What is Yoga?

Most people seem to have a general idea of what yoga is. Asked, and the answer usually combines an exercise system with spirituality practiced for better health and relaxation. Easy to say, but how does it work in practice?

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the foundation text of yoga, starts with the aphorism Atha yoga anusasanam. From Sanskrit this translates as And now yoga.  According to Patanjali, yoga starts in the now, the present moment unshackled by our personal past or vision of the future. To experience yoga we begin where we are, in the present moment. On a yoga mat this might look like trying to touch your toes in a forward bend or balance on the crown of your head in headstand.  

Asana, the Sanskrit term for the physical postures of yoga, initially challenge us to move our body in ways we may be largely unaccustomed to. The experience of asana places us firmly in the present moment through direct physical challenge. While we may be able to approach one asana with relative ease, another will seem beyond us, in one sense letting us examine our current perception of our own limitations and potential.  

 In this way the immediate experience of yoga asana moves us beyond the body. It demands we focus the mind, undistracted by our environment, mental or emotional state. It asks us to connect body and mind with our rhythm of breathing to form a pose, experience it, and un-form the pose sequentially. Approached consciously this process places us squarely in the present moment unencumbered by the past or the future.  Here now. 

 What’s so important about the present moment? In yogic thought the clarity of the present moment lets us experience who we are free of social or cultural conditioning. This is the first step toward self realisation. What is yoga? Yoga is discipline designed to help each of us realise the grace in life, all life, and connect with a sense of a greater whole in the here and now.  It all begins on the mat…


Learn Yoga in Newport with us. Understand what Iyengar Yoga is and how it influences our teaching methodology