“Yoga is the art of doing everything with the consciousness of God.”
Like most people in the United States, I came to yoga by way of the physical practice of asanas, yoga poses. My first experiences were through classes taught in a gym setting. I thought of yoga primarily as a system for exercising the body – although I was also open to learning about breathing techniques and meditation.
The first definition of “yoga” I learned was: Yoga means union of body and mind. In gyms, yoga – along with Pilates – is classified as a mind/body practice. Later, my understanding of yoga expanded to: Yoga is the union of body, mind and spirit via the breath. I could easily see the connection of breath and spirit. My current concept of yoga is this: Yoga means union with God.
The neat thing is that all these definitions are correct; they’re not mutually exclusive. Yoga meets us wherever we happen to be on our life journey. If we want only a physical practice, then yoga can satisfy us in that way. If we want to heal mental/emotional issues by working with the body/mind connection, yoga shows us the path. If we desire a deep, personal relationship with the world of Spirit (God), yoga takes us that far as well. Yoga can enhance our religious beliefs – regardless of what they are – and develop our experience of God as Love.
I love the above quotation from Paramahansa Yogananda because it reminds me that all of my life, every moment, can be yoga if I choose to see it that way. Yoga is not confined to the times when I’m practicing poses and breath awareness – or sitting in meditation. It includes brushing my teeth, driving to work, teaching, talking to people, doing chores, sending email, etc. No matter what we’re doing, if we do it with awareness, that’s yoga.