What we practice when we do yoga?
The ancient yoga poses that you will do in yoga class will place your body in an awkward positions, that most likely you are not going to find yourself in, unless you do yoga class. Those positions will awaken your body and energy will flow through the places that you perhaps did not know exist in your body. And experience of the yoga poses – asana practice is not only aimed at enlightening parts of your body, but also at the parts of your mind.
Body is an outstanding instrument, that can fix itself, that can regenerate itself. Yoga poses are aimed to help your body come to at maximum of its capacity. Through the yoga poses you will start awaking your body, going into places that are perhaps asleep, simply because you do not use them. Or maybe you will discover new places in your self, and that is great, as you will move into really discovering who you are.
Our body is a very complicated network of processes. And the vitality of the whole body depends on how all parts of it work together. The ancient yogis did not have scientific knowledge about body functioning, but they definitely had lots of wisdom about how it functions and what it is capable of. In yoga practice the force that we work with, and the one that is the most important for the body, we call it prana (chi or energy). So we say when prana leaves one part of the body, it becomes dull and stop functioning properly there. However with yoga practice we want prana to flow everywhere in the body without exception. To let prana inside all body corners, we have to start using all corners, so it flows in and the body is nurtured with life force in every part and piece. In yoga we do not want to overdo one thing, we want to work through the whole body, not missing a single place.
Often times people say “I am not flexible for yoga” or “she is so flexible” Yoga and flexibility might seem like something necessary for each other. In reality those two are very difrent things. Meaning that nobody has to to be flexible to feel the effect of yoga. Even more, overly flexible people feel the yoga effect much less. For the prana energy to flow through the body, it has to be supple and strong, not flexible. Suppleness will allow prana to flow freely through the body parts, energy flow on the diagonals trough the body continuously, depending on the asana or pose. Strength will help to include more asanas- poses in your practice.
As a yoga teacher I often see people taking asana – pose, but their mind is in tension, so instead of creating a release, they create more tension. And what we want is to let go tension, release it, not produce more stress. In other words, how you take pose is not only physical thing, it is also mental. And when you move into understanding how the mind reacts to poses, it is then you get to know yourself on the “mat”.
It is normal that yoga practice brings up negative emotion. As I struggle with the practice, I get to know who I really am. It is harder to reflect on yourself if you are not facing limitations of your own self. And when these limitations are brought up, I have a choice how to react or not react. Off mat I can always find a way or an excuse why I am certain way, or I might even not notice how I react, because for most time as a human being, I will place the guilt on someone else, not myself. However during asana practice I directly forced to experience and face myself. For example: the laziness of not doing asana, or fear during inversions or backbends, my preferences of one asana over another, the business and restlessness of the mind during meditation, the judgment of myself, the way I treat myself during asanas, frustration and reactiveness.
The whole range of emotions can be felt during the 60 – 90 minute practice. And that is what asana practice is there for, so I get to watch myself as close as possiable, and get to work through the issues that manifest, while I am on the mat and hopefully when I am off the mat as well. When I know how to let go stress, anger or frustration I surly become closer to being happy and humble. Learning how to deal with something instead of pushing it ‘under the carpet’ will bring the best of me out. So I can shine!