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The true meaning of Yoga

The true meaning of Yoga

By Abha Humeniuk

Thirty five years ago, Yoga was relatively unknown in Canada. Now it is widespread.

There are so many types of yoga, that I cannot even keep a tab on the variety. Everyday I hear of a new brand of yoga, Take your pick, from the highly respectable Iyengar, Ashtanga, Vinyasa to hot, cold, acrobatic, dance, aerial etc etc. From the more serious, respectable  ones to  the downright absurd. Why is everyone adding the word yoga to any and every form of movement? Is it a selling technique? Is Yoga exercise?

Yoga  doesn’t translate as exercise or movement.

Physical postures of yoga  are known as Asanas and are the third limb of yoga. Asanas actually mean taking a seat. According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, “Asanam Sukham Sthiram”  meaning being stable and joyful in the position we take. The Sanskrit word, “YUJ ” translates as Unity — union of the body, mind and soul that leads to Oneness.

But do we get the experience of Yoga, every time we move? Perhaps not. Yet, I would recommend everyone take up Yoga. In the modern world where most of our time is spent in driving, sitting on couches, chairs, bent over computers, in front of TV screens, it is important that we have some variety of movements each day in our lives.

We can get that from stretching too, but stretching is not Yoga. A good Yoga class addresses mindfulness too. It should free us from many of our physical limitations over a period of time. At the same time, it should leave one feeling refreshed, less clouded and clear some of our mental blockages. There is a lot of research on the therapeutic applications of Yoga today. Not all yoga is equal. One must do their research regarding the training of the teacher so they feel safe in their practice.

Once, it was difficult to find a good school, today it is just as challenging , as it is  easy to get lost in a myriad of different studios. Too much or nothing, both pose problems. Yet with some research, and good information one can find a Yoga class, where it is practiced correctly. It is important to be selective and find highly trained teachers and then stick with that methodology.

Apart from Asana practice, the first two limbs Yamas and Niyamas and the practice of the fourth limb  called Pranayama is finally coming to the West too.  Many elderly Indian people are aware of this precious practice, the younger generation is beginning to open to it as well. That too should be learnt correctly.

There is a wealth of knowledge and benefit in this beautiful and vast discipline. From children to seniors ,  everyone can take advantage of it. I feel one or two hours a day devoted to oneself is not too much. The old adage, ” Prevention is better than a cure ” holds its value in regards to yoga. But prevention doesn’ t work like a magic pill,  what is required is effort and dedication.

I have been trained in the Iyengar method that emphasizes precision and alignment to control and achieve different asanas and incorporates blocks, belts, blankets and chairs to enable students of all levels, ages and capabilities to achieve the correct posture.

B.K.S. Iyengar, the founder of this method was one of the foremost yoga teachers of the world. He authored many books on yoga and its philosophy including Light on Yoga, Light on Pranayama and the Light onYoga Sutras of Patanjali. The Indian government awarded Iyengar with Padma Shri in 1991, Padma Bhushan in 2002,  and Padma Vibushan in 2014. In 2004 Iyengar was named as one of the 100 most influential people by Time Magazine.

Oxford dictionary includes ” Iyengar ” as a noun:  “A type of Ashtanga yoga focusing on the correct alignment of the body, making use of straps, wooden blocks, and other objects as aids to achieving the correct postures. Origin: Named after B.K.S. Iyengar (born 1918), the Indian yoga teacher who devised this method.”

Over and over we see people recovering from certain ailments, and as their practice matures,    they take interest in the philosophical and spiritual aspects that yoga incorporates which makes them blossom as a whole.


Abha Humeniuk has been practicing and studying postures and philosophy of Yoga throughout her life. She  is a certified Iyengar teacher, currently teaching at  Setu Yoga, Toronto,                                    hmfilmseries@gmail.com,  yogaisforall@gmail.com

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