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FEATURE - October 2017
More than a Physical Practice, What Is Yoga Really?
by Shirley Fessel MA, MEd
“Yoga” seems to be a term thrown about at will. Just check any commercial parodying a woman cross-legged on a mat with lone candle flickering in the background selling cereal. Yoga, a Sanskrit word “yui” meaning “yoke” or “union”, has evolved to refer to many systems of practices for mental and physical health based primarily upon Eastern wisdom.
Originally part of Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, yoga integrates breath control, simple meditation and body postures for energy or “chi” flow in the body. The concept of “chakras”, or energy centers, is Eastern as well, beginning in India. Canada and the United States have joined India in being the top three yoga practicing countries since 2011.
Yoga is not a religion but seeks to join the individual self with higher consciousness, universal spirit or the divine through uniting the energy body and spirit. The strict meaning of yoga involves a specific practices. The broader meaning has evolved to diverse forms of energy work for healing.
Devotees of a particular yoga practice are as numerous as those who use an eclectic approach, sampling many forms to find a combination that works for them. The plethora of choices can be confusing. This article seeks to clarify some of the varieties of yoga practice, many of which have local teachers featured in this issue.
Here are some of the main approaches to yoga work.
Chakra Based Chi Healing Methods
Examples of chakra-based healing methods include: Reiki, qi-gong, therapeutic touch, healing touch, kundalini, quantum touch, energetic unwinding, EmoTrance, cranio-sacral therapy, Trager® movement.
Meridian Based Chi Healing Methods
Examples include EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique or “tapping”), Touch For Health® kinesiology forms, lomilomi (Hawaiian massage), acupuncture, Healing Touch®, shin jin jitsu, and EnergyMedicine, as coined by Donna Eden.
Non-Chi Based Energy Healing
Examples include shamanic work, Matrix Energetics®, flower essences, angelic healing, dream work, and spiritual inquiry.
Practitioners are free to develop their own methods out of their experiences and study. They also often develop unique labels for their practice. For example, “bioenergy healing/domančič method” may be classified under chakra based methods. They also may develop more specific or broader labels, such as “energy focused body work”. They may develop their own “schools”, such as Brennan Shiatsu Healing Science. Some of these labels are trademarks for that school of practice.
Because of this, some believe the term “yoga” should refer only to the Hindu basic practice of meditation, body posture and breathing discipline. Practices which seem to depart from these, however, are still based on the participants’ inner energy and body work with a goal toward integration and unification with larger or intangible forces.
Each person can find what fits a workable definition of a yoga practice. The concept of yoga – a specific set of practices for inner and outer integration and health – has proven too broad to be limited to a traditional practice. Instead it more closely refers to a conscious attempt to work with physical and nonphysical forces for overall well-being.
Hopefully having these three classifications will serve as a beginning guide to the myriad possibilities for yoga practice enjoyed today.
Once you begin with a practice, feel free to try others. There is no limit to what can work for each person in a rich methodology for enhanced physical, mental, emotional and spiritual integrative health.
Here are some other examples. There may not be agreement on which classification a specific modality belongs to. Consult the practitioners.
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Shirley Fessel, MA, MEd writes about a variety of women’s concerns, especially spiritual, physical and emotional health. Her most recent work is Beth Moore: The Courage to be Willing, a memoir of recovery from chronic illness with compulsive overeating, is available on Amazon and Kindle.