Yoga is more than exercise; it is a way of life. A way of being.
Yoga is a spiritual path, not to be confused with religion. Modern yoga has emerged in the west primarily as a physical practice, an exercise. However, the physical part of yoga is only one branch in Yoga Sutras of Patajanli: The Eight-limbs of Yoga (see illustration below). The Yoga Sutras were compiled prior to 400 CE, so it is an ancient body of work. The branch related to the physical practice is called Asana, later extended to Hatha Yoga. It never ceases to amaze me that the template for living well transcends time. It applies to everybody regardless of the race, religion, century, level of education etc.
Today in the West there are many styles of yoga under the Asana/Hatha umbrella. There is Power Yoga, Gentle Yoga, Slow Flow, Restorative Yoga and Athletic Yoga to mention a few. However, in the yoga lineage (see illustration) Ashtanga, Vinyasas and later in the twentieth century Iyengar, create the foundation from which modern yoga emerged.
As an instructor when I started teaching yoga, I intentionally focused on the physical practice. I wanted to make yoga accessible to many, who may be turned off by the spiritual sides of yoga. Interestingly, even just practicing the Asanas, opened spiritual doors for many of my students. When we start quieting the mind, concentrating on our physical body and focusing on our breathe, a journey inward occurs. It is only the beginning.
As a teacher, students sense the spiritually in my classes. It is because yoga is a spiritual practice for me. Every day I try to be conscious of my spiritual values. I practice and study different areas of the eight limbs. They are a great guide for one’s spiritual development. As my work evolves and my studies deepen, I hope to bring more of these teachings to my students. We can all use positive guides on our journey.