What is Yoga?

Yoga is meditation.

Yoga is stretching.

Yoga is a good workout.

Yoga is relaxing.

The above statements are some of the most frequent answers I have come across when a person attempts to explain what yoga is. Etymologically, the word yoga is derived from the Hindu word yuj, which means to yoke or bond and very often it is being interpreted as a “union”. Personally, I believe there is not an exact definition for yoga and it could be interpreted in many ways by different people.

When I first started practicing yoga, I thought yoga was a kind of workout where I could strengthen and tone up my muscles. I attended Vinyasa classes only and enjoyed the flowing and fast-paced sequences in class. A good yoga class to me back then was a class that made me sweat a lot. I constantly push myself to work on advanced poses as I desperately wanted to be able to do splits and arm balances.

My views on yoga changed when I started teaching yoga part time in Hong Kong. As much as I love the sweaty and powerful Vinyasa classes, I realised that my body craved for something more relaxing and that was when I found Yin yoga. Not only did that provide me with a chance to relax and release any tension in my muscles, I have also come to realise that to me a yoga class is not just about getting a good workout, but it is also about balancing between strength and flexibility, constant movements and the ability to stay still.


The more I read about yoga and the more I practiced, I realised to me, yoga is transformation. I remember the joy I felt when felt when my fingertips touched the floor in the standing forward bend pose. I could barely reach beyond my knees when I first started! However, this transformation goes beyond the physical aspect. My way of living was also changing too, as I became more observant to my own body and learned to back off in many poses to avoid pushing myself too much and injuring myself. The practice of being observant and patient is something that I found to be useful even when I am off the mat. As my teacher told me once,

“As teachers, being able to perform a headstand, full splits or any other more complicated poses isn’t the most important thing because poses will come to you eventually when your body is ready. What’s more important is to understand how one can perform the pose and how to explain and teach students to do it.”

Therefore, instead of pushing myself to work on advanced poses all the time, I choose to focus on working on the basics and try to understand what are the prerequisites in making different advanced poses happen, trusting and believing that with practice, advanced poses, such as king pigeon pose or a handstand, would come to me eventually.


Louise teaches Vinyasa Flow classes every Wednesday from 8:15pm to 9:15pm at Studio iO.

Follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more updated information on her classes and tips on yoga and home therapy for pain relief @louiseyu.yoga .

This article is also found on www.louiseyuyoga.com .