You probably hear about yoga quite a good bit these days, but can you be sure about what yoga really is? Do you know what it stands for and what it involves? I have been practicing yoga poses (yoga asanas) for the last 9 years, but the truth is I only learnt what yoga really was last summer, during my second teacher training in India.

Before this, I thought yoga was a physical exercise that would improve my flexibility and strength if practiced regularly. I also thought yoga was an embodiment exercise that would keep my attention in the body, rather than in the forever wondering mind. In fact, yoga can be all these things, but it is also something much deeper than this.

Real yoga starts when you choose a sequence of yoga poses (asanas) and practice them daily, combining it with your attention focused on your breath.

Types of Yoga

All physical yoga is called hatha yoga. Hatha yoga that has been organised in a series of asanas that are called either ashtanga, prana vashya, shivananada or the vinyasa flow. The sequence that you choose depends on your personal preferences. The important thing is to stay with it and practice it regularly.

Yoga and mindfulness

Daily practice will challenge your mind to stick to it in the face of your daily ups and downs. It will dare you to stay focused and connected to your breath in times of happiness and sorrow. It will call you to be present in a moment that sometimes feels unpleasant, when all you want to do is escape and hide behind a veil of your thoughts, rather than being in the here and now. Sometimes being present is painful and we have a tendency to escape into daydreams when something disagreeable is happening in our lives.

As you can see this is far from simple stretching and gaining strength. Yoga could be compared to the type of work one would do with a psychologist as it is an exercise of the mind. Yoga means observing oneself and noticing one’s strengths and weaknesses. It is work towards becoming a better version of oneself.

The best way to start your yoga routine is to have an open and calm mind. Pick your preferable sequence and commit to your practice on a daily basis. You can adjust it to your daily schedule, being 10 minutes or 1 hour practice. Make sure it is done in a clean and quiet place so that you can hear your breath. It is special time just for you. Be gentle with yourself, stay focused on your breath and unfold the real you.

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