Friday, July 09, 2010
The first time I heard of Yoga was back in school when I was a 12 years old teenager, frustrated with not being able to perform a split in my Physical Education class. My Dad told me that Yoga practitioners are the most flexible people, so perhaps I can learn from them. Luckily, my uncle had a book on Yoga, so I dived in it , but all I found was photos of what seemed to be impossible postures, description of breathing techniques which I failed at, and cleansing exercises. It was not too exciting at first, but I tried some simpler postures and with time I discovered that I was gaining flexibility, to the point that I could do a right split after some serious warm up. Success!
Back then I didn’t care that Yoga means ‘to unite’ and that just the stretching is not the real thing. What’s more, I was probably not even doing the postures quite properly, but nevertheless I kept practicing through the years and I’ve noticed that after a Yoga practice I feel calmer.
Years later, having just moved to the States, stress level in my life was getting unbearable. I tried some meditation techniques I was taught , but it was hard to apply them – my brain was like a busy beehive. So I thought of trying yoga, but this time in a more consistent manner. Every Saturday morning, Sunday evening, and once during the week, I would go to various Yoga centrrs in Tucson, Arizona, and that is how I found Ashtanga Yoga.
It was just what I needed – series of strength and stamina demanding postures, a lot of flexing and balancing, synchronized breathing, and as a result - a light and strong body, and a calm mind. In only a couple of months I had (at last!) discovered the true meaning of Yoga – to unite the body and the mind, and to put them in harmonious peace. It felt so uplifting! Daily life became more positive and energetic, yet more relaxed.
Years came and went, yoga being part of them, sometimes more regularly practiced, sometimes not so. I lived in many cities, but I never found as good teachers as the ones I had in Arizona (with exception to one, but I had to relocate). Also I could not find the Ashtanga style I was looking for.
This Monday I went to my first yoga class in Utrecht – Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga!
Bingo! Perfect click with the place, with the teacher, with the style, with the class pace! My old Yoga skills kicked in after just a couple of Sun Salutations! I felt so hungry for more that I went again on Tuesday! I realized that while going through my daily ToDo lists, going to work, settling in my new place, paying the bills, etc. etc …some of the balance between mind and body was lost, there was a bit of a disconnect. And just a couple of classes brought back the feeling of being United. You go into a posture with an open mind and determination to do it at the best you can, you breath in, the whole world disappears, you are into the posture, you let go off everything on your mind, and you feel the balance, the posture become easier, you enjoy it, you exhale…sublime!
Ashtanga teacher Anne Nuotio says: “It is close to an experience of beauty. As you balance you are not thinking, the feeling is so totalizing. It’s like experiencing a beautiful sight in nature. Those are the rare moments in yoga when you are in ecstasy. I don’t know how it looks, but feels divine.”
Not all asanas come always easy to me – then the teacher would have to come and straighten me out. And often, only a slight alignment, just a millimeter in the right direction and ‘click’ , it gets much easier to hold the pose.
I wonder … is it the same in life … is it a minute alignment that could make everything easier and so much more enjoyable…with the right teacher…? And while I’m waiting for the answer of this and many other questions…I will diligently practice Ashtanga.