Do you skip your yoga when you feel tired, stressed, tearful etc?
If so, can I persuade you to rethink that?
Whenever a student at the start of class has said to me “I feel awful and I wasn’t going to come”
At the end of class they've looked transformed, positive, restored and told me “I feel so much better”
That’s the awesomeness of yoga
Nobody ever regrets coming to yoga, it makes you feel better because yoga:
Eases out the muscular tension of stress
Balances heart and breathing rate disrupted by stress
Balances the digestive system disrupted by stress
Gives you energy - because of the above - depleted by stress
Calms the mind, giving it something else to do instead of ruminating
Gives a sense of safety, predictability & control, which helps us feel safe
Connects us with other humans, which helps us feel safe
Is a simple thing you can gift yourself to care for your body, mind & spirit. We can’t cope with stress while neglecting these.
We’ve all been through hard times, in order to get through them we need to make sure our bodies are strong and not tensed up. We need to make sure all the above is true. It will be a lot harder to cope with what life throws at us if we don’t care for ourselves.
As Jois said “Do your practice, all is coming
The physical progression in Ashtanga yoga can only come about through cultivating awareness.
We had such a beautiful practice with the Tuesday Ashtangis last night. They've come a long way since they started their Ashtanga yoga journey with me when we reopened in May 2021.
I love witnessing the building of strength, balance, flexibility, focus, rhythm, breath control, confidence, curiosity and respiratory capacity, but most of all, that most life-enhancing skill of all - AWARENESS!
Awareness of body, mind, the effects of our decisions on body, mind and relationships and the ability to choose consciously - this skill is truly transformative.
Once learnt we have to keep practicing it, but it's worth it. When we are aware of body, mind, our relationships, the effects of our decisions in the moment - we can choose with skill.
We can bring ease to body through movement, nourishment or rest.
We can bring ease to body and mind through rest, focus reflection or movement.
We can bring ease to relationships through reflection, conscious actions and words. And this is what we are really building on the mat in Ashtanga Yoga.
We become physically strong, flexible and balanced through moving with awareness of body and mind, and this habit and skill of awareness becomes our way of being in the world to help us to live with more ease and less suffering
If you would like to start your Ashtanga Yoga journey take a look at our Beginner-Friendly class on Thursdays 6pm, or if you've practiced yoga before join one of our other Ashtanga Yogas classeshttps://www.themandalapreston.com/yoga/ashtanga-yoga
Communication, Enquiry, Response
Yoga is a constant enquiry. We are tuning into body, paying attention to how our body and breath feel as we move, or are static. As a teacher I am in that enquiry with you, to explore what is working and what isn't and how adapting what we are doing might better serve us.
When we pause in an asana to investigate, we were paying attention, not just writing off an unwelcome sensation, but enquiring as to whether that sensation meant we were building strength or flexibility or whether it was unhelpful. To explore that we look at whether there's an opportunity to reposition, release or engage.
When we enquire into our body and we respond to sensations we are empowering ourselves to notice the wellbeing of the body, to attend to our physical home. But we are also building the ability to notice when our stress response is in the driving seat too often, or when we are having an unhelpful physiological reaction instead of a helpful response, we can notice that, pause and choose differently and that is truly a super power for health and relationships.
Predictability & Control
Ashtanga Yoga is also about predictability and control - two key aspects that can bring our body and mind into balance. We practice the same sequence each time we come to the mat for predictability & control, but it has some additional benefits too:
Calm - Repetition enables us to learn the sequence so well that it becomes second nature, eventually it becomes a soothing, calm and joyful moving meditation. The mind can become still, the breathing become steady and the nervous system can come into balance bringing our whole physiology into balance.
Control - No matter what has happened that day or week, we know we can get onto the mat and practice a sequence we know well and which nourishes body and soul, we know we can do something to support our mental, spiritual and physical health.
Balance - The sequence is balanced so that we use all parts of the body across all planes of movement. If we were just to practice the asana we liked (likely those we find easy?) we will strengthen that which is already strong - bringing ourselves further out of balance. The set sequence ensures we lengthen that which is strong and short, and we strengthen that which is long and flexible - so even when we aren't standing on one leg we are balancing 🙂
Checking-In - Ashtanga yoga is a brilliant personal health check for body and mind. Practicing the same balanced sequence of asana each time we come to the mat we can tell if something has changed and then we can think about why and whether we want to do something about that. Is it a positive change? Or if it's unhelpful are we tired, hyper, holding onto an emotion or thought, hungry, do we need to get something checked-out, do we need to talk about something, get more sleep?