Alexandria Crow, a yoga teacher I’ve practiced with and followed over the year, recently challenged her Instagram followers to deliver their 30 second yoga “elevator speech”.
How do you define yoga succinctly to someone unfamiliar with it?
I took on the challenge, but found it difficult to capture the essence of yoga in just a few words. Here’s what I finally came up with:
“Yoga is self-exploration, both on and off the mat, leading to self-acceptance and self-compassion, forming the foundation for love and compassion for others.”
I surprised myself because it included nothing specifically about the asana practice.
I probably shouldn’t have been so surprised. My relationship with my yoga practice is becoming more complicated. Sometimes, my physical practice feels like maybe it’s not enough. I vacillate between vigorous vinyasa flows and contemplative sedentary practices, simply (or complicatedly) searching for answers. I love the practice once I’m doing it, but often have to talk myself into getting on the mat. I’m never sorry I got on the mat — I find I just need to accept what it’s offering to me today.
So what is yoga?
So many things, and not simple, but maybe, at its essence, really simple.
When I’m doing yoga, I’m content.
Do the exercise for yourself. Define yoga! It will help you focus and clear your mind.
As inspiration, here are 15 quotes from yoga masters, teachers, and texts. Pick your favorites and build your own definition!
True yoga is not about the shape of your body, but the shape of your life. Yoga is not to be performed; yoga is to be lived. Yoga doesn’t care about what you have been; yoga cares about the person you are becoming. Yoga is designed for a vast and profound purpose, and for it to be truly called yoga, its essence must be embodied.”
– Aadil Palkhivala
The very heart of yoga practice is ‘abyhasa’ – steady effort in the direction you want to go.
– Sally Kempton
Yoga means addition – addition of energy, strength and beauty to body, mind and soul. (…)Yoga is not just repetition of a few postures – it is more about the exploration and discovery of the subtle energies of life.
– Amit Ray
Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.
– The Bhagavad Gita
When you listen to yourself, everything comes naturally. It comes from inside, like a kind of will to do something. Try to be sensitive. That is yoga.
– Petri Räisänen
Yoga believes in transforming the individuals before transforming the world. Whatever change we want to happen outside should happen within.
– Swami Satchidananda
Yoga is the perfect opportunity to be curious about who you are.
– Jason Crandell
Yoga is a dance between control and surrender — between pushing and letting go — and when to push and to let go becomes part of the creative process, part of the open-ended exploration of your well-being.
– Joel Kramer
Doing anything with attention to how you feel is doing yoga.
– Jean Couch
The study of asana is not about mastering posture. It’s about using posture to understand and transform yourself. (…) Yoga does not just change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees.
– B.K.S Iyengar
Yoga is a way of moving into stillness in order to experience the truth of who you are.
– Erich Schiffmann
The attitude of gratitude is the highest yoga.
– Yogi Bhajan
The ultimate goal of yoga is to always observe things accurately, and therefore never act in a way that will make us regret our actions later. (…)Yoga exists in the world because everything is linked.
– T.K.V. Desikachar
Yoga is the science to be in the here and now.
You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state.
– Sharon Gannon
May Louie first took yoga in college to fulfill a Phys-Ed requirement and immediately fell in love. She, unfortunately, did not continue with her practice but reconnected with it when she retired from her corporate job in 2002 and has since become a serious yoga enthusiast. After her second retirement in 2017, she completed her 200-hour RYT certification, studying with Dina Crosta, Ellen Mosko, and Jamie Segal Hanley, with a focus on alignment based flow.
Never Miss a Post!
The Top Three Reasons for Joining NJYC
The greatest teachers, studios, classes and communities are in the Garden State.
You are ready to inspire and be inspired.
You believe in living a life you love, supported by a practice that makes you feel amazing