Yoga in 5 Words

Yoga in 5 Words

Exploring the Essence of Yoga through Personal Reflections and Five Key Words - By Julie Mowbray

Reading time: 4 minutes

Recently, when I decided to start up a new morning yoga class, I found myself pondering how I could best describe yoga to a new audience. Even though I've been practicing yoga for over 20 years, I found trying to describe yoga*, in its fullest sense, took some thinking. That's perhaps because a lot of what comes from practicing yoga, its benefits and the feelings it evokes for instance, is quite subtle, intangible and personal to each individual.

What Comes to Mind When You Think of Yoga?

Here's a little exercise for you to try, whether you've done yoga before or not. Have either pen and paper to hand or use the notes feature on your 'phone.

Sit quietly and for a few minutes think "yoga". What comes to mind?

Write down five words or phrases that you would use to describe yoga.

The words may well be influenced by:

  • whether you've done yoga before or not;
  • the type of yoga you’ve experienced or seen in the media;
  • whether you've just started yoga or have been practicing for a while;
  • the reasons behind why you do yoga or are thinking about doing yoga or have been put off from doing yoga.

There are no right or wrong answers. And the answers are allowed to seem silly. There’s absolutely no judgement. No need to push for five words. One, two, three or four are fine it that’s what comes to you.

Here is what yoga means to me:

  1. Yoga is NURTURING

Nurturing is the word that always comes to mind first when I think of yoga. When I first went to a yoga class I had a strong sense of feeling nurtured. Twenty plus years ago I was single, with a demanding full-time job and my family and a lot of my friends didn't live nearby. Life could feel pressured, lonely and insecure. They say “seek and you shall find”. I found my safe space at a weekly Dru yoga class. It was that sense of feeling nurtured that kept me going back.

  1. Yoga is a STRESS BUSTER

The beautiful thing about yoga is that it offers two tools to tackle stress: the body and the mind. Taking the body (physical) route normally comes first. Certainly my initial way of fighting back against stress was to hold strong yoga postures, like those of the warrior family.

Then, without really seeing it coming, I realised I was naturally breathing in and out of postures, and using the breath to hold postures for longer, all of which provided greater stillness of mind. Flowing sequences, combining breath and movement, took switching my mind off a step further. And then came meditation, the art of simply just being.


  1. Yoga Comes OFF THE MAT

I have seen for myself how yoga can weave its way into wider life. It helps you to understand yourself better for instance. We learn to like ourselves, manage our emotions and how we react to situations and people. All of which can improve our relationships, at home, at work and in the wider community.

  1. Yoga is a Great Way to Improve LONG TERM HEALTH

Our quality of life, especially as we get older, tends to be shaped by the ease with which we can move, the amount of muscle mass we have and how well we can avoid falls. Yoga is all about keeping the spine flexible which is key to moving well. It is also a form of resistance training through using our own body weight to build muscle.

And of course yoga incorporates balancing postures. The more we can improve our balance the less likely we are to fall and break bones. Now when I think of yoga I think of how it is setting me up for the future, health-wise.

  1. Yoga Encourages SELF COMPASSION

We can be hard on ourselves. Some of us have a louder inner critic than others. That voice that puts us down rather than builds us up. Yoga teaches us to be kinder to ourselves. Yoga gives us permission to take time out for ourselves. A yoga class is a place where you can top your energy levels back up. Afterall if we are frazzled what good are we to those around us?

A Yoga Practice Evolves. Typically What We Are Seeking, Yoga Provides.

Yoga is different things to different people. Yoga as a nurturing activity and one that helps to relieve stress are the qualities of yoga that I’ve experienced for the longest. Then came the realisation that yoga allows our true personalities to shine through. Next, that yoga is a good investment for our long term health.

Opening myself up to self-compassion, by not being so hard on myself and less of a perfectionist, is a recent revelation of practicing yoga. I’m in no doubt that more words are waiting to reveal themselves to me as my yoga practice evolves.

Now you’ve got your one to five words to describe yoga perhaps revisit them in six months or a year from now. Will they have changed or been added to I wonder.

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Julie Mowbray

Julie Mowbray is a Dru yoga teacher with a love for nature. She is based in the West Midlands.