Some yoga practitioners talk about the Sturm und Drang experience of their first yoga class. Mine was the opposite, a cautious toe-dip into a world I was still deeply suspicious of (because if it didn’t leave me in a puddle of sweat of the ground, how could yoga really be counted as exercise?) But in that first class, I saw something calming in the practice which made me return, week after week. So I gave up running altogether, the sport which made my knees ache, and replaced it with yoga poses or “asana" which, little by little, strengthened my body and began to focus my mind.
In September 2014, just six months after I had begun practicing yoga seriously, I began a 200-hour long teacher training. I didn’t know whether I would become a teacher, but I knew that the rigorous course would provide me with a stronger understanding of what had become a vital part of my life. While still working full-time at an advertising agency, I spent six weeks practicing yoga up to five hours a day and learning philosophy, Sanskrit, history and anatomy. It was physically and mentally exhausting, but my mind had never felt more clear.
I learned that, in 400CE, a series of composite texts were written, known collectively as the Yoga Sutras, which have since become thought of as the foundations of yoga as we in the Western world now understand it. In this text, Patanjali, the author, not only lays out the eight-limbed path of yoga, but most importantly, defines the word itself; “yogash chitta vritti nirodhah” – that is, "yoga is the stilling of the movements of the mind". Yoga, then, aims towards a state where the mind has a single internal focus (on the breath and the body itself) rather than on an external focus (such as the person on the mat in front of you).