After doing my 200 hour yoga teacher training in India, I learned a lot that I never had while attending classes in the states. I left with such a different perspective that I couldn’t wait to tell my friends and family about all the surprising things I had found out — all the secrets that exist within the practice of yoga that the western world doesn’t really talk or know about.
We learned so much in those short four weeks that my brain was filled with things I couldn’t unload on anyone. When people ask me how it was, it’s hard to really narrow anything down. A lot happened. “It was amazing…yeah, it was really good,” I usually say, not knowing where to start with all the details.
So I decided to start with listing just a few surprising things about yoga that I never knew before India here!
- This is one which many people probably do know, but some may not is that yoga is much more than exercise. The asanas, or poses, are only one part. In fact, it’s only one of Patanjali’s eight limbs!
- Hatha yoga is in a sense, a preparation of the body and its elements to be able to meditate properly. It is among other things, a purification method.
- The definition of the Sanskrit word ‘yoga,’ is union, or that which is united. It’s related to the union of the individual self and the universal self. The practice is the gradual unifying of the mind, body, and spirit. It is the process of realizing our true identity. Also, the ‘om’ we say before and after each class is the universal sound. So it ties in.
- Meditation and chanting are huge parts of practicing yoga that I never learned much of in the U.S., and none of my instructors ever really touched on pranayama, either. Pranayama is one of the other eight limbs and means breathing. There are lots of breathing techniques that have specific purposes and benefits, and that every yogi should definitely know about. How does pranayama relate to meditation and chanting? Well, the active meditations are usually completely focused on the breaths. Breathing properly is extremely important — not just during asana practice and vinyasa flow, but for every day life!
- Building off of #4, it’s easy for our sun and moon energies to become out of balance. In other words, not breathing enough or as deeply/often as we should throughout the day can throw off the balance of our minds and our emotions. As one of our masters said, most mental and emotional problems can be cured with breathing. Yoga teaches us this.
- Mudras — I never learned about them at all before going to India. And yes, I went to various different yoga classes over the past 6–8 years. Didn’t learn about this once. If you’re also in the dark about this, a mudra means a seal, mark, or gesture. It is the subtle science of arranging your body in certain ways so that the functioning of your system can be altered by holding the mudras. It’s a way of balancing the elements in our bodies, and also brings focus to our chakras. Most people at least know the chin mudra, when you touch your pointer fingers to your thumbs and rest them on your knees while meditating or chanting.
There’s literally so much more but it’d turn into a novel, so these were just things that really stood out as related to yoga that I thought might surprise people. Our course had a focus in naturopathy and emotional blockage, and that’s where I feel I actually gained the most knowledge, so I may write a few posts on those topics as well! Stay tuned ;)