During my Teacher Training in Goa I was able to experience Yoga in a way it never happened before. In Seville I already have been blessed with a great yoga teacher. From the beginning I experienced a holistic Hatha Yoga practice, including asanas, pranayama, mudras, bandhas, and mantras. This was authentic yoga. But in India Yoga was even greater. It was a practice for life. And it was everywhere. On my mat, with my body, my breath, my mind, but also in my nutrition, my behavior, my communication and my relations. Here, in South India, the grand yoga doors opened and I took my first steps on the big paths of yoga.
Continuing my travels I met a lot of people practicing the so called Yoga. But the western understanding of this term is often reduced to an asana practice. People thought about Yoga as a good workout or as relaxation. Sometimes they knew about the importance of the breath. Or that is ‘somehow’ spiritual. But generally it simply belongs to image of the ‘modern hippie’: traveling the world with its backpack, feeling free and – doing yoga.
But yoga as a workout is not yoga. And Yoga as part of your self-created image, less. The real power of yoga is different. It is not on the mat, it’s inside of you. It’s about working your ego, revealing personal truths and cultivating qualities like letting go and surrender. It’s about realizing what is real and what is illusion. Yoga is everywhere.
So are you ready? Do you want to know Yoga as a whole?
Here I share 10 lessons I picked from my personal learning in India. They completed my personal view and helped me to understand: what is yoga as a whole?
What is Yoga? – 10 Lessons from India
1. Yoga is a holistic practice
OK, not that new, I know. But I have to say it, again and again. Yoga integrates nutrition, physical practice, behavior, spiritual education, ethics and much more. Yoga means union and it leads to connect what has been separated. It connects body, mind and soul. It connects you with your inner self, oppressed feelings, hidden truths. And god, it works.
2. Yoga is transformation
As yoga has the power to transform you, it also has been transforming itself for centuries: from traditional Hatha over Ashtanga Vinyasa and Iyengar to Jivamukti and Anusara. During yoga history and its worldwide expansion yoga responded with diversity and adaption to the needs of everyone. It’s a fluid phenomenon with the ability to change. And the best news: you don’t need to select one style.
3. Permanency is an illusion
And the only permanent thing is change. In my TTC I experienced change every day, every minute. In my body, my breath, my mind, my inner life. And as I changed so did the world around me: my yogi fellows, my friends, my relations, the world. The world is never the same, we are never the same. Each day is different. And that’s absolutely fine! Sometimes we are more active, more awake, sometimes we feel tired or with the need for tranquility. That’s why my daily practice has no rule. It depends of how I feel that day and what my body asks for. Sometimes I want a bunch of asanas in a dynamic vinyasa, and other days I need time for self connection, meditation and slow movements which permit myself to be conscious and feel. Yoga remembers me to accept myself in the present state I am, and to react according to that, being gentle and respectful.
4. Yoga is about the breath
And the breath is energy. That’s the power of Pranayama: One day our teacher surprised us doing a Pranayama class. And I mean JUST Pranayama: 90 minutes, just sitting and breathing. We interchanged between different Pranayamas. I felt a little disturbed sometimes, especially in neck and shoulders. There my teacher came and rolled my head down from behind, supporting me so I could relax. When I aligned my spine again I felt an immense flow of energy streaming through my cervical spine up to my skull. And tears where rolling down my eyes overwhelmed by a strong feeling of happiness. Is that what they call „to experience bliss?“ I guess so. Whatever it was, I know it was strong and powerful, …and almost a little addictive.
5. Yoga is surrender
Yes surrender. This bad word of loosing control and letting go. But in yoga there’s nothing bad about it. It doesn’t mean to be weak — not at all. Indeed it’s all about surrender. That’s how I reached to touch the feet with my nose in forward bends (and much more) — breathing out, letting go, being humble. When you surrender to yourself you are humble and in this state you can experience more than you have thought you were able to do. If you keep controlling, keep your ego acting, your mind blocks and your energy can’t flow. But if you surrender, you are free. Your mind is free from borders and your body free from limits. So breath in, and breath out — let go. And see where this is leading you to.
6. Yoga is facing your ego
Let me tell you a short story about karma yoga practice: When I first did „Karma Yoga“ I heard my little western ego mumbling: „what the fuck, I paid 1500€ for this course and now I even have to play the cleaning lady?“ That was my mind following western programming. After a few sessions though, it became neutral. I didn’t hold against it anymore and it was an automized task that cost me nothing. Instead I started doing it with joy, doing something good for my fellows. That was the moment I surrendered (here we go) and let go of resistance and my ego. So Karma yoga was not about cleaning nor chopping but about meeting my ego, getting aware and surrender.
7. Yoga is singing and dancing
When our first Bhakti yoga session started, drums and an indian mini piano was already waiting for us. I already knew singing and dancing makes you free. At home I always danced and sang out loud with my mum, without thinking but with emotion. In Yoga they call it Bhakti Yoga, the path of devotion. Devote emotion. It’s considered the easiest of the four paths of yoga to access to. And I agree. You should try it!
8. Yoga is meeting yourself on your personal pathway
This is a very personal subject. Through practicing yoga, you learn in depth about the state of your body and mind, about your fears and your strengths — and probably we struggle to accept where we are in our personal pathway. During the TTC I saw how everyone went through this very personal experience, whether its student or teacher. We are all humans with our personal life story and background. And everyone had to meet itself in its very personal moment of life, observing and accepting it. And then transformation can happen.
9. Yoga is everywhere
Yoga appears in many different shapes, whether in dancing, doing asanas, making someone smiling just because or in the act of meditation, calming your mind and connecting to the truth. Do you know how Newton came to its law of gravity? It was the simple act of observing a tree and how the apple fall down this tree realizing the truth in it. That’s meditation. That’s yoga.
10. Yoga is a complete way of life…
…which leads to more consciousness, knowing your(true)self, self realization and bliss. Period.
Yoga can be kicking your ass, as it’s transformative. So you need to be brave to start the yogic pathway and experience all yoga can do. But I promise. Once you are on the way, you don’t want to go back.