What Makes Yoga, Yoga?

Talk of yoga in this modern day often conjures images of highly stylized poses performed by stylish people wearing trendy clothing.  At the very least, an image of downward facing dog comes to mind.
Now shake the Etch-a-Sketch of the mind and picture this: yoga is a space where everybody of all abilities can come to any time.  It is not confined to a synthetic space of 71 in. X 26 in. where down dog is involved.  The only prerequisite to practicing yoga is an interest in yoga.
So, then, what is yoga?
Yoga is when your full attention comes to the experience of the moment.  The moment is not always peaceful and perfect and we cannot await such ideal conditions to begin a yoga practice.  Coming into a state of yoga, or union, is often challenging with or without the down dog.
Yoga as it happens in schools and studios is an exploration of the tools and practices that help us get to a state of yoga.  With these practices, at first, much of the attention is on how much ‘stuff’ is in the way of experiencing presence and peace.  Practicing asana (physical postures), pranayama (breath work), meditation, chanting, and self-study help to clear the pathways to experiencing the moment more readily and with better clarity.
Try this: wherever you are, whatever you are doing, connect to your breath.  Notice it change only to the degree of the effect of your awareness.  No special technique is required.  The wisdom of your body and being will employ the breath to serve the needs of the moment.  When the mind is turned to the breath it enhances the power of it and the effect of the moment.
Now, notice everything around you and within you.  Watch the mind name and categorize every sensation and awareness (hot, cold, bright, blue, birds, jackhammers, music, wind, nervous, sad, sore, salty, relaxed…).  Then peel off the labels and bring your attention to the essence of the sensation itself.  Discover the pulsation within and without and begin to see the incredible harmony of the moment; the bigger picture.
This is yoga.  Space, awareness, yoking to the moment.  It is available to us anytime, anywhere.  Discover yoga both on and off the mat.  No need to wait for your next class.

“Be Here Now.” ~ Ram Dass