Updated: Mar 23, 2021
Are we Westerners gradually opening up to Eastern philosophies and ways of living? Does our overstimulated culture desperately need to slow down and reconnect with life? That is where yoga and meditation come into play. Yoga studios are now at every corner and it is for sure a very popular fitness class… but is that all there is to it?
In our societies, yoga is mainly presented as a physical practice and some would even regard it as similar to Pilates… it is well known for bringing great flexibility and core work, with a meditative and spiritual touch on top - not bad.
In your regular gym class, you can achieve rewarding results and immerse into a flow state for a moment, feeling revitalised and pumped up afterwards. This is great and brings sustainable happiness into one’s life for sure. Yoga will offer you that too, but it has a more subtle aspect to it.
To put it plainly: the more you will show up to a yoga class… the more aware you are going to feel. About everything. About your body. Your mental space. Your sleep. The life and divine inside of you. Others. The love that surrounds us (as opposed to the threatening and scary news projected daily). You will become more aware of your environment and other life forms. You will appreciate your food in a more respectful and conscious manner, rather than binging compulsively on it. You will become more aware of the present moment. The essence of life. You will, step by step, start to notice the stress and anxiety that lies there at the back of your stomach, your muscles tensing unconsciously when you’re sitting on the sofa for example or even your constant jaw clenching… on the long term you will be able to recognise it and reduce it. You may also start to notice your behaviour and dysfunctional patterns, as well as those of the people around you - perhaps you will start to incorporate a different perspective to it.
You will connect with your authentic self and begin to act accordingly in terms of the activities you choose to do and the values you want to live by. The more you practice yoga and meditation, the more this is likely to happen to you, and what is beautiful is that you do not even see it coming. It is like a hidden gem that had always been out there, waiting for you to find it.
The more I listen to my own experience and take in what the yoga teacher community is saying, the clearer it gets: yoga quite simply helps you to align things in your mind, body, and spirit. It enables you to unify yourself with yourself and therefore be vibrant and better equipped to connect with others and your surroundings. There are so many great books out there about happiness and how to find it, but ultimately, it must be felt. I think that’s exactly what yoga gives you.
A few tips on some important aspects of yoga and how to have a good practice:
Physical yoga postures (Asanas) are a great tool to help you being present in the moment because they enable you to focus your attention on your body and the tangible physical/mental progress you are making - and they undoubtedly bring suppleness, unity, strength and balance to the body as well – but eventually as you begin to get into a regular practice, yoga will help you to still the mind and connect with your own being, the life inside of you. Meditations are essential for this and should be well incorporated into your physical yoga practice.
Noticing and consciously using your breath during yoga is most important. A lot of people (including me) hold their breath during new or challenging postures, but that should be an immediate sign for you to know that you are not present enough at that moment and you must return to your breath. The breath should be whole, steady, and free flowing - that is how you measure your practice, rather than by how your pose looks. To be aware and respectful of your breathing, is to be present.
A good practice is not one where you complain about “what you can’t” do. Instead always keep in mind that you are here for yourself, nobody else – yoga is about looking within, not outside. Choose to have a positive, truthful, and unique practice – adapted to you and your body and understand that yoga, like anything else that matters, is a build-up experience. Do not rush it, approach it with grace and playfulness too. I think that this point is often misunderstood and really needs to come across: yoga is far from being all about demonstrating your flexibility, strength, and capacity to perform a difficult and good-looking pose. It has rather everything to do with how you feel inside before, during and after practice - and the magic that it can bring into your daily life. The rest comes in time, if that is what you are after.