Yoga for the Body and the Mind

In a recent interview with LA Yoga magazine Sharath Jois commented:

‘Nowadays, it [YOGA]has become more physical, like how to do handstand. There is no spirituality in that. It’s just physical, how to bend your body and how to align your body, but classical yoga is about how to bring the discipline to your body and your mind, and how that discipline leads you towards spirituality. That is called yama and niyama. These are very important limbs in yoga practice. Not many people are putting attention to these. They are putting attention only to the physical aspect of yoga….there is no breathing, no vinyasa, no gazing. All these things, what we call tristana, are very important to our asana practice’

Oh sweet music to my ears…why only one year ago was I obsessed with being able to do a handstand, and thought I was not worthy if I couldn’t?

Social Media is a great platform for building a business profile for sure, but it does tend to promote too many images of ‘perfect body’ yogi’s doing complicated asana….and how is that being true to the origins and spirit of yoga??? I have been in classes, even handstand workshops with people, like myself, who were not physically ready for such a strong asana, but everywhere you looked on social media people were handstand pressing like it was all there was to do…props to Erin Motz (of Bad Yogi) who at least kept it real with an ‘expose’ video of what goes behind getting the perfect Instagram shot.

It was almost simultaneous, when I got to Mysore earlier this year, that I stopped taking yoga selfies for my Instagram and Facebook pages…and I started a real study of yoga.

classical yoga is about how to bring the discipline to your body and your mind’ 

Coming on the to the mat, day after day, working on the basics, learning so much about your body, how it works in every single asana, from samashiti to shavasana, and how the mind works alongside it, and then how you can take what you have learnt from that off the mat into your life, and the lives of others you interact with. And the irony is my body and asana are so much stronger than they were a year ago, so I am probably capable of doing a fairly decent handstand – but I don’t care anymore

That’s yoga, that’s union, that’s bringing together the body and mind.  Let’s all stop trying to be the ‘perfect’ yogi (as depicted by Instagram et al) and start trying to use the practice to change ourselves for the better?

What Yoga Means To Me

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I have been pondering on this question for some time now. I think that the answer is that it is going to mean different things to me at different points in my life.

For the moment I am living and breathing a yoga lifestyle. I literally eat, sleep, repeat YOGA

Pattabi Jois describes yoga in his book, Yoga Mala as ‘upaya’ meaning path, or a way in which we follow or a means we can attain something. I think this is a great description

For me, like many others I know, I started practicing yoga as a way to exercise and stretch my body and compliment by dancing. Then, as I retired from dance and began teaching I always tried many different other forms of exercise, HIIT, the Gym, Insanity, Spin, Running, Cycling, Pilates and kept coming back to Yoga. I did enjoy most of those others too but they didn’t keep me long-term.

When I started going to Cheltenham Yoga and Pilates 4 years ago I really started to take things a bit more seriously. Firstly I loved how I felt physically after a class and also because in Shavasana I felt it was the only time (with a busy job and trying to renovate a house, a social media addiction etc) I got to truly have some time just to be present. And I found going to the studio a calming and restorative experience.

Then the opportunity to train as a teacher arose at Ella and Fleur, something i had been meaning to do for some time and so I signed up and well – let’s just say that changed my life. The training definitely took me on that path to which Pattabi refers to…again, coming into it from a purely asana aspect, i was pleasantly surprised when I started to enjoy the spiritual aspect. I found the history and philosophy of Yoga in all it’s forms, dating aback to the Veda’s and Upanishads totally enthralling.

I found a connection with my chakras and even began to enjoy the odd Aum here and there! I learnt that Yoga means so much more than a good workout, so much more than the asana.Friends and family could see a difference in me and I started to love something as much as I loved dance.

Of course, all this came about just when I was going through one of the toughest times in my life, and I can attribute the teacher training to something akin to therapy for a broken heart. It gave my life a purpose when I felt all was lost. And it gave me something to focus on that wasn’t the pain of heartache

It gave me a new identity when I really needed to be reborn. And maybe most importantly it taught me that I am good enough, where I am right now. I am striving to be the ‘best version of me’ and all those other corny motivational quotes.

And then I made the decision to come on my own path, to journey to the self, and I had a new romance, with Ashtanga. Which brings me to where I am now, if you are new here you can read my online diary of my yoga journey here: from Mysore to present

So, what does Yoga mean to me? Yoga is a lifestyle, it’s MY lifestyle. I’ve given up a career in education and left friends and family at home to pursue this lifestyle now. It’s not just asana (postures) it’s a way of life. It’s my way of life. It has made me reflect on the life I had, the person I was and make some positive changes. I feel healthy and happy and have a true sense of who I am. I’m working on my practice and myself everyday. Practice and ALL is coming.

headstand in Goa