I am an active ashtanga – vinyasana yoga practisioner. Yoga is another gift which has been given to me by God. Yoga is part of my life. It is part of my day – like sleeping, eating and brushing my teeth. Of course, there are days when I do not practise. On those days my body tells me: stop stretching me. And yoga teaches me to listen to my body. Yoga teaches me many things which are all inside of me and which I myself need to discover through my practice. My practice is different every day. Sometimes I am more flexible. Sometimes I am more balanced. Sometimes I can’t be bothered and I totally lose focus and start gazing around instead of listening to my breath. And here is the most significant aspect of yoga: THE BREATH! It is not about the poses. it is not about how flexible you are. It is not about how strong you are. It is only about how good you are at focusing on the breath. When you focus on the breath, everything else follows: movements and focus. That is when you are balanced and flexible. Even though, the level of flexibility in certain areas does not really depend on your focus or type of body. It depends on your emotions: fear, trust, self-esteem etc. I myself am less flexible in my hips and I know it is connected to trust issues. i need to let go and surrender. It comes from the inside out. Once I acknowledge the matter, I need to loosen up and let go of my fear…that is when my hips will automatically open up. Everything is so connected.
The breath is our focus, as stated before. It sounds easy, but it is an art. Simply because we are made of body, mind and spirit and yoga is not only a body practice, or a mind practice, or a spirit practice. NO! It is a body, mind, spirit practice. It is a holistic practice. You tone your muscles, you strengthen your body, you become more flexible, you cleanse your body and you clear your mind FROM THE INSIDE OUT – through the breath. Not through a pole which you are lifting yourself up to “get strong muscles” at the gym, not from sit-ups or push-ups which ONLY strengthen your muscles. Nothing of all that. It all starts from the breath which is inside of you. The breath is your tool. Your pole. It is pretty amazing what you can do with your breath. In ashtanga yoga we use a special way of breathing which consists of contracting the throat muscles and therefore breathing through the nose from the back of your throat (ujjai breath). The louder the breath, the more you can focus on it. And the more you are able to still your mind. The slower and longer both inhalation and exhalation, the deeper you get into the pose. It is almost like a trance. You totally disappear from the world and you enter your soul. Your inside. The only existing world for us human beings. The world where all our secrets lie. The world which we tend to escape daily by keeping us busy with work, people, material things. When you enter your soul, you become mindful, conscious, aware and connected to your heart. When Bruce Lee says: “Empty your mind”, he does not literally mean to stop thinking. He means to become mindful and by becoming mindful, we become aware. By becoming aware, we start watching our thoughts and just be observers. So, meditation does not mean to stop thinking. We cannot stop thinking. It is a natural way of our being. It is part of us. Mediation teaches us to watch our thoughts and to stop judging them. So, when people say: “I cannot meditate because everytime I close my eyes, I start thinking about all the stuff. So, I can’t meditate”, it does not mean that they are not able to meditate. Everyone is able to meditate as long as you are able to breathe. And once you start meditating, you improve day by day until you get to the point where you become one with your breath. That is when you are able to still the mind, to silence the mind – to stop judging yourself and to just let go and observe what the hell is going on in there. And ashtanga yoga is a moving meditation. Every move is an inhalation or exhalation. Every inhalation has the same length as the inhalation. Every movement is significant. It connects you to the earth, to the sun and to yourself. Every drishti (the direction of your gaze in every pose) is significant and determinant for your focus during your practice. Ashtanga – vinyasana yoga: body (movement), mind (breath) and spirit (drishti). Throughout the whole practice you maintain the flow of your breath and you put the bandhas on (please look it up online as i don’t want to get to technical here).
I find it pretty amazing that through the art of breathing you move your body and you get flexible, strong, focused and cleansed.