Yoga is the experience of life
Birds flying high, you know how I feel
sun in the sky, you know how I feel
breeze drifting on by, you know how I feel
it's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life for me
yeah - it's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life for me
ooh - and I'm feeling good.
Nina Simone puts it into words, so simple, so true, so to the point.
When you go outside and feel the sunlight on your skin, there is this moment when you pause and no matter what is going on in your life, feelings of joy, calm or presence rise within you. It is from this very feeling, the experience of life and the lifeforce - prana, that the yogic practices arise.
As I mentioned in my post defining yoga the word yoga means union. In this sense, the communion with the sun lies at the heart of yoga and it is also the essence of Surya Namaskar, also known as Sun Salutations.
Surya means sun and nama means adoring or bowing to. As we rise our arms to the sky and bow to the ground we open up our hearts and show our gratitude. This is a very popular warm-up practice that heats the body as you combine the breath with specific movements. Although the practice of showing gratitude to the sun is a ancient aspect of yoga, sun salutations as we know them today are known to be much more recent. It was when yoga came to the west around a century ago that the sun salutations as we know them took form, supposedly inspired by European gymnastic practices. One saying goes that it was a yogi that one day, after bowing to the sun, decided to take a large step back to stretch the hip flexors and from there the modern variations were born.
Sun salutations are a very demanding practice of moving the body into plank and lunges. They require your full attention and presence. The sun salutations can be very helpful for physical release, achieving focus and letting go. They move the energy out, so we can experience peace in body and mind.
Yoga is most commonly associated with these sun salutations that are a typical element in most types of hatha, ashtanga and vinyasa classes. But yoga is so much more than the physical practice. Remember, yoga is the quality of experiencing life. If you act with mindfulness, focus, intention or consciousness - then it is yoga.