The story of
What is Yoga?
Yoga is the state of harmony of body, mind, and spirit. When most people think of yoga, they think of hatha yoga, physical movements called postures that release tension from the body and help us to relax. This is an essential starting point in practicing yoga. When the body is tense it contributes to turbulence in our mind and emotions. With regular practice, one quickly learns how to relax individual parts of the body and the body as a whole. This is a powerful skill that makes it possible for us bring greater calm to our mind and emotions.
Yoga also teaches us to become aware of our breath. In our stress-filled world, many people breathe very shallowly. Yoga teaches simple breath practices that promote health and increase our vitality. The breath also plays a role in calming our mind and emotions, creating a sense of well-being, inner peace, and happiness.
In Jazianzza’s story, she learned that deep belly breathing practiced regularly was a great support to her when she faced danger. Her lesson is a good one for all of us. When we are upset, angry, or frightened, many of us tend to hold our breath. If we have learned through yoga to be aware of the tension in our bodies, when turbulent thoughts and emotions arise within us, we can take a few conscious breaths and relax our bodies. This helps us to get in touch with our inner strength and wisdom so that we can respond wisely to the upset or danger we face. Jazi practiced this when she suddenly came face to face with Queen Hemizill Hornet. She was still scared, but she touched her inner strength, stayed present, and offered her glasses for the Queen’s daughter to try on. In the face of crisis, she acted wisely, turned an “enemy” into a friend and brought safety and great joy to her community.
During my almost 40 years at the Yoga Center of California (www.yogacenter.org), I have learned and practiced hatha yoga, deep relaxation, breathing practices, and many forms of meditation. Because we are each unique, Ramakrishna Ananda, a master yogi who founded the Yoga Center in 1970, teaches different forms of meditation so that people can find the practices that best suit their nature.
Beyond supporting physical and mental/emotional relaxation, the spiritual teachings of yoga help us get in touch with the true self – the higher consciousness – we all have within. Because yoga is not a religion, people of all religious paths as well as those who are not religious find practices that support their personal journey.
Yoga plays an essential role in my life. It has brought me to a wholeness that I never considered possible. I have learned to recognize the instrumental ways the challenges I went through while growing up made me who I am today. Instead of holding onto a lingering bitterness or anger about situations, yoga has empowered me to release those turbulent emotions. Through regular practice I have become a deeper and ultimately, much happier person. There is a saying, “The greatest challenges can become our greatest blessings, not only for ourselves, but (as we work our way through them) to offer to others.” I have seen this as a reality in my life.
For more information about yoga and online classes, visit Ramakrishna Ananda’s site, www.yogaworld.org.