Photography by June Kim & Michelle Cho
So what does YOKE mean anyway???
To yoke means to pull together. To bind together; to unite. It’s often used as a translation for the Sanskrit word yoga; and in yoga, to yoke is to create union between body, mind, soul, and the universal consciousness.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is one of the foundational texts of yoga as we know it. Its teachings are written in the form of 196 sutras: short messages about life and consciousness and how to live well, which, when woven together, are the threads that make up the holistic practice of yoga. Patanjali defines yoga as chitta vritti nirodhah — the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind. By calming this mental chatter, we can begin to yoke; cultivating the natural union within ourselves so that we find peace and bliss.
Yoga practice is a method for developing this wholeness and connecting with your personal truth. More than just a system of physical movements, it’s a deeper, spiritual practice which allows you to get in touch with you. With consistent practice, the postures, breathing techniques and meditative work used in yoga allow you to recognise patterns and imbalances within your body, and in your thoughts and feelings. And as you become more adept at noticing what’s happening within you, your ability to trust your own inner guidance grows.
(image via @etlyoga)
When you practice yoga regularly, you embark on this path of self-realisation. Many people come to yoga for the physical benefits initially, and then gradually realise that they’re getting a lot more from the experience than they expected. The transformative effects of enhanced awareness and self-knowledge begin to translate into life beyond the yoga mat.
Perhaps you might pause in the middle of a frustrating conflict at work and suddenly remember to feel your feet. To notice your breath. This simple process of coming back to your body reminds you to notice the reactions that are taking hold in your pattern of thought — and you realise that you’re responding from an existing judgement, rather than responding only to what’s happening in the moment. Small changes like this — changes in the way you perceive and respond to external influences — start to happen when you hone your skills of awareness and create greater harmony between body and mind. And these small changes are a sign that you’re becoming steadier in yourself, and more connected to who you really are.
You’re becoming more closely connected to your inner state of ananda, or bliss.
To practice yoga is to yoke. It’s a lifelong journey towards yourself, and towards everything. A practice of connection and openness which will travel with you through the ups and downs of life, and enable you to handle whatever is thrown your way. Yoga improves physical, mental and emotional wellness by giving you the space and the tools to learn about yourself. Over time, you can strip away layer upon layer of the impressions your environment has left on you, until you can feel who you really are.
Satchidananda, Sri Swami (translator and commentary). 2011. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Virginia: Satchidananda Ashram - Yogaville Inc. Pp 125