- The practice of presence
The essence of our practice is to practice with presence.
Presence in motion.
Presence in breathing.
Presence from movement to movement.
Presence breath by breath.
Presence in the process in which we learn to sinc our breathing with our movements.
Practice starts on the mat, but it has to continue in our daily lives.
Appearances exist only for the sake of deception. The real value lies in the consciousness brought to life.
Because where consciousness is, there are endless possibilities!
Practice, practice, preactice, the rest will come!
Our practice is actually a movement meditation. The two essential elements are movement and breathing. Bringing them into harmony is called “vinnyasa”. By joining the individual vinnyasa elements together, we learn a series of movements. (For example: Sun Salutation.)
By repeating this series of movements on a regular basis, we can achieve positive changes, experience “flow” and, as the most important benefit, bring our mind and body into harmony.
When the mind and body are in harmony, the tension between thoughts and actions is eliminated.
So start your daily practice! Just get started and the rest will come!
3. Create space for the movements:
The ashtanga vinyasa Sun Salutation is started with big, sweeping movements: Ekam (one) arms high, gaze towards the clasped palms, on the thumbs. Dwe (two) leaning forward, gaze at the tip of the nose.
With each conscious movement, we ourselves shape and anchor our space around us. In this space of movement, we then have the opportunity to observe the internal and external changes caused by our movements.
Awareness is the key. Where consciousness is, the possibilities are endless.
So start your daily practice! Just start and the rest will come by itself.
What happens in the space created by conscious movements?
We learn to breathe. We learn to anchor our consciousness with the help of the drishties (gaze directions). We learn to face our fears because breathing opens the chest and unprocessed memories trapped inside can surface. We are trying to let go of extremes and self-criticism and instead adopt a more open, inclusive and accepting perspective.
So start your daily practice! The rest will come by itself.
5. The beginner’s mind:
Remember the first time you stepped on the mat? Do you remember what it was like to stand there full of curiosity, open and receptive and start practicing?
In Ashtanga Yoga, no matter how advanced one may be, practice always begins with the Sun Salutations. With the sequence of movements that we were introduced to as beginners. When I step on my mat and practice, the sequence of movements always inspires humility and awakens in me the wisdom of the beginner’s mind. The sequence of movements reflects for me the reality of everyday life.
In fact, all our days are filled with repetition of similar actions. In them, joy and freshness can only be found if we are able to discover the new in the repetition.
What is it that motivates you to stand on the mat again and again and raise your hands high above?
Start your daily practice! The answers will come by themselves!
6. Our own method:
What we do regularly and for a long time becomes our own method. It is part of our own toolkit in which everything is shaped according to our needs.
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is also such a malleable tool. Only for an outsider; our daily yoga routine seem to follow rigid rules.
This is a misunderstanding!
Step on your mat, close your palms in front of your heart and direct your attention to your breathing. Notice what breathing is like now, in this moment. How deep is it, how freely flowing, how much does inhalation open the chest?
Stay conscious of watching your breathing so you can start your first movement and connect the rest to it. Listen inwards your body knows the next movement. Follow this wisdom.
The rest will come by itself!
7. Directions of gaze:
Our ability to keep our minds in the present develops with a persistent practice. Mind training can be achieved in our practice by following the breath and using gaze directions (dhristies).
Each asana (posture) has a direction of gaze. In general, when the movement is directed upwards, the gaze is also directed upwards, and when the movement is directed down or sideways, the direction of the gaze also follows.
The energy flows wherever the gaze is directed.
By training the mind, both the physical and emotional body is trained, cleansed and healed. Your self-knowledge will deepen, as a result of which your life experiences will be colored.
So start your daily practice. Enjoy it. Be patient. Go from movement to movement. The rest will come by itself.
8. Tidal movements:
Have you ever noticed that the Ashtanga Yoga series work through two basic movements starting with The Sun Salutations?
Expansion and contraction.
It’s this throbbing that connects the movements into a flowing process. The peculiarity of the flow is that it gently brings change to those areas where we are ready for it.
Daily practice enables you to breathe deeper, longer. Over time, it enables you to use conscious breathing to break through those asanas that were once challenging.
So practice every day and notice the countless small blessings that come with conscious breathing.
After every movement, we stop. Samastitih. We’ll come back here and start from here. We usually return with exhalations and start with inhalations.
Have you ever noticed that there is a momentary pause after each exhalation and before each inhalation?
It is during this momentary pause that the breath turns. This is the moment in which creation is born and in which decay appears.
All possibilities are in the present moment.
Be present. Practice every day! The rest will come by itself.
10. Tristana method:
In our practice, – like in folk tales -, we begin the search of the path of truth with three helpers. These are the pillars of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.
Their combined use is called: the Tristana method. Its building blocks are breathing, gaze directions and internal locks.
Their application is carried out as follows: we follow the breathing with our attention, we use a gaze direction with each movement to concentrate the attention in the flowing breath, anchoring it for a moment. In the meantime, we become aware of the sensations that are formed in the perineum, the solar plexus region and the throat. The totality of these sensations helps to raise awareness of the use of internal locks.
Using the tristana method, the body becomes light.
What’s next? You find it in your own practice! Practice every day!
11. Samastitih vs Tadasana
The basic stance in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is called Samastitih. Big toes touched together, heels at such a distance from each other that the outer edges of the foot are parallel. Like an equal sign. It’s also called “equal standing.”
In vinyasa-type yoga, that is, in practice connecting each asana with flowing movements, this starting position is used. If this position is not stable enough, we place the legs in a small width apart and narrow the stance over time.
In Hatha Yoga, the basic position is called Tadasana, meaning “spike” position when the inner edges of the foot are closed. This is the default position we use when we hold out an asana for a longer period of time.
In Samastitih, the energies moved are quieted. In it we have the opportunity to relax, observe the changes in the body caused by movement.
When you arrive back to Samastitih, scan your body! Notice your posture, heartbeat, and breathing. What do you notice?
Practice every day! The rest will come by itself!