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Namaste. I am back in North America after spending six weeks in the yoga capital of the world Rishikesh, India on the Ganges River at the foothills of the Himalayas. I participated in a 300 hour Hatha Yoga teacher training, which gave me a whole new perspective on yoga. In our theory class we discussed what hatha yoga really is. I learned in my first Kundalini Yoga teacher training six years ago that Yoga is how we merge our individual spirit with the universal spirit. In Rishikesh I was taught that, on the deepest level our souls already are one with the universal soul and Yoga is the effort that we make to feel that oneness.
Many of the ideas below expanded the way I see yoga and brought deeper layers of love and truth into my practice. You do not have to accept these ideas as your truth; you can test it out and see if they work for you.
To understand more of what hatha yoga is we started by discussing what hatha yoga is not.
1. Yoga is not only what happens in class when you sit on a mat.
2. Yoga is not only a pose or posture.
3. Yoga is not about competition.
4. The purpose of Yoga is not to sculpt your body and feed your vanity.
5. Yoga is not a religion.
6. Yoga a not a super power.
Yoga is a way of life; it is being present moment by moment.
Yoga is the understanding of breath and the practice of universal moral values. Yoga is for everybody. Yoga is not just for flexibility of the body, it is for trying to become more flexible in the mind. Flexibility in the mind allows you to open and expand your awareness so you can lower the amount of involuntary, unconscious thoughts and emotions and increase the amount of voluntary thoughts and emotions.
Hatha Yoga is not a flexibility competition, remembering this will transform your practice. Send love to those around you but remain focused on yourself. It is the ego that likes to be competitive; the purpose of Yoga is to go from ego to your blissful eternal self. You know you are on the right track when your ego thoughts (non-loving, competitive) are decreasing and your harmonious thoughts (loving, supportive) are increasing. Yoga is the effort that you put in so you can be effortless in life.
Meditation is a part of yoga, the purpose of meditation is not to become thoughtless, it is to become more aware of your thoughts. This allows you to understand how your thoughts are affecting your emotions and external reality. So you can cultivate more thoughts that you actually want to think. Practicing Yoga and meditation expand your awareness and this gives you the opportunity to choose thoughts that feel loving and supportive.
You can bring more compassion into your hatha yoga practice by listening to your body and honoring yourself. Respect your possibilities and limits. When you are in a yoga posture, instead of comparing yourself to those around you, send love to your body. Accept your body as it is and love yourself just where you are, just as you are.