I’ve spent the last 8 months learning about a five thousand year old practice called yoga. As you can imagine, a two-hundred hour program merely scratched the surface yet I learned a lot and that’s a testament to the program I was enrolled in.
Sol Yoga’s teacher training program was an eclectic mix of styles and traditions led by an non-dogmatic instructor who was more interested in unleashing our inner teacher than creating teachers that copied her style and demeanor. And that’s why Sol Yoga, owned by Dorcas Qyunn McWilliams, is a great place to not only learn about yoga, but practice in general.
Yoga teacher training started out simple, only to become more complex the more I studied. Ask me what yoga is and I’m not sure that I’d even have an answer for you at this point. I simply know too much to do justice to the term and even the official dictionary definitions of yoga are long winded and obscure.
This Sanskrit word has various meanings, one of which means union, thus most people think of yoga as something that unifies or connects the mind, body and spirit. That tells us what yoga does, but the jury is still out on what exactly yoga is. Is it a system? A discipline? A philosophical way of life? Or is it merely a form of exercise that can give you a nice ass?
The word yoga, from the Sanskrit word yuj means to yoke or bind and is often interpreted as “union” or a method of discipline. A male who practices yoga is called a yogi, a female practitioner, a yogini.
The Indian sage Patanjali is believed to have collated the practice of yoga into the Yoga Sutra an estimated 2,000 years ago. The Sutra is a collection of 195 statements that serves as a philosophical guidebook for most of the yoga that is practiced today. It also outlines eight limbs of yoga: the yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation), and samadhi (absorption). As we explore these eight limbs, we begin by refining our behavior in the outer world, and then we focus inwardly until we reach samadhi (liberation, enlightenment).
Today most people practicing yoga are engaged in the third limb, asana, which is a program of physical postures designed to purify the body and provide the physical strength and stamina required for long periods of meditation.
Some say yoga was invented out of necessity because sages that were rigidly sitting for hours in meditation decided to move to avoid pain and stiffness. This resulted in poses being created that were linked via the breath. Thus yoga is literally a moving meditation and every time you unroll your mat this is what you’re attempting to do as well.
Notice I said meditation and not prayer because the one thing I know for sure is that yoga is not a religion. I wasn’t ordained as a yoga priestess, just certified as a yoga teacher. I’ve never been baptized in yoga or asked to confirm any specific yogic belief system. All I’ve ever been asked to do in a yoga class, is breathe.
There are many types of yoga to choose from and based on the type of class you attend, yoga can be a sweat inducing, strength training, cardiovascular workout or a calm, relaxing, and restorative way to increase range of motion, flexibility and reduce stress. Therefore if you’re intrigued about yoga, do NOT only go to one class and make your decision. Try out various classes, teachers and styles before you decide if yoga is something that you want to add to your life.
If you can’t find a class in your area, there are DVD’s that you can buy, thousands of free videos on Youtube as well as membership based sites that allow you to experience yoga. And when I start teaching, I’ll let you know so you can come try out my style as well.