What Is Yoga?

On my first night of yoga Teacher Training I have to bring in an essay answering the question, What Is Yoga? We were advised in the email that told us about this assignment, to do it without consulting our books.

Well, having read the introductions to all the assigned books that we were given , that admonition was a little late. I had already read a number of classic answers to that question, and I couldn’t un-know what I now knew. I tried to un-know though; I tried to answer it honestly and completely based on my own experience. I wanted to convey what Yoga means to me, personally, and why I wanted to do TT.  I actually wrote the essay pretty easily….honesty is rather clear. I  wrote very much the way I write a blog, all stream of conscious and quickly which allows me (usually) to get to the core of what I want to say. I then go back and hone it, attempt to make it clearer, reference others, try and get it under 1000 words (I do try!). When I was done I really liked what I had written. It read like me, it conveyed pretty clearly what Yoga means to me and I was ready to print it out and have done with it.

Well…can you guess what happened next? How the second guessing started and the worries about “I haven’t written anything for credit in years” and how will the lead teachers perceive me and on and on, yadda, yadda, yadda. Fell straight into that not good enough trap, that horrible place of not perceiving my own opinions and worth with any clarity and with way too much emphasis on others opinions of me, which I am supposed to remember are none of my business, right?

I am lucky enough to know a brilliant fellow blogger who just happens to be a yoga teacher (even ran a teacher training), and so I sent it off to her with a HELP! I say I am lucky to know her for many reasons, but was shown again why when she sent me a reply that eased my fears but also kicked my ass a bit, reminding me that I have to be me as I develop my yoga teacher voice, but that my writing voice is developing fine and better than good enough and that she thought the essay was perfect. I think she’s perfect!

So I did one last revision (hard to keep my hands off it!), printed it out and put it into the folder that I have for my Yoga work. I thought I’d share it here, in case anyone is interested. This will post January 22, and the training starts tomorrow night (the 23rd). I am beyond excited, and so very grateful for all of your virtual support! WhoooHoooooo!!!

What Is Yoga

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

…..This line from a poem by Mary Oliver slays me, and saved me. At a time in my life when I had completely lost my way, I read that and began to take action to hold precious the rest of my life. One action I took was to say yes to a Yoga class once a week. I found, in that hour, the incessant chatter in my head quieted and I felt peace. I continued attending class weekly, and was spurred into a practice of meditation and reading the work of some wonderful teachers. I hungered for more asana, more physical release, and when I moved to Studio City I got right into action and established an actual Yoga practice.
…..For me the most resonate meaning of Yoga is the idea of Karma Yoga, the Yoga of action. If you told me a year ago that I would be sitting here in this immersion I would have thought you mad. But Yoga has charged me into action. My practice has changed the way I behave in the world, in every way. I have become more dedicated to service and less self-involved. I actively seek enlightenment and peace. I have learned to quiet my mind, and to meditate. I know that my actions off the mat are more important than any Yoga pose. I seek out ways to be of service, to be useful in this world. I’m a better friend and parent.
…..This is what moves me about Yoga and keeps me coming back. For me Yoga is a way of being in the world that brings me closer to who I really am, to a spiritual core that I have always felt I lacked. I have scoffed at the idea of spirituality; in more desperate times even at the idea that there was any meaning to be found in life. But as I continue to take action, to practice, I am changed. That change happens whether or not I can do a headstand or even a balancing pose, because the work is in the action no matter the skill, no matter the asana. That is the Yoga that is important to me, that brings me to class every day and led me to this training.

….I told someone the other day I was in love with Yoga. I’m here to spend some quality time with it.

Indulge me with another poem/inspiration? This by David Whyte…
Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.
This opening to the life
we have refused
again and again
until now.
Until now.



Add yours →

  1. Thanks for sharing that poem from Mary Oliver… Beautiful! Wishing you blessings on your new endeavor!

  2. As someone who is new to Yoga, this is exactly what I want Yoga to be for me. I think its perfect and I would love you to be my teacher, headstand or not!

  3. Oh yes…perfect! I’m also glad that your yoga-blogger friend kicked your ass a little bit. I’m already in love with your writing voice…I’m so excited to see how your yoga voice continues to emerge and shine, too. xoxo

  4. Truly and deeply beautiful and inspiring.

    I love yoga too.

  5. Perfect.

    Been meaning to tell you…I started reading a book “Going Om”…personal stories and essays about yoga. I think you’ll enjoy it:


  6. Beautiful! Have fun on your journey and never forget it is your journey, perfect for you. You aren’t there to please anyone. You are there for you.

  7. So lovely! Yoga is such a huge blessing in my life too- one of the best things I have ever done for myself. I love that it keeps giving. x

  8. Thanks for all the inspiration in this post, it truly is perfect. Congrats on being exactly where you should be and loving it.

  9. Hello again!
    As promised, I’m back to hijack with a silly yoga story.
    I only go on Fridays – at 5:30 a.m. I’m not back until after Dane is due on the bus. It’s the boys’ responsibility to get themselves going in the morning.
    Last Friday, I pulled into the garage at 7:25 and the words “Don’t lose your shit” popped into my head. In my heart, I knew that the boys were still in bed and that Dane had missed the bus.
    Sure enough. I’d just finished a great yoga class and was not about to “lose my shit.”
    I calmly flicked on the light and told Dane that school started in 7 minutes. He got dressed and we were at the school in about 10 minutes.
    Proud to say that yoga helped me hold it together in an instance when I would have normally flown off the handle.
    The irony? He would have made the bus if I hadn’t been at yoga 🙂

    • he would have made the bus because you would have been up and nagging him to get up, listening to his cranky ass complain about school and how early the bus is,and your husband would have still been asleep, unaware of the drama happening around him….
      am i right? LOL….
      and instead you didn’t lose your shit..GO YOU!!
      Those boys need to get it together!!!


  10. Loved this post so much. It made me want to start practising yoga… I keep thinking that I am ‘saving’ yoga for an unspecified ‘later’ – when I have more, what, time? serenity? calm? when I have completed my current series of counselling sessions? I don’t feel as if I have sufficient head space available for it at present, if truth be told. Anyway, thank you for sharing your excitement coupled with your apprehension. Plus some David Whyte, always greatly appreciated and this piece was so appropriate.


  11. I absolutely loved this – I’m so glad you decided to share your essay with us…….
    ps. heading off to yoga first thing tomorrow morning! The only day of the week I have time and I look so forward to it each Saturday ❤ Best wishes for a blessed teacher training!

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