True happiness is when the aspirant rejoices in his or her practice.
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WHAT IS YOGA?
On a practical level, Yoga is a very beneficial philosophy of life that allows us to achieve balance in our body, emotions and mind. As a consequence, it is a fantastic tool that helps us to be happy and feel fulfilled.
However, in its deepest and most spiritual aspect, Yoga is a path to self-knowledge, a path to remembering who we really are. The word Yoga itself comes from the Sanskrit language and means “union“.
The definition of Yoga that I have learned in my school is: Yoga is the conscious union with the essence of oneself. To achieve this, Yoga offers us a series of tools, among them the famous Asanas that characterize so many Yoga classes, mostly in the West. However, the Asanas are just another tool of Yoga, they are not Yoga in its truest sense. They are simply a way to get closer to ourselves.
WHAT IS THE STRUCTURE OF A YOGA CLASS?
Yoga classes are usually structured in three parts. The first few minutes usually begin with another Yoga technique: Pranayama. Prana means energy and yama means control. Therefore, Pranayama is the technique that helps us to control our energy, in this case through breathing. It is said that Pranayama is the key technique of Yoga, as it allows us to calm our emotions and thoughts. It is the key that allows us to control our body’s energy and bring peace back to us when we experience moments of tension. It is actually then when we can really practice Yoga fully, when we are at peace.
After a few minutes of practicing Pranayama, the bulk of the class focuses on the Asanas. The word Asana means “seat“. They are actually different postures that help us to bring our attention to the body, to really inhabit it and attend to it. It is that very awareness that is the practice of Yoga and not the physical postures themselves, for postures without awareness or attention would not be Yoga. In the Asanas phase, the physical posture is accompanied at all times with conscious breathing.
Finally, the class ends with a few minutes of relaxation. Relaxation is the most important part of the Yoga class since it synthesizes everything learned during the session. It allows us to let go of all accumulated tension and helps to refresh our body and mind. Normally we do a sweep through all the parts of our body, paying attention to each one of them and thanking them for the service they give us every day of our lives.
WHAT DO I NEED FOR THE YOGA CLASS?
At the material level, you will need a mat to ensure your comfort and enjoyment at the time of performing the postures or Asanas. In addition to the mat, it is advisable to have a pillow or seat to sit on it at the time of Pranayama or during possible meditations. The cue is very useful to help us keep the back upright. A blanket is always welcome at the moment of relaxation with which to cover ourselves, where we tend to get a bit cold after the physical activity of the Asanas. Comfortable clothing is of course essential to ensure total enjoyment of the practice and that the clothes we wear are not an impediment to it.
On a personal level we will need nothing more than interest and enthusiasm. Willingness to give the best of ourselves and, above all, to enjoy ourselves. Giving the best of ourselves should not be confused with reaching the most complicated and complex positions as soon as possible, comparing ourselves or competing with others. To give the best of ourselves is to be aware of and respect the limits of our body and at the same time be able to rejoice in the practice. Yoga classes usually last approximately one hour.
IS YOGA A RIGHT PRACTICE FOR ME?
If we go back to the exact definition of the word Yoga: “Yoga is the conscious union with the essence of oneself“, then it is evident that Yoga is a kind practice for every person who is interested in knowing himself or herself better. After all, this is a deep longing that all human beings share.
That said, as Yoga is mostly related to being a physical discipline, even here we find that Yoga is suitable for everyone, because Yoga is simply bringing presence to our body and to our sensations. Thus, Yoga can be practiced in every moment of our lives, because if we realize we are always adopting a posture or Asana. We sit, lie down, stand, walk or run. Any dynamic or static posture experienced with awareness is Yoga. Therefore, anyone can practice Yoga if that is truly their desire.
We all experience at one time or another physical limitations and discomfort. But a crucial law of the practice of physical Yoga or Hatha Yoga is that the Asanas should be adopted with firmness and tension but without crossing the threshold of pain. Respect and good treatment of one’s own body is taught. This being the basis of Hatha Yoga, no one should fear their physical limitations as there will always be a repertoire of Asanas that can be implemented. The job of the Yoga instructor is to offer that person postures or variations with which he or she feels comfortable. Therefore, Yoga is a life tool that warmly welcomes everyone, without exception.