The most interesting fact I’ve learned in Yoga Teacher Training is that yoga originally had absolutely nothing to do with physical poses. What? No pretzel moves? Well, there was one pose: sitting comfortably. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Book 2, Sutra 46 states “Asana is a steady, comfortable posture.” That’s not as easy as it seems for long periods of time. People have difficulty sitting still, so yoga was developed over time to include all the poses we know and still develop today.
So what was yoga about all those centuries ago when it began, and more importantly, what does it offer for us today? Yoga is knowing ourselves and controlling negative thoughts in our daily lives. From the beginning yoga emphasized proper breathing, meditation, and diet. See, things haven’t changed much in thousands of years! The Sutras advise staying away from pleasures because they can bring unhappiness afterwards. This is a difficult one to accept. However, in many ways, the Yoga Sutras resemble the Ten Commandments by advising non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, and non-greed. They encouraged people to be clean (purity) and to do their best without worrying about the outcome (contentment). People should not cause pain and should accept pain. Practice leads to a certain detachment bringing a better life without constant desires for material things. The Sutras offer practical advice about what to do with evil people and those who intend harm. The ultimate message is to stop going to the outside world for happiness, then these instances don’t matter.
If you think you can’t do yoga because of physical challenges, think again. Everyone can find poses to practice then combine each movement with good breathing. Moving with poses begins the yoga journey. I practiced for over a decade before trying meditation and now I have even greater challenges and purpose. I don’t think I’ll ever reach the state of “Samadhi” (bliss) but I’ll certainly enjoy continuing to try and notice the changes in my everyday life because of yoga.