I fell in love with yoga long before I visited India for the first time in 2006. At that point, I already actively practised Bikram Yoga. For many years, Bikram Yoga served as my means of work-out. But today, I wouldn’t even consider it worth being called yoga. It really is more of a work-out practice on the mat than a yoga practice.
Bikram Yoga is often referred to as ‘hot yoga’ with an unchanging sequence of 26 yoga poses. In the Western world, it is commonly practised in a room heated to about 40°C with a humidity of 40%. While the instructor counts you through the practice, you sweat and endure the poses. But there is hardly room for tranquillity and introspection, or a thorough understanding of what yoga is all about.
Yoga is a body-and-mind-practice led by the breath. And if you take it seriously, it could be the beginning of livelong transformation.
It was on my second trip to India in 2010 that Ashtanga Yoga found me. And honestly speaking, it wasn’t yoga that brought me to India in the first place. It was the vague hope of romantic love. Well, after my first day in Bangalore it became clear to me that God had other plans. And today I am so grateful since Ashtanga Yoga has become an integral part of my life and an essential milestone of healing and well-being.
Asthanga Yoga is often referred to as a kind of ‘power yoga’. It is a very challenging and athletic form of exercise that draws your attention to the very essence of yoga. The physical work-out just serves as the means to an end. It was on this trip my whole being understood what yoga truly was about. And after that, I abandoned Bikram Yoga. This wasn’t a conscious decision, it just happened. After more that 5 years, I simply turned around and never looked back. Bikram, for me, had come to an end.
Traditionally, Ashtanga Yoga is practised in silence. There is no music, no talking and no typical classroom situation where an instructor either counts you through or shows you what to do. Ashtanga Yoga is a self-practice. And this approach is called ‘Mysore’ – named after the Indian city where it originates from.
This self-practice teaches you to become your own best teacher.
Imagine yourself in a room together with 10-15 people. This place is open for at least 4 hours in a day. And within that time frame you are free to come and go. From the moment you enter that space you are surrounded by silence. You get in, roll out your mat and begin to connect with your body. At first, I usually do some simple stretching, and then I either lie, sit or stand still. I bring my whole focus to the breath. And once I feel my breath and its direction I say the Lord’s Prayer and begin my practice.
An individual with an established Ashtanga practice might take about two hours. A beginner will likely have a shorter practice. This practice generally is determined by individual pace and level of conduct. It is a fixed sequence adapted to the individual needs starting with the Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar). The more advanced you get, the more poses you practise and the longer it takes. Each student moves through the practice at his or her own pace and level, while an instructor works one-on-one. This person moves from yogi to yogini to help align certain poses. On some days you get more attention, and on others less. Fundamentally, amidst others you are on your own.
It is a strange feeling to be in the same room with others who basically do the same thing you do but don’t really bother how you go about it. It definitely isn’t ignorance but freedom – somehow! I interact with the person next to me by simply taking care of my own bit. This other person might be more advanced than I am but this fact rather encourages me to practise more. Since in order to advance in our practice we need to repeat the same asana (or pose) over and over and over and over again. Yoga is signified by consistency and redundancy. These are substantial elements of progress, growth and healing.
There comes a moment in your practice when you feel tired. You are not really exhausted but a little fed up. You don’t seem to make progress any-more, and you start to wonder why you punish yourself like this. I see this happening with a lot of clients of mine. After the initial phase of enthusiasm (it feels like having a crush on someone and can last up to six months) and early signs of healing and weight-loss, they either drag themselves to practice or stop attending the studio classes. They seem to get reluctant to practise especially once they noticed that IT WORKS.
I worked with an elderly person for a short period of time. He does have some physical issues and in addition to that suffered from constipation for more than 20 years. We analysed his diet, I gave him some simple tips, and we started our yoga practice. On one of our next appointments he refused to receive me. In addition to that he told his wife that he didn’t want to continue his yoga practice. I was irritated. Especially since I thought we were making progress.
Yes, we did. And that was the problem. His wife told me that after we had started our practice and he had changed his diet for about a week, he was purged. He had to relieve himself every 5 minutes and couldn’t get to sleep all night. I was excited! God is so wonderful. And I congratulated him. How else was his body supposed to get rid of all the toxins that had been stuck in his colon for years? My former client said that he didn’t believe me. And I left.
Progress can be scary. Progress means change. And progress requires us to have faith.
Chi’s Yoga helps you connect with your body’s wisdom. We help you understand the very essence of yoga.
You are blessed.
Chi’s Yoga – Your yoga is yours only!™