“The success of Yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships.”
— TKV Desikachar
What is yoga?
Yoga means “connection” but the process of yoga is largely about disconnecting from all of the things that are holding us back from living to our fullest potential. It’s only when we are able to release all the limiting thoughts and behaviours that we’re able to connect with the true nature of reality, and experience a deep interconnection to all aspects of life, including our authentic self, our loved ones, community, nature and creative source.
The process of Yoga starts within — we first connect to ourselves, gradually becoming more aware of and sensitive to our own condition, on every level: physical, energetic, mental and emotional. That heightened awareness and sensitivity then naturally extends to the people around us, our environment and the planet, and it starts to transform all of those relationships.
Through these ever deepening relationships we become aware of the true nature of reality; that we are all truly connected. The secret is that we are always “connected” to this reality, but our normal, busy and distracted state of mind prevents us from experiencing it.
Yoga is your participation in this given reality, in the pulse and throb of Life. We can experience this connection directly when our mind is clear and focused. When clarity of mind is attained—for even the briefest moment—deep insight, guidance and creativity can come through. Yoga teaches us how to quiet our mind, tune in and listen deeply. If we do, we find that all the answers lie within, and our life fills with meaning and clear purpose. When we perceive things from this state of clarity, we are able to take appropriate and helpful action.
What kind of yoga do you teach?
I teach hatha vinyasa yoga inspired by Professor Sri T. Krishnamacharya and his son TKV Desikachar of Madras, India. In hatha yoga, we focus on the union of the inhalation and exhalation, by which we are uniting the primordial polarities of life —masculine/feminine, strength/receptivity, sun/moon, giving/releasing. Ha means “sun” and Tha means “moon”. The primary method we use is breath-initiated movement within the asana, which is called vinyasa. Once we have developed the breath in asana, we can further explore it in a static asana during mudra and pranayama practice.
What can yoga help with?
Yoga unlocks all your creative potentials by facilitating a flow of fresh perspectives and ideas enabling free expression of emotions whether you write, paint, make music or dance. Even if you never considered yourself one before, you may discover that we all have an inner artist that is able to communicate the message of our soul.
The tantra of hatha yoga is an exploration of the polarities that exist within us: inhale/exhale, reflection/expression, receptivity/strength. When we experience intimacy with our body and breath, by extension we realize greater depths of intimacy with our loved ones, pets, family, community and the cosmos.
An integrated practice of asana, pranayama and meditation creates lightness in the body, clarity in the mind and goes a long way toward restoring our natural state of holistic strength, adaptability, balance and calm.
Yoga asana and breathwork can help us to become aware of restrictions caused by physical and emotional pain and trauma. When an appropriate course of action is applied, yoga can affect a gradual, gentle unwinding of these blockages. A practice of self-reflection and expression through journaling, talking it out, or art-making can aid in releasing them.
How does yoga help us to heal?
With clarity comes the ability to study the mind, to observe the patterns and perceptions that shape our behaviours. These are usually based on past experiences and memories and could be shaped by traumas, cultural conditioning or misinformation. With this ability to observe comes the opportunity to replace old patterns with new patterns. The steadiness of mind allows us to override the tendency to be reactive, to create some much needed space in our internal thought processes. When there is some space between experience and reaction, we gain the ability to act by some conscious choice. We become less impulsive and reactionary. When we stop thinking so much, divine guidance and insight comes through. Through yoga, we learn how to channel the universal consciousness.
Uh oh, I think the yoga is working.
The breathing practices of hatha yoga, when properly applied, can be very effective in bringing unresolved issues to light. Consider the mind as a pond. The practices of hatha yoga can take us beyond the reflective surface and into the dark, unseen depths, disturbing things that we may not have been aware of or that we may have buried long ago. When these memories, feelings and patterns are brought to the light, they need to be worked with in some way. Sometimes, creative expression is helpful in understanding and releasing, other times talking it out with your teacher, or even a licensed therapist is what is needed. A yoga teacher can be a helpful guide in this process.
I heard Savasana means “corpse pose”, what's up with that?
Our yoga practice, from the first life-embracing inhalation to the final corpse pose, attunes us to the cycles of nature, including our own birth, life and death. Learning to completely let go and surrender at the end of our practice is a way to prepare for our own death, when we let go of our body and the material world. It’s a way to practice non-attachment, and learn to see death as an essential—and unavoidable—part of life. For us to live, something has to die. For us to live, we must die, eventually returning our bodies back to the earth so that new life may be created.