What is yoga?

There seems to be a growing hype around yoga these days. We see it in gyms, in yoga studios, in offices, on retreats, on instagram or we may have even heard about it from someone we know. But…

What IS yoga, exactly?

I wanted to blog about this, because there is a very big misconception about what “yoga” is exactly in the west. When we think of “yoga”, we think of Sun Salutations and Warrior I’s and crazy poses with names that we can’t pronounce forcing us into positions we know we’ll NEVER get out of alive.  And this exact thinking shows how one part of one path of our journey to “yoga” has become synonymous with the entire thing on the whole.

Freaken complicated.

I know.

So, there is this dude called Patanjali.
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Has beard, therefore is wise.

Patanjali is thought to be considered the ‘father of yoga’ (you can see him sitting on a rock on the cover of one of these books) since he was one of the first people to formalise the thoughts and wisdom of yoga to teach to his students – jotting these thoughts and threads of knowledge down in a kind of short hand.

When Patanjali was asked the question, “What IS yoga?”
he replied with –
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Which, if you don’t speak sanskrit,
Is completely useless.

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So “yoga” is “the restraints of the modifications of the mind stuff.”

 and by that definition – there is not a downward dog in sight!

So “the restraints of the modifications of the mind stuff” what does it actually mean?
(Luckily for you, I’m a certified yoga teacher and I fully “GET” this shit, so I will explain)

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In it’s purest, most natural state – your mind is completely at peace. There is a kind of blissed out overriding sense of well-being.

However, particularly due to the stress/pressures/work/life/media/busy-ness/social/go-go-go of our modern world, our mind tends to modify away from this natural peaceful state as thoughts begin to rise up –
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Which is of course fine, since we need thoughts to progress in our day and in our lives –
but the problem arises when the functional thoughts we have, then start creating more thoughts, and then those thoughts generate more thoughts and more thoughts and so on until eventually the thoughts are no longer functional, no longer proactive, no longer logical, rational or useful but they have become a little dark cloud of worry, anxiety and unnecessary stress.
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Which of course, makes your eyeballs bleed and destroys your inner sense of calm replacing it with chaos and calamity.
When we act from this place, it very quickly snowballs everything into a frenzy.

Another way of looking at it is through the analogy of a reflection on a lake –

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Your mind is like the water on the surface of a lake. When the mind is calm and clear, we can very easily see our true selves – which is the self that is truly content, happy and peaceful.

When thoughts start to arise, they start to create ripples in the mind –

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and as you know if you’ve ever thrown a stone into a pond (of course you have), one ripple creates another ripple, creates another ripple until eventually you’ve created a Tsunami in Japan.
(Just kidding, a stone wouldn’t do that)

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But what this means is that eventually the ripples and waves stir up everything and make things so murky and choppy until you can no longer see your true contented happy self – and all you can focus on is the waves. And the Tsunami you’ve created for Japan. (IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT. HOW COULD YOU?)

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So, to bring it back to the question of “what is yoga?” –
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Yoga is SO much more than that.

We merely use asana (the physical practice) as ONE of the many ways in which we can achieve “yoga”.
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And, to be honest, anyone who doesn’t need more “yoga” (peace/calm/clarity) in their lives –
do give me a call…


  1. Rhianne on May 8, 2015 at 9:44 am

    Perfect Che!

    • Ché Dyer on May 8, 2015 at 4:33 pm


  2. Sarah G on May 8, 2015 at 9:46 am

    This is SO great – thank you! The reason that yoga appealed to me – as a for of physical exercise – was the spiritual element to it. The whole “still the mind and be kind to your body and treat the whole process as an experience” vibe. But I never thought of it in this way before – and it makes so much sense. And now I’m even more keen to get into it properly 🙂

    P.S. You reeeeeeaaaaally need to come and live in Cape Town now. All the best people are doing it – you KNOW what I mean 😉

    • Ché Dyer on May 8, 2015 at 4:13 pm

      YES Sarah!! this is what I’ve been saying ALLLL along!! it’s SO much more than the physical practice! it’s ALLLLL about the self love and the mindfulness and the calming of the mind so that we can access our most EPIC selves! (Which are totally in there!) and yes… Cape Town – perfect – let me just dip into my savings and buy us a small yoga studio and condo on the beach for private retreats and juice bars.

  3. Jessi (Two Feet, One World) on May 8, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    Great post Che! I am so excited to learn more of this on the course 🙂

    • Ché Dyer on May 8, 2015 at 4:15 pm

      Yay!! I’m SO excited to share it with you! xx

  4. Dee on May 8, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    Interesting. .Well done

    • Ché Dyer on May 11, 2015 at 4:33 pm

      <3 xxx

  5. Catharine on December 24, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    I just came across your yoga blog/site/fountainofyogiknowledge and i am so glad i did!
    You make it so easy to understand the basics 🙂
    I also really wish that i could take part in the courses you run but i live all the way down in Sunny South Africa (Pretoria to be exact), But the knowledge you share on the blog keeps me going and always hungry for more Yoga (definitely a good thing)!

    Please keep it up

    • Ché Dyer on January 4, 2016 at 5:26 pm

      Hey Catherine! So glad you like the site! Hopefully one day if I move back to SA and start teaching there then we can practice together!
      Yay for being inspired and hungry for more yoga! have a fab 2016!! xx

  6. Debbie on May 13, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    THIS IS AMAZING!!!!! Both this, and your Instagram just make me really happy, literally impossible not to smile while reading/scrolling through!!

    : )

    • Ché Dyer on May 13, 2016 at 3:49 pm

      Hey Debbie! Thank you for the awesome comment – so glad it leaves you feeling happy! 🙂 have a great weekend x

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