Any attempt at defining yoga has always seemed to me to be necessarily limited. But then maybe that's just me, it is what I occupy most of my time pondering.
How to define yoga? like this: it's not purely physical practice, got it. It makes you feel good, but sometimes not, got it. It's fascinating, to me it is. It has it's historical roots in India, ok.
Things might get sticky at this point. We start to identify this thing that turns us on with a nation some distance away with a very rich and complex history, just as our own. We start to think we could never possibly even begin to understand what yoga is. I mean most of us don't speak sanskrit, we may not have even been to India. And yet this is where the chorus of angelic voices chants from, this is where the wafts of incense transport us to.
The common conception of yoga looks something like this, bendy person on a mat, looking peaceful, contorting in a typically non-peaceful shape. Students come to class for the first time and are so surprised, it's much harder than they thought. The process of engaging the mind and the body at the same time; it has its challenges. This is yoga responding to a need.
To me the definition of yoga is tricky because it has come to signify so much more than the original word yoga. Yoga comes from the root -yuj; to yoke. It has 'gathered' its own multiplicity of signifiers along the way, and it is gathering a very strong bunch of signifiers at this time, namely: peaceful, stretchy, sporty, physical, spiritual, odd, fashionable, hard etc. And the signifiers that I associate with yoga are more to do with the subtle realms: quiet, nuanced, slow and yes: strong and supple.
I would like to see a move towards the subtle aspects of yoga. There is a good minority for whom this is happening and it excites me. Many pure hearted teachers are putting great work into helping people develop insight in their practice. Breaking through the surface or as my friend Flor Sylvester quotes: "working from the inside out" looks to me like the greatest need of this time.
There is so much movement in the subtle signifiers of yoga, there is room for growth, for shape shifting for awakening. There is room for what is needed to arise.
So when we stop hammering the doors of the body, perhaps we could knock gently and be let in. It is Autumn, the leaves are starting to let go, let us follow suit.
There's still space to join HILL YOGA from the 2nd-5th of November, come and nourish.