How does yoga impact our lives? Its purpose, benefits, and significance tend to evolve as our practice changes and as we grow, age, and learn. We asked nine yogis from different decades of life what yoga means to them.
Yoga is being okay with not having the answers. It’s allowed me to trust in the ride, as long as I show up full of intention and do my best on a daily basis. Yoga has taught me to follow what makes my heart beat, and trust that everything is lined up exactly as it should be, and that I lack nothing.
We both found yoga in our teens. In those first years, yoga brought us radical realignment toward physical and mental health. In our twenties, yoga brought us together: We met and fell in love during our teacher training. Now, in our thirties, yoga is bringing us all over the world to share love through yoga, music, and art. There has been no greater gift than this. We owe everything to yoga, and yoga has never let us down.
40s: Schuyler Grant, founder of Kula Yoga
Yoga means that I have a touchstone. When I feel great, I have a place to fly and sweat, and when I’m depleted, I have a deep, sweet place to delve into. When I’m injured, I have a bag of tricks to help me on the path back to wellness. When I want to strangle one (or all) of my three children, I have a refuge. When I have a classroom of students, I have a vehicle for expressing 40 years of living, and when I’m all alone on my mat, I have the possibility of 40 more years of exploring the unknown. Yoga means something different every time I yoke my mind to my breath to my body. This is why the practice has lifelong resonance.
50s: Devarshi Steven Hartman, Dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga
All yoga practice is designed to bring one to the wordless experience of remembrance of our infinite, eternal, whole self. This experience of infinite consciousness is our natural birthright, and the single experience that brings true peace, health, and understanding in all situations. The ability to merge with Infinite Source at will is what Patanjali describes in his simple, gradient approach to enlightenment, or remembrance. Yoga, or union, is the practice and the goal. Atha Yoga Nushasanam—Now the inquiry into union.
60s: David Williams
Yoga means “peace of mind.” As long as there is “disease,” there is no “ease.” Before yoga practice, the theory is useless; after the practice, the theory is obvious.
There are two distinct phases of yoga. The first is yoga therapy, getting healthy and happy. The second is learning how to get “naturally high,” finding out how much enjoyment one can experience in a lifetime.
Yoga has given me a method, passed down over the centuries, for enjoying life and aging gracefully. This knowledge of yoga has profoundly influenced my life throughout my uninterrupted daily practice over these past 40-plus years.
The most valuable life lesson that yoga has taught me (and that I hope to pass on to others) is to enjoy yoga. If it hurts, you’re doing it wrong.
70s: Sri Dharma Mittraji, founder of Dharma Yoga New York Center and director of Life of the Yogi teacher training Programs
Yoga is a beautiful system of perfect techniques realized by the saints and sages of old in deep states of meditation. These divinely-realized techniques are a shortcut to immortality for each individual, based on his or her personal tendencies, also known as dharma. Yoga is the eight-limbed path outlined by Maharishi Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras that consists of yama (the ethical rules), niyama (the yogic observances), asana (the postures), pranayama (breathing exercises), pratyahara (sensory withdrawal), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (merging with the object of concentration/meditation—becoming one with everything). All this I received from my guru, Swami Kailashanada Maharaj.
I have devoted my life to serious practice and devotion, as well as the dissemination of what I have been given, since the greatest act of charity is sharing in the divine plan to illuminate other souls.I have been teaching since 1967 and am now 74 years young.
80s: Pearl (Pragnya) Goldberg
I had my first yoga lesson in 1967 and, from that very first session with Amrit Desai (the founder of Kripalu Yoga), the seed was sown for me. I was very fortunate to be in the presence of Swami Kripalu and part of the founding of Kripalu Yoga at the ashram in Sumneytown, Pennsylvania. Even though very little was known about yoga [in the West] then, it made sense to me. Yoga is a personal journey for me, and teaching has given me the opportunity to integrate the teachings into my everyday life. Practicing the asanas has enabled me to be healthy, vibrant, and youthful—and still teaching at 84.
90s: Tao Porchon-Lynch
Yoga is more than a powerful physical exercise to stimulate the flow of energy within the body. Experience has taught me that it illuminates the inner self, like the rays of the sun that draw the food of life from the earth. Yoga moves us from the dark corridors to open up the passage of life within us
My journey to experience the eternal may only be fleeting, never to be realized, but I am convinced that yoga, the breath of the creator, helps me open the door to help others reach this wonder of life.