Up to now I always thought I was able to calm myself in a stressful life situation or event by distracting myself by engaging in a hobby, meeting with people and even prayer a part of my life from when I was a child. I found, however, that during the time of this class I had many stressful things happen in my life, particularly at work, and I started to find the class an added source of stress as I began to berate myself for not being able to do various asanas as well as others. I had never practiced ashtanga before and it clearly was a source of physical and mental exhaustion. I fell into the trap of comparison with everyone in class despite knowing that all of us were at different levels and learning at different paces. I brought my usual competitive nature into the practice of yoga.
I have to say that my drishti was not engaged in the proper way and I was not focused and centered as the yoga philosophy encourages. However as we went through class and I started to absorb the wholeness of yoga, I stopped worrying about how good or bad my asanas were in comparison to others. Every asana came with a specific drishti point which helped me calm my mind and stay focused. As I started practicing drishti whole heartedly, my attention surprisingly moved away from others. In inversions too like headstand where it was difficult to keep focus, I started placing yoga blocks on the floor behind me which gave me a specific point to gaze on and moved my attention completely from others.
Another important technique that was introduced in class was mantra chanting. I have been religious and have always derived peace through prayer, though there have been times when the mind has struggled to just let go. I find chanting as a good tool that everybody could adopt to get rid of negative thoughts. A lot of people could associate mantra chanting as a religious practice and may be hesitant to adopting it. However if you look into the true meaning of mantra, it is mind deliverance or protection (man meaning “mind” & tra meaning “deliverance or protection”).Dedicating 20 minutes every day to chanting 108 Om’s brought me instant benefits. I became more calm and contained, slept peacefully even on difficult work days and through busy schedules. I stopped waiting for something positive to happen outside for me to become happy and peaceful.
During this short span in class and just adopting these two tools as a daily practice I have come to realise that yoga is not an activity to do but a philosophy to be lived. I have truly started to understand what K. Pattabhi Jois once said – “do your practice and all is coming”.
Tusita (200HR YTT April-June 2017)