Its been a while since we at Energizer Yoga started gaining interest in AcroYoga. Its fun, connects people and at the same time develops strength, flexibility with stamina.
Sow a seed and it will take a few days, months or even years before it germinates, grows and bears fruits. Seasons change slowly. Mountains form over centuries. Look everywhere around in nature and all the good happens slowly.
Shift focus to our lives…it’s exactly the opposite. Faster cars, faster music, faster cooking, faster shopping, faster recovery…. Fast has become our way of life. We expect everything to move & happen quickly. Deserving or not, we want it. At the touch of a button the master in out head wants a response. Technology has spoilt us and if we continue to give in we will be miserable.
The unfortunate reality is that mind cannot distinguish, it is conditioned by habit. Now it will be in no mood to have patience. We want to lose weight fast, we want to get into an asana fast, we want all the benefits of our work NOW.
Picture this…eating slowly, enjoying the meal morsel by morsel…enjoying the sea breeze while walking across a beach…holding our partners hand, looking into each other’s eyes and feeling the moment…slow dancing, slow music everything starts connecting you with the moment. And life is that…living the moment.
The practice of Yoga connects you with your natural pace. There is no way you can get into the headstand the very first day, so far no such pill has been discovered. We have no other choice than to be slow & patient. We have to work every day making progress slowly and steadily. It may take days, months and even years…we have to be ready to deserve it. When we devote time to our Yoga practice and work on each asana patiently we start changing our habit…we now work slowly and steadily getting us the right results. Our mind gives in to the new habit. We start understanding the world in its natural pace. The short circuit in our mind that makes us act without thinking is broken, we start living, we start thinking, we start acting rather than reacting.
Life starts getting beautiful and this beauty will reflect in your face, actions and conduct. Slow is the way and the only way of life. Live it.
On an average I get two to three people enquiring about the Yoga class every day. They usually are graceful enough to share their reasons to look towards Yoga. Some want to get into good physical shape, some want to shape up their lives, some looking for a solution to their ailment and others for general fitness. I would spend good time to understand them and also explain to the best of my abilities about how Yoga could show them the desired way. Now these are curious souls who have identified their issue and are searching for solution. This is the first positive step. However, most of them fail to take the second step ….coming to the class. A few of them would come but give up very soon stating that they are just not being able to make it…they would promise to themselves that they will be regular from tomorrow but I mostly don’t see this tomorrow happening.
A common excuse is that I do not have the time or energy left for the Yoga class and therefore its best to skip it. However, it’s important to question ourselves about why we lack the energy or the time for something we know is so good for us?
This situation I guess is not new and the Yoga Sutra has listed 4 reasons why we would skip the Yoga class.
Running behind Money: we are made to believe that money is the solution to all our problems. It can take care of our desires, can make us happy, earn us respect and make us feel successful. It has become a big yardstick on which we rate ourselves and the people around us. We get so absorbed in earning and then maintaining this money or status that we are left with none or very little time for anything else life has to offer.
Being socially overactive: we want to belong or we want to be recognized…either of these makes us socially active or rather in today’s time over active. This is so clearly visible with social networking gaining important ground in our lives. We see comments and ‘Likes’ coming in through the day and night. We want to be a part of every happening event and here hotels and restaurants will give you enough reasons to plan every week. It’s common to see everyone heading for a party or event late in the night. If we keep ourselves so occupied where will we have the energy or the discipline to attend Yoga?
Slept late or insufficient sleep: a popular bollywood chartbuster “char baj gaye lekin party abhi baaki hai” (its four in the morning but the party is still not over) sums this up. A good sound sleep at the right time is foundation to good health. This is the time body and mind need to rejuvenate, refresh and rebuild itself for the new day every day. Today we fail to provide this to ourselves and the result is known by people sooner or later. Lack of quality and timely sleep is a silent killer, it would make us weak physically and emotionally. The 24×7 work and party culture is an epidemic and the sooner we understand the better for us. Sleeping late or having disturbed sleep will keep your energy levels low to get up and go for the Yoga class.
Over eating or eating late: We are an over fed generation. We don’t have to hunt for food it gets delivered to our homes….and to top it up it’s not ‘quality food’. Most of us indulge in emotional eating. We are not happy about our lives, tasty and tangy food lifts up our spirits and we keep going back to it multiple times a day. There is no fixed time schedule and we end up eating a heavy meal right before we go to bed and this also late in the night while watching our favorite television channel. Both these habits are not subscribed to live a yogic life. These habits will disturb our sleep patterns and instead of providing energy will take it away from us.
All of us are aware of these aspects but habits are hard to break. We have to make a commitment to ourselves to lead a healthy life and with patience & practice develop new habits that are aligned to natural living. Also one needs courage and determination to live unlike most around us.
Imagine hopping on to a time machine and zooming back to some of the best days in our life…childhood! Life was easy and making friends without questioning their background or color, was easier. We learnt new things without rationalizing their use. Simplicity filled our lives with joy. Keep it simple stupid was exactly what we did! Life was filled with positive energy each new day, smiling and laughing was easy. We lived our hearts out.
Then as we start maturing and enter our teens, the mind starts taking over and most of the conflicts faced during this period make us or break us for life. We seek answers about following the heart or the mind. Society teaches us to apply our mind and life starts changing. The entry into adulthood brings in the era of logic and rationalization. The mind is now in business and takes over.
Do we see the distinction?
The heart is about gratitude, love, harmony, peace, happiness, forgiveness and non-violence. The mind on the other hand, is the seat of greed, anger, lust, destruction and ego. This is why a major portion of Yog Surta is dedicated to how the mind works and deceives us. In fact the prime objective defined in the Yog Sutra is to still the mind (Yogas chitta-vritti-nirodhah). So is the idea of stilling the mind to allow the heart being heard?
Keeping the larger challenges of life aside let’s look at our Yoga asana practice closely. Follow any system Hatha, Iyengar or Ashtanga and whether it’s a back bend or forward bend or twisting. We are expected to open our chest while moving into the asana. In other words offer our heart or lead from the heart. We are expected to practice with devotion, gratitude, kindness, self respect and all these are properties of the heart. If we bring in the mind to our practice it will be all about display, moving faster, injuries and feeding the ego.
Let our practice lead us from the heart. See the bigger picture here…take the hint and let your heart enable you to lead a better & richer life.
The practice of Yoga has established itself and survived over thousands of years; it deals with the union of mind, body & soul with the universal energy. In the recent past there have been articles published that the practice of Yoga is causing injuries thereby building fear towards Yoga practice in the community. I am yet to come across articles that dissuade public from driving cars cause they lead to accidents or travel in flights cause they crash sometimes. In a recent TV episode of Mahabharata one dialogue by Shakuni Mama made loads of sense “its easy to do adharma on people who follow dharma”. These articles reflect the same bad spirit.
The practice of Yoga involves eight stages: Yam, Niyam, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahaar, Dhyan, Dharan and Samadhi. These have been listed in this order with sufficient reason. The very first stage addressed in Yam is that of Ahimsa or Non-violence. It says that one needs to respect every aspect of our life around us including ourselves and our bodies. This spirit of non-violence has to reflect in all our further stages of Yoga practice whether its physical, mental or spiritual.
Often these crucial stages of Yam and Niyam are ignored or are not properly understood and absorbed in Yoga practice. If the foundation is not strong the practice further will be faulty.
“Yoga causes injury” also is a classic reflection of the human ego which looks for possible reasons outside to blame for their misery. Recently I saw a huge inflatable outside a hospital with salt in the form of a monster and the supporting line said “Salt monster is hurting your friends and family” which made me wonder if Salt was the monster? or are we humans the monsters that are over consuming salt. Its convenient to put blame on others.
When we practice Yoga asanas in a group class we start comparing our practice thereby feeling insecure if someone around is better or it feeds our ego if we are the best. But the critical element to understand here is that each individual is unique and the picture perfect postures may not be perfect for each one of us. In short, when we fail to respect the practice and come to class with the attitude of demonstration & showcasing to others how perfect we are, we land up in the trouble zone. Our desires to get into advance postures too early is also the culprit. Sometimes the ego of our Yoga instructor could also land us into trouble if he/she pushes us beyond our limit to showcase their capabilities.
Its good to remember that we need to prepare our body, modify our lifestyles and stay committed to asana practice to get to advanced asanas. More importantly, Yoga is an inner journey and asana practice is one element that helps us move further. An individual with a short hamstring is equally qualified to be a Yogi as much as a practitioner with long hamstring who can reach his head to the shins in a forward bend. The important aspect is to develop inner silence.
Our body communicates with us and guides us provided we are willing to keep our desires & ego in check to listen to it. One piece of advice that I always keep with myself during my practice came from a dear friend and a senior Yoga teacher Paul Fox of UK who said “Follow your inner Guru”. So very true.
The first thought that comes to most of us when we think of a Headstand is…. ‘Can I do it?’.
We go through mixed emotions of fear, anxiety & uncertainty.
So is it worth the journey… ‘Yes it is’.
Here are five strong reasons to love Headstand:
Gravity keeps working on us every moment and keeps pulling the organs towards it, most visible being the sagging face. Headstand gives a face lift by allowing gravity to work in the opposite direction. It works similarly on all parts of the body thereby acting as an anti-ageing agent. Get ready to get younger.
When we start working on Headstand everyday we make slow but steady progress. Each milestone achieved boosts our confidence and make us believe that final Headstand is possible. We start overcoming our fears. This positive reinforcement of confidence starts reflecting in other aspects of our day to day challenges, thereby, adding to our inner strength…mental and emotional. Headstand is the secret to great confidence.
One of the key components of Asana practice is to develop ‘Focus’ and a Headstand can test it best. While most of the standing, forward bending, supine Asanas can be performed with little focus, a Headstand is just not possible without it. We might manage to get into it but to achieve steadiness ‘Focus’ is the most essential component of a Headstand. So get into a Headstand and get improved Focus.
Makes us Physically Stronger
A steady straight Headstand demands strong hands, shoulders, spine, core, legs…almost every part of the body. Getting into a Headstand daily will keep adding strength and energy making us stronger. Boost your strength with a Headstand everyday.
Gives Emotional Stability
In this age of instant coffee/messaging our mind gets used to working fast, we start seeking instant solutions to everyday challenges. While the real world moves at a more slow & steady pace. This disconnect from the real world leaves us disgruntled, irritated, angry & depressed. Working towards achieving a steady Headstand would take months of regular practice, the slow and gradual development connects us with the pace of real world. Over a period of time the slow & steady approach becomes second nature to us bringing back control in daily challenges and making us emotionally more stable & stronger.
Apart from the above, there are many more physical, mental and spiritual benefits to share but I choose to keep this note small & simple.
Do not allow the fears in your head keep you away from the Headstand.
Move on in life from ‘I cannot’ to ‘I can’.
We are gifted with 5 senses that keep us connected with the outside world. The mind constantly receives inputs and keeps responding to the stimuli. Among these, the mind follows ‘Eyes’ the most. Most of our memories are also stored as experiences of the eyes. Most part of our lives are spent to make things visually appealing…. including ourselves. And they do create an impact….looks do matter.
The Eye is so powerful that our mind starts thinking in the direction we are looking at, we see an old friend and the mind is delighted, we see someone who has helped us in life and the mind will gather feelings of respect. One of the three monkeys of Gandhiji also emphasized on not looking at bad things. The influence of what we see is profound.
The system of Yoga identified this aspect of the Eye and utilized it to bring in focus and balance.
I distinctly remember one of my students who attended sessions religiously everyday but noticed that his eyes would always keep moving looking at others practicing or staring at things around. This student could not perform Pranayama for over 2 minutes with eyes closed cos his mind loved to be distracted. Distraction had become his habit. Constant reminders failed to keep his eyes and mind pondering on things around and this reflected in his poor practice. Looking at others during Yoga practice is strongly not recommended cos it instantly brings up thoughts of comparison and judgement.
The fact that eyes can bring in focus and balance can be experienced once we move into intermediate and advanced asanas which would involve deep forward bends, back bends, inversions and arm balances. We just cannot bring in grace into our postures if our eyes and mind are not focused.
There are several aspects of Yoga that involve the Eye to develop focus…. Tratak, concentrating on an object to develop in meditation, visualization in yog nidra and so on. Ashtanga Yoga practice that comes from Mysore and also the Iyengar system of asana practice have specific emphasis on where we look at while we perform the asana.
There are eight points of gaze also known as ‘Drishtis’ that have been identified to keep the practitioner engaged with the current moment and being aware of the asana….the eight points are:
– Broomadhya: between the eyebrows
– Nasagrai: tip of nose
– Angustha ma dyai: the thumbs
– Nabi Chakra: the navel
– Urdhva: up to the sky
– Hastagrai: the hands
– Padhayoragrai: the toes
– Prasva: far left or far right
Using the gaze points helps mind to get focused and also develops inner focus. Thereby, taking us a step further in the aspects of Dharana (concentration) and Dhyana (meditation).
So next time in your Yoga session and also through the day, think of what you are looking at.