What is Yoga


The Wisdom of an Inuk Elder*

Louisa - Home Page Image & TextA wise Elder was teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One wolf has anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other wolf is good; he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every person, too.” The grandson thought for a minute and then asked, “Which wolf will win?”

The wise old elder replied, “The one we feed”

Elders describe that the ancient Inuit culture had yoga like practice that were taught to children by their grandparents for developing concentration, balance and strength (mental and physical) and flexibility.  The results of yoga trainings in northern communities show that yoga is more than a healthy physical activity for all age groups. Yoga trainings could provide tools that lead to better coping methods for community members who struggle with a variety of issues.

The Importance of yoga**

The most important fact about yoga that yoga is not bound by any religion and is not a temporary exercise trend. Yoga is an art and science much like karate and tai chi. Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years by many cultures and faiths all over the world to cultivate balance in the body, mind, and emotions. All ancient communities had ways to train the body and mind to unite with the land, with each other, and live in harmony with the environment through this interconnection. In Inuit culture, there are breathing practices for hunting in extreme conditions, and many games shared during the long hours indoors that built strength, focus, flexibility and well being like yoga does.

The word Yoga means union, or literally to “yoke” or harness the body, breath and mind to nourish and grow all that we are. This harnessing of the healing power of the breath and movement can easily be imagined when imagining the power of a dog team pulling a Qamutik. In Inuktitut, one possible definition for yoga is “taking care of our body”. Yoga is about being in your body, in your breath and in connection with all the sources of support that you get strength from – weather that is nature, Jesus, elders, ancestors, your community, or people that we admire. Beyond the physical, yoga can help you connect with yourself, your inner strength, and your inner teacher. It is about realizing one’s wholeness and deepening compassion and clarity about each cycle of life in its challenges and its victories alike. Yoga can offer tools for becoming strong, self reliant, and self- aware, like our ancestors – honoring the power of the land, of life, and of your important place in it.

Regular practice of yoga can moderate the effects of stress and promotes weight loss, helps with back pain, and can help in management of conditions like diabetes, arthritis, anxiety, and insomnia or challenges with sleep. Through regular practice, you will be able to gain strength and flexibility on the mat and off the mat during your daily life. Beyond the physical, yoga revitalizes the body, calms the mind, and deepens self awareness as it invites conversation with the body. Poses are entered gradually and when participants are in challenging poses, there is an invitation to pause and notice the internal conversation and change it if it is judgmental or criticizing. The premise is that if one can learn to breath, to relax, to feel, and simply allow the sensations without struggling or fighting to change them, then the same pause and evaluation can take place in challenging situations in one’s personal and professional life to better enable reactions. There is always an invitation for space in the body and in the mind – as your body gains flexibility, your mind and presence become more flexible as well.

*Feeding the Good Wolf legend taken from www.arjuna.com
** This description is an excerpt from the Welcome & Introduction Script written by Grace Jull for the Timiqatsianiq Yoga DVD