Here are some thoughts from various internationally recognized yoga instructors and philosophers about what yoga really is (and isn't):
but it is the center hole
that makes the wagon move.
We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.
We hammer wood for a house,
but it is the inner space
that makes it livable.
We work with being,
but non-being is what we use.
Yoga is about transforming your mind, so that you can live your life and reach your higher potential, rather than being caught in the dramas of your personality and becoming a victim of external circumstances...
Think of a massage. When someone asks you to massage their neck or shoulders, your job is to look for the tight and tender spots and then rub. You rub the whole aread and you deliberately "flirt" with the sore spots. These knots of tension ar ethe contracted areas of your energy field you are attempting to undo, expand and open. You do not go directly into them and press as hard as you can, however. You approach them with care, coming at them from various angles, circling the area, and pressing with varying intensities. In this way, you gradually erase the soreness. In yoga you do exactly the same thing. Usin gthe pose as a map you deliberately explore, looking for all the tight, weak, unbalanced adn sore spots you can find within that area of yourself. You then flirt with the tight spots by breathing into them adn stretching them with various intensities...
...the aim of yoga is to quiet the fluctuations of the m ind, to create stillness in order to hear one's inner voice, and ultimately to discover that on's inner voice is the voice of all being.
The wider practice of yoga is not about arranging our life so that it is perfect and easy and non-challenging. Rather it is about using the discipline we find in asana practice to be able to remain "easy" in the midst of difficulty. That s the true measure of freedom. When we learn this then everything we do and everything we say become an "asana", a position of body, mind and soul which requires the attention that brings us into the present.
Yoga has its roots in Indian thought, but its content is universal because it is about the means by which we can make the changes we desire in our lives. The actual practice of yoga takes each person in a different direction. It is not necessary to subscribe to any particular ideas of God in order to follow the yoga path. The practice of yoga only requries us to act and to be attentive to our actions.
We practice the yoga...without striving and without forcing. We practice accepting our body as we find it, in the present, from one moment to the next. While stretching or lifting or balancing, we learn to work at our limits, maintaining momentj-tomoment awareness. We are patient with ourselves. As we carefully move up to our limits in a stretch, for instance, we practice breathing at that limit, dwelling in the creative space between not challenging the body at all adn pushing it too far. This is a far cry from most exercise and aerobic classes...which only focus on what the body is doing. These approaches tend to emphasize progress. They like to push, push, push, push. Not much attention is paid to the art of non-doing and non-striving in exercise classes, nor to the present moment for that matter, nor to the mind.
He who performs his duty
with no concern for results
is the tru man of yoga - not
he who refrains from action.
-The Bhagavad Gita