Yoga Translated is Yoke? What place does yoke have in yoga?
It’s true. Yoga is the Sanskrit word for yoke. It comes from the root word “yug,” which literally means to yoke or unite.
That is what yoga is – coming together, a uniting. Let’s explore the many ways to view yoga through the lens of “Yoke.”
We will start by looking at a common yoga pose: Warrior 2. In warrior 2, your feet are planted firmly to the ground. You are pushing the knife edge of your feet into the ground This pulls your arches away from the ground. Your arms are reaching in opposite directions and you feel the energy shooting out your fingers. At the same time, your arm bones are drawing to center of the body to keep them seated firmly in the shoulder sockets. Your spine is reaching up while your shoulders are relaxing down. Your ribs are squeezing down and together while the lower belly is lifting.
As you can see, your body is reaching out in all sorts of directions and drawing in toward center line simultaneously. Your body is playing tug of war with itself, but you don’t want either side to win. You want to find a balance between the two – and in this balance you find yoke. You find coming together.
Yoke is Yin and Yang. There must be balance and there must be a coming together.
Let’s look at Yoke in another way. There are individual aspects of yoga that come together when you practice. You ground your feet to the mat as if you had roots digging into the earth. You reach your spine to the sky creating space in the vertebrae. You activate your core muscles. You focus your eyes on one point (dristi). You focus on your rhythmic yogic breath. When you unite these aspect while holding a pose, you find a blissful place of mindfulness: being in the present moment with your mind, body and spirit. The goal is to stay in this place of mindfulness during the whole yoga practice. We practice in effort to take the feeling of mindfulness with us off our mat and into the world.
There is a spiritual aspect of yoke. In practicing yoga, there is possibility of connection between the physical world and the spiritual world. We set an intention at the beginning of class like a prayer. We ask what we want to give, what we want to receive, or what we want to create with our practice. Spirit, or as I like to call it, the “yummy yoga magic,” hears our message and honors it. Where that magic comes from is completely up to your own beliefs. Just know that whatever your belief, Yoga is a place to unite with spirit.
When everything comes together, we have oneness. We have unity. It is no coincidence we say “Namaste” at the end of practice. Namaste, “the divine in me sees and honors the divine in you.” In yoga there is the belief that we all carry within us the divine – a soul, a light. Through this, we are all the same. Community and peace in oneness.
Unity. Yoke. Yoga.
I have had moments in life where it seems like time stops and everything seems perfect. A sunset in Hawaii. Playing with ember outside on a snowy day. Certain moments smiling and laughing with Jeff. We learn to see, recognize, and appreciate these moments in a deeper way through our practice of yoga. We understand there is more than “I” in the world and only through “We” can we find magic. With magic, all things become possible.
Yoga. Yoke. Unity. Peace.
Have you ever felt this on your mat? Have you ever felt this oneness in your life? Why were those moments a place of unity? What made them different from other moments? Can you find that place just by breathing, grounding and being?
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