By Angela Myers, Certified Yoga Teacher, MYW
What does yoga mean to me now? In April 2022 this was a simple answer. Yoga, to me meant peace. It was a strategy I implemented to assist with my anxiety. It was a physical practice that I used to release endorphins and to find my calm. Today I am immersed in a different way of life. A yoga intention was once an affirmation, today it is committing to feeling the vibrations of “aum.” Today, it understands that the asanas are not the only focus of my practice. While they are a large part, they no
longer are the only part. The teachings of Patanjali have been transformative, regarding how I view myself and the actions of those around me. Understanding meditation and the true meaning of it while also understanding how difficult it is to achieve, has been humbling.
In the fitness industry, yoga is sold as a practice to get lean and toned. It is often misunderstood as a means of becoming flexible. This misguided representation of yoga does not allow for many practitioners to connect with yoga in a holistic and spiritual way. Before teacher training the asanas allowed me to find peace but gave me limited insight to the true essence of yoga. Patanjali teaches us in the 34th sutra “That calm is retained by the controlled exhalation or the retention of the breath.” Later translated by Sri Swami Satchidananda, Swami explains this sutra in detail. A specific passage that I refer to when attempting longer holds in asanas states that, “Whenever we are agitated, worried, or puzzled, you should take a few deep breaths, putting your entire mind on the breath. Within a few minutes you will find the mind is completely serene.” Asanas are poses in which we are meant to feel happy, comfortable, and steady. I understand why we are connecting with the breath, the vital life force, that feeds energy to our entire being. Now the poses allow me to connect deeper with prana, rather focusing on the “burn”. This newly obtained understanding has allowed me to discover that the physical practice of yoga is more than a workout used to release endorphins.
I had taken an Ashtanga Yoga class in February 2022, and we chanted “aum.” I thought it
sounded beautiful yet, I had no understanding of the importance of this chant nor its symbolism. Through teacher training and further research into the meaning of “OM”, I am amazed with this powerful chant. Whether alone or with a group, this chant can immediately reduce my stress and relax my body. It brings clarity to my thoughts, allowing me to connect on a higher level with the universe. In learning the Eight Limbs of Yoga, I have come to understand it as a pathway to enlightenment. The Yamas guide our ethical compass, affording us the opportunity to be the very best contributors to our
environment. The Niyamas meanwhile, allow us to look within. They allow for us to discover, grow, and change, becoming the best version of ourselves. Achieving Samadhi isn’t something that can happen overnight. To reach bliss, enlightenment, Patanjali provides a roadmap. I compare The Eight Limbs to the Map of Consciousness created by David R. Hawkins. It is a map that calibrates your path to enlightenment. Before teacher training, I used the map as a guide for my mental health. Any negative emotion could be replaced with a corresponding positive emotion. For example, love replaces fear. This provided me with a valuable tool to employ when I felt defeated, lost, or anxious. After learning the
Eight Limbs, I no longer require the maps assistance. In my daily life I strive to live the Yamas and Niyamas, with only the intention of being the best person I can be. It has allowed me to feel in control of my thoughts and actions and understand the actions of those around me. The Eight limbs have taught me to understand yoga outside of the physical practice.
Early into teacher training I was inspired yet humbled by the wise words of the trainer. She casually spoke about acceptance. We were learning the second Yama, 'Satya'. She was speaking to the importance of truthfulness regarding your practice. Truthfulness teaches us to not exaggerate. She taught us to welcome where we are in our practice. Giving ourselves an honest assessment of where that might be. She went on to further tell us that wherever that was, it was okay. Sophia has reiterated that to us throughout our homework assignments. A simple sentence but one that ferments in the mind, allowing honesty to follow us off the mat. I use guided meditation often; it wasn’t until I learned the difference between concentration and meditation, that I could admit that I have never achieved meditation. I can welcome that I still have so much to learn. I can be honest with myself.
Teacher training humbled me. I may never be able to achieve meditation, never reach enlightenment, but I will never stop trying. The journey to enlightenment even if it is unsuccessful, is transformative.
So, what does yoga mean to me today? Today yoga is not only a means to find my inner peace. Yoga is a way that I connect with my true self. Through the physical practice, I can appreciate the space I am creating for my vital life force, my breath. It is a way to learn discipline, an attempt to withdrawal from the inner workings of my mind, to achieve clarity of thought. Yoga helps me grow into the best version of myself that I can be. Not harming anyone with my actions nor my words, to achieve thoughtfulness of speech. To me yoga is accepting who I was, who I am and who I will one day be. Today I have a better understanding that yoga is truly the practice that connects us to our mind, body, and
soul. To simplify this, yoga is becoming my way of life.
1.“That calm is retained by the controlled exhalation or the retention of the breath.” The Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali. Translation and commentary by; Swami Satchidananda. Originally published under the title Integral Yoga: The yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Copyright 2012 by Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville Inc.
2. “Whenever we are agitated, worried or puzzled, you should take a few deep breaths, putting your entire mind on the breath. Within a few minutes you will find the mind is completely serene.”.” The Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali. Translation and commentary by; Swami Satchidananda. Originally published under the title Integral Yoga: The yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Copyright 2012 by Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville Inc.
3. Map of Consciousness created by David R. Hawkins.