What is Yoga?


What is Yoga?

April 2015 I started Cihangir Yoga Chris Chavez Teacher Training, which was on my mind for a long time and it was the second thing in my 2015 ‘to do’ list, right after ‘1. run a marathon’, which I did in the beginning of April.

The reason I started the teacher training was; first I love yoga and second Chris is a great teacher and mentor, he inspired me to do more yoga.

In the first three months of the training we have been asked a lot ‘What is yoga?’, ‘Why do you practice yoga?’. You need to understand it fully of course in able to teach and it is much harder than it seems to explain what yoga is. Of course there is a book explanation of yoga as a word and practice but to explain what is yoga to me; is a harder question to answer.

Though many people think of yoga only just as physical exercises and crazy poses; asanas, yoga is much more than that.

The word yoga itself means union: of the individual consciousness or soul with the Universal Consciousness or Spirit. Yoga started as a philosophy because people wanted to understand why we are here in this world. Classic question! And since then there were different set questions and each group had different set of solutions so different kinds of practices occurred. Basically, to understand why we are in this world they stopped searching the answer at the externals and started to look inside. So yoga is a practice and set of tools to understand who we really are – true self – so we can know why we are here and what to do with it. I’m sure you can find more deep and fancy explanations online, but this is the most basic, simplest explanation I can give to you.

What is yoga for me? I think of it a set of tools, practice and system for self-awareness, both physical and  mental. Since the beginning of time we are searching for answers, ‘Who am I, why I’m in this world, what do I like, what job should I do, what to do with my life’ etc. and we are giving everything we have to know it all; astrologists, fortune tellers, psychologist, workshops…

Alain de Botton who is a Swiss philosopher and one of my favourite writers found an educational establishment in London called The School of Life, “devoted to developing emotional intelligence through the help of culture” by offering courses on the important questions of everyday life, including “how to find fulfilling work, how to master the art of relationships, how to understand one’s past, how to achieve calm and how better to understand and, where necessary change, the world.

‘This ideal University of Life … would never take the importance of culture for granted. It would know that culture is kept alive by a constant respectful questioning—not by an excessive and snobbish attitude of respect. Therefore, rather than leaving it hanging why one was reading Anna Karenina or Madame Bovary, an ideal course covering nineteenth-century literature would ask plainly “What is it that adultery ruins in a marriage?” Students in the ideal University of Life would end up knowing much the same material as their colleagues in other institutions, they would simply have learned it under a very different set of headings.’

Great isn’t it? I had the chance to listen him speak at Zorlu Center at the opening of School of Life Istanbul. He started his speech by saying ‘We are all crazy!’. Yes, we are, all in a different way. For me yoga is a kind of ‘School of Life‘ as well; but instead of asking others it is a ‘do it yourself’, a ‘self-awareness school’.

I started yoga just as a physical exercise and I loved it as a physical exercise which helps me to stretch, gain power, strength, focus and balance.

But last year, after I started to go to Chris’s class and some other workshops at Cihangir Yoga it started to be more than that. For me now yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice that helps me to stretch, gain power, strength, focus and balance both physically and spiritually. Practicing yoga teaches you to be focused and to be in the moment so you can increase self-awareness to know why you’re doing what you’re doing or why you are feeling what you’re feeling. So I’m more aware now and I ask ‘why’ more often which in return helps me to grow, learn and progress.

Running and yoga thought me that our body and us, we are capable of anything in this world, really, you just need to ‘want it’. Want means not just saying ‘I want it’ it is dedication, motivation, passion and focus. You have to work for it canım! The general problem is the things we think we want is not the things we really want, and the things we really want are usually hard to get or achieve so we don’t work hard enough for it and take the struggle. In an Acro Yoga workshop I went, one yoga teacher said ‘The things you can’t do are the things you can’t do YET’ and you should have seen the moves that they were doing! Yoga helps you to find out what you really want and how to ‘want’ it. So I’m sure if I keep my dedication, focus, passion and motivation in time I will be able to do those crazy poses:) And in the end, that’s just the easiest part.

In the end the ultimate goal is to embrace yourself and others, have an open heart so you’re liberated and happy. Plus, of course I want to do all these challenging poses; Urdhva Vrksasana (handstand), Eka Pada Koundinyanasana, Mayurasana to show off on instagram:)

Last year, June 21 2015, was the first International Yoga Day. The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested the date to be June 21 as the International Day of Yoga as it is the longest day of the year (Summer Solstice) and has special significance in many parts of the world. During his speech, Narendra Modi had a great statement about what yoga is:

“Yoga embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.”

So, how it all happens? You need to start practice and be patient!

Love, kisses & hugs,

Deniz Orbay.


Millons of people practiced yoga and celebrated world yoga day last year. The event at Rajpath passed to Guinness world records on ‘Largest Yoga Class’ having 35,985 people! WOW!! Here are the pictures.

Rajpath, India

Rajpath, India

Rajpath, India2
Indian yoga practitioners participate in a full dress rehearsal for International Yoga Day in New Delhi on June 19, 2015. The heart of India’s capital will transform into a sea of colourful mats on June 21, 2015, as thousands perform the camel, cobra and other postures for the first international Yoga Day championed by Narendra Modi.. AFP PHOTO/PRAKASH SINGH (Photo credit should read PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)



Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei, Taiwan

Almaty, Kazakhstan

Almaty, Kazakhstan

Almaty, Kazakhstan2

Times Square, New York 

New York2

Madrid, Spain


Paris, France



Rome, Italy


And finally Istanbul, Turkey!


İstanbul, Tünel

Yorumlar (4)

  1. Thank you for this great article! I am just beginning with yoga and want to learn as much as I can. So far it has made me a happier, calmer person.

    1. Great to hear that! Love, Deniz 🙂

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