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Tapping Into The True Essence Of Yoga

by Kat Pither

Yoga is an ancient practice dating back over 5000 years. The word Yoga translates as “to yoke” or union and that is essentially the core of the practice. To unify the mind, body and our soul or “purpose/sense of belonging” so that we may find “enlightenment” or peace and utter contentment in how things are right now, just as they are. 

For me, yoga was my back pocket healer. I discovered it quietly and softly when I was in rehab struggling with acute anxiety, PTSD and addiction. Yoga seemed like this exotic, mystical magic. I couldn’t explain it but I knew I felt it. It shrunk demons. It tethered my mind to my body. So what is yoga? First things first: forget everything you see on social media. Yoga is a feeling – not a pose. Yes, the poses are beautiful, like art, and I know it’s allowed some incredible yogis to bloom in confidence as they explore their creativity. However, despite what you see, you can’t actually take a picture of yoga.

When we think of Yoga we often think of the physical poses and postures but these are in fact such a small part of the practice making up just one of 8 “limbs” of yoga. The physical practices and poses are called asana and their main purpose was to keep the body supple, limber, strong and free of tension in order to free tensions of the mind and be able to sit for long periods of time in meditation. While we may not practise sitting for hours in meditation anymore it's a lovely way to think of Yoga Asana as making you physically and mentally fit to make us more resilient and less affected by the stresses of our day-to-day modern lives so we find it easier to let things that make us tense go.

We are nature, and yet sometimes we forget. Through the practice of yoga, we remember how to speak the natural and subtle languages of the body and breath. Yoga is the sweet surrender as you feel yourself let go during the bliss of savasana. Yoga is the girl who hides in the toilets having panic attacks, remembering slow inhales and exhales, being her own hero.

We live in a world alien to our biology. We hold second brains in our hands through our devices. We are permanently in a state of fight or flight. We clad our feet in hard-wearing shoes. We live in manipulated conditions of heat, air-con, and blue light. We are overstimulated and undernourished. We forgot our primal instinct. We forgot how to feel. When we allow ourselves to return to our natural state of being we find a sense of renewal, connection, clarity, energy, and vibrancy. Our gut health improves, our sleep patterns reset, and we feel happier. Everything makes sense again.

I created Yogi Bare out of a feeling – of belonging and not belonging. When I trained as a yoga teacher, I wanted to help people struggling with whatever set them off course. There was resistance to the idea of yoga being something for other people and the preconception that you had to look a certain way and have gymnastic skills. “I’m not flexible enough” is often the response. I felt yoga should remain accessible, fun and full of magic and delight – not comparison, competition or elitism. So I got to work. Yogi Bare is the physical manifestation of the concept of yoga being for everybody and every body. I wanted to develop a range of eco-sensitive products with accessible price points after seeing a slight shift in a strand of yoga defined by wealth, social standing, gender and ethnicity. I wanted to bring some fun and personality into a world that can sometimes seem alien. The name isn’t just a fun play on words but ‘Bare’ is symbolic of the eco credentials and a sense of stripping back. It’s my love letter to the rebels; those who didn’t feel like they fitted in before.

As for the future of yoga, we must always respect its roots and traditions. It’s important to remind ourselves that it is a sacred, ancient practice developed over hundreds of years and embedded with history, context, philosophy, culture and spirituality. The world we currently live in could not be more different from yoga’s birthplace. It comes with its own new challenges – technology, mental health, self-esteem, competition and comparison. It’s weird, fast-paced and voyeuristic. There is space for something new that combines movement, modern practices and science to combat our technology fuelled lives. It’s sad to see yoga becoming more about achieving poses, being super sexy and going viral. It makes it exclusive and, in my opinion, loses all of its magic. I don’t relate to that side of it. However, for me, mental health is at the forefront of Yogi Bare because that’s what I know and that’s where it came from. Yoga helps us move in a way that is the antidote to the frantic modern world. Take comfort in knowing that the traditions of yoga philosophy can – and will – change your life.