What is Yoga to me and what can you combine Yoga with?

Yoga is like choreography, we move gracefully like a dancer, with the precision of a fencer. This idea is really beautiful to me, as a Latin ballroom dancer back in university, I can relate to the graceful lines and rhythm of a dancer, whether it is with samba music or with the beats of nature.

When I first decided to get more serious with yoga, I was struck by an idealistic view of going to an ashram in India and doing yoga. And if I love it there, who knows, I may want to stay there and lead a peaceful and simple life. City life and societal norms seemed too overwhelming for me. But then I was watching a video by a lady guru, who described her phenomenal experience of going to the Ganges River as a young lady and crying her heart out. She then told her guru in India that she wanted to stay there and learn from him. He told her that yes, she can learn from him, but after that she should go back to her city and pass on the wonderful teachings of yoga. Because yoga is not about going to extremes and living in isolation; in our modern life with the responsibilities we have, yoga is about enhancing our quality of life, and enabling us to touch others with beauty of this ancient wisdom and way of life. If we are unable to apply what we learn to our daily lives, then what is the use of these teachings?

This made me think, yes yoga should not be a way to escape from reality; it is part of a life journey for those who decide to take it up. And yoga is not just doing asana on your yoga mat; it is so much more than that. As we learnt, there are 4 main paths of yoga: Karma, Bhakti, Raja and Jnana Yoga. This means there are people who may be practicing yoga every single day without realizing it! For example, the inspiring teachers, who dedicate their life to educating and inspiring the next generation. The middle aged lady, who spends her time taking care of her bedridden parents and showering them with love. My goal will be to reach that stage, where yoga is just a part of my life, the values I practice are just part of my system. This is a lifelong journey.

I used to balk at people who combine yoga practice with other interesting hobbies like dance, but now I realize that as long as the spirit and discipline of yoga is kept in mind, what matters how you do it? Here is an interesting list of what yoga has been combined with:

  1. Yoga and Dance: Yoga has been combined with contemporary and folk dance to create a rhythmic movement for those who prefer grooving to music. An inspirational company – Let Your Yoga Dance: Grace in Motion also reaches out to people with illnesses like Parkinsons and Alzheimers.
  2. Yoga on a surfboard: Having difficulty balancing on a mat? Some Yogis have stepped up the challenge by practicing on water! Yoga on a surfboard combines the elements of water, air and fire of the sun, ensuring you have an eventful practice which may end up with too much water.   
  3. Yoga and dogs: I see my relative’s dog do downward and upward facing dog all the time when he is stretching, with uncanny resemblance to the asana. What better way to learn about the poses than from the animals they originated from? Dogs are natural yogis: they live in the present moment. Yoga with pets may not be the calmest class you get, but owners can definitely have fun and bond with their pets.
  4. Yoga with laughing: Of course, we have laughing yoga. Laughter not only helps to reduce stress, research has shown that it helps to increase the body’s immunity and prevent chronic and viral illnesses. The amazing thing is that even if we laugh for no reason, we still get the benefits as the body cannot tell the difference! Laughter Yoga has been combined with Pranayama as well.
  5. Yoga with pole dance: They have a lot in common – flexibility, strength, grace and discipline in practice. And they both look really good.

Have fun exploring!

Ho Hui Lin 200hr Weekend class Jan to May 2014