “are you practicing?” or “how’s your yoga practice?”, it feels that they are implying not only my time spent on the mat but also my whole “action” in life.  How am I at work?  How am I with my family and in relationships? How am I as I walk down the street and eat lunch?  Bringing practice into the rest of my life is probably the most important aspect for me.  I have a natural tendency towards experiencing mystical, otherworldly things, and to bring me more into balance my “yoga” needs to be practiced on the ground, on the street, in the city, in the daily grind.  It would be pretty easy for me to practice asana and meditation in a quiet retreat setting for years.  It is more challenging for me to face the challenges of human life, like relating with others, earning an ethical livelihood, taking care of myself, and facing difficult issues like social injustice and violence.

As I understand the literal translation of Yoga: yog: “to yoke” (the oxen in a harness), it holds a strong feeling of hard work.  Yoga as hard work means showing up to do our real work in the world, not just laying around drinking lemonade and watching TV.



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Buddhism and yoga support each other and both continue to guide me in equal measures. Am also a student of ISHTA, and Alan Finger is an important teacher to me.

Thanks for writing this, Alexandra!

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