I took this picture just before lockdown, at a yoga exhibition at SOAS University of London (School of Oriental and African studies). It’s amazing to think that the roots of yoga reach back all the way to texts called the Vedas, which were written 1500 – 1000 BCE. And yet the practice of yoga is still as relevant as its always been – because the human condition remains the same.
Our experience of being human is ruled by our senses, which are hungry for stimulation and often overwhelm us. We mistake passing thoughts, feelings, emotions and sensations for who we are. We get caught up in our experience and our body and our mind get tied up in knots.
The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “Yuj” meaning to yoke, join or unite. We can think of yoga as a way to ‘yoke’ and control the senses when they overwhelm us and draw us out of ourselves.
Modern yoga asana (postures) are varied and complex, while early yoga asanas were predominantly seated postures. The definition of asana in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (4th Century CE) is simply ‘a steady and comfortable posture’. How appealing that sounds in an increasingly fast and complex world!
I’m running three yoga mornings this Autumn, exploring how the practice of yoga can help us cultivate equanimity, ‘calmness and composure, especially in a difficult situation’. We can’t control what happens to us, but our yoga practice can help us find new ways to respond.