This is an article that I wrote to my column in Sensa, January 2014.
Hello dear reader. How are you doing today? Whether good or bad, remember, it's temporary. Don't be attached to it. Allow life to flow through you, freely. Substitute resistance with acceptance and see where life takes you. Allow the universe to take control and enjoy the ride.
Again, like every time I open my iPad mini to start writing this article, I don't have a clear plan. I just allow it to happen. Today it seems like the universe wanted me to remind you and myself about the nature of this human experience. Everything comes and goes, nothing is static.
If you are a new reader of this column, I just need to explain you that I'm not here to teach you anything. I'm not trying to convince you to believe anything. I'm recommending you to find out yourself, and by observing how life works around you, it should be quite easy to see the truth in what I just said. You are not the same as you where ten years ago, right? Enjoy the change.
Yoga is a tool
My previous articles were about happiness, today I want to talk about yoga. Big part of my daily experience is filled with the traditional practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. Partly through my own daily practice and partly because of our yoga school and the daily classes we teach there. Writing articles to this column is a hobby of mine. Helping people with their practice is my main "work". I'm using the quotation marks because I really don't feel it's a job. It's where the universe has taken me. It's what I have chosen to do.
The practice of Ashtanga Yoga is a tool that, when used properly has the power to enhance your life by giving you better physical and emotional health, clearer mind and a deeper knowing of what truly resonates with your own heart. Yoga is a very practical approach to health and happiness, not mystical or "weird" like it sometimes is presented. "Down to earth" is a good way to describe it. This is important to me because I feel yoga is made weird by the ego. The ego wants the practice to be mystical. My goal is to show people that it's not. I'm not saying that the practice is not miraculous, because it is. I'm saying that it's as mystical as the hammer in your toolbox. It's a tool, learn how to use it and build something beautiful with it. Learn it properly, so that you don't miss the nail and hit the thumb.
You woke up this morning. You opened your eyes, maybe turned off the alarm. You placed your feet on the floor... Or did you? Where you still there? Where you aware of placing your feet in the floor or the carpet? Did you feel the texture, the temperature? I would say that more than 75% of you readers weren't there. You already lost yourself into the illusionary world created by the mind. Am I right? You already started thinking about stuff that is more important than this present moment. Of course we all understand that there is nothing more important than this exact moment, here and now. So what did you do next? Went and brushed your teeth? Breakfast? Drove to work? Can you honestly say that you were there, or where you on an autopilot? How was your last meal like? Did you chew your food properly? Did you taste it? The point with these questions is to show that many of the things we do all the time, we do without any awareness. Kind of like just running through it. Always one step ahead from where we actually are. Our life has become faster, and I'm telling you to slow down. Life has become so fast that we have lost the connection to this present moment right here and now. We have lost the connection with our body and with our breath, even with our loved ones. Stop before it's too late. Are you eating something as you are reading this? Stop... I suggest you even stop reading for a moment. Just become aware of where you are, feel your breath, feel the surface you are sitting/lying/standing on. Take a few conscious breaths, become present and continue reading when you feel you are ready.
Connect with your mat
"Samastithi (mountain pose). Feel your feet on the floor." This is how I start my own practice and my led class. The first thing you do is... Stand. The difference is that now you want to stand consciously. Standing in a way that you glue your feet on the mat. That you feel connected to Mother Earth. You know what happens when you do that? You stop thinking. You can't have a conscious connection to the surface and think about what you have buy from the grocery store. What happens when the thought process stops? Life slows down. You become connected to the present moment where life actually happen. If you want to experience more of this, please take off your shoes, even your socks and plant your feet down. Feel grounded.
Ok, so now you should be here. This is what you do when you practice yoga. You always have a conscious connection to your mat. This ground connection takes you to the present moment, slows down your mind and brings you back to your body. Simple but powerful.
Connect with your body
The second connection is with the body. Focus your attention to your shoulders for a moment. Can you relax them? Can you allow them to melt down? Did you notice a change? Now your face. Relax... Isn't it interesting how many of you noticed a change in the body? How you unconsciously have a slight tension in different parts of the body. This is not necessary. Become aware and just let go. Allow your body to be soft.
This is one of the practical things I teach in yoga. Become aware of it and let it go. There are many poses that demand physical effort but at the same time there is always some part of your body that you can relax. Even if you don't practice yoga, you can always practice body awareness. Just make your body soft. When you do it, you also release unconscious, physical and emotional, blockages and increase blood and energy flow to the body. I don't want to repeat myself, but I have to. Simple but powerful.
Connect with your breath
The breath is the most important aspect of the Ashtanga Yoga practice. Actually it's the most fundamental thing of life. If you don't breathe, you die. Unfortunately, we don't know how to breathe properly. Our breathing is shallow and quick, and this has negative effect to our nervous system. The breath and the nervous system are interconnected, meaning that when you start breathing deeply and slowly your nervous system, including the mind, slows down.
In Ashtanga Yoga a specific ujjayi breathing technique is being put together with the movement in the asana sequence, giving birth to the vinyasa system. This series of poses and movements, which are harmoniously being synchronized with the breath, is what gives this practice its meditative quality. When you learn the technique, it doesn't only quiet the mind effectively, but also begins a cleansing progress in the body, by oxygenating the blood. It's difficult to explain the technique in writing so I will rather make a short video about it, so please follow me on twitter (@jockesalokorpi) to find out more.
Practicality in spirituality
There is much more to talk about regarding this practical approach to yoga and if you like, I will share more about it. In the next article I could share some thoughts about the practical aspect of the spiritual side of yoga. My claim is that spirituality is practical and very simple. If it seems complicated and if it can't be made simpler, it's not the truth. Ego makes everything complicated, it makes yoga mystical and something you have to believe in. I say you don't have to believe anything. Just practice and you will find out for yourself. The exact same was said by our guru Sri K. Pattabhi Jois: "Practice, practice, practice and all is coming.".