Adjusting the brain

“If your body can do more and you do not do it, that is unethical practice. Ethical discipline of the asana is when you extend correctly, evenly and to the maximum. The brain is the hardest part of the body to adjust in asanas. If the brain is silent but attentive while performing asanas, your practice is nonviolent.” -B.K.S. Iyengar

This is an interesting quote, isn’t it? Doing asana isn’t the hardest part. But doing your best and knowing and seeing yourself for what you are, knowing your own potential and your limits, that’s the hurdle to take. Listening to the ‘chatter’ that goes on inside and not letting it lead you away from your full potential (“this pose is so hard, I can’t do it. And I’m pretty tired actually. Or do I need to work harder? Pushpushpush… wait. Ouch. Is that a ‘good pain’ or a ‘bad pain’? This pose is so hard…”).

Finding that balance between practice and ‘letting go of the results’ is a key passage in one of the central texts in yoga philosophy, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Patanjali says ‘practice and detachment are the means to still the movements of the mind’. Practice is the serious and steady repeated effort towards a goal. Practice can also refer to the first four limbs of the ‘ashtanga’, the eightfold path of yoga: yama (how to relate yourself to the world), niyama (how to relate to yourself), asana and pranayama.

Detachment refers to the process of disengaging oneself from the results of practice. The brain often wants to identify with what comes out of your practice – it has a need to feel either successful or unsuccessful, to compare itself to others, or to live either in the past or in the future. If you identify yourself too much with what comes out of your practice, it will only lead you away from true insight into who you really are. The last four limbs of the ‘ashtanga’ will lead you to this consolidation: turning inward of the senses, concentration, meditation and finally enlightenment.

But of course, the two need to be balanced. You need to discern the right actions from the wrong ones. Too much detachment can leave you paralysed and lethargic, unable to do anything. Too much practice will leave you tired, injured, empty and frustrated. The ability to see the truth in your process, to adjust the brain instead of just the body, is the real challenge.

Make time for yoga

When your schedule is full, is when you need yoga the most. You need clarity in your mind and relaxation in your body. But… people and tasks are pulling at you from all directions. Choosing for your yoga practice might seem like a selfish choice. However, if you choose to be for a few minutes, instead of just do, and to live instead of just work, it might make the rest of your day much easier. It’s just a question of priorities!

Having a few minutes of practice at home might make it easier to choose for your ‘reset-time’, if coming to a class is hard to work into your schedule. You can use what you’ve learned at your classes for your own practice, or take a book, dvd or youtube-video to inspire you. But remember that your own practice doesn’t necessarily need to be a copy of a group class – it can be shorter or longer, you can focus on a specific pose or group of poses or do a general sequence… do an active practice or relax in restorative poses. You can practice alone, with a friend or surrounded by your family, pets or kids. It can be the same thing every day or something completely different each time you hit your mat.

It’s yours, own it!

10 reasons to practice yoga

The relationship between the mind and the body is a complicated interaction between thoughts and emotions, the body and the outside world.  The integration of scientific medicine, psychology, nutrition, exercise physiology and the self-healing capacities of body and mind are not only part of many old cultures, but also a rapidly growing object of scientific studies.

We love yoga and think people should practice it just for the love of it as well… but we realise that the cynics amongst us might need some extra incentive, found in science.

So here are 10 great reasons to practice yoga, and some scientific evidence to back it up – and more and more work is being done!

  1. yoga diminishes the physical effects of stress: it can elicit the ‘Relaxation Response‘, lower levels of stress-hormone cortisollower blood pressure and slow down your heart rate;
  2. yoga helps to improve your mood and relieve depression;
  3. yoga can help you relieve and manage pain (different studies show promising results of using yoga in the management and improvement of lower back painosteoarthritis in the hands and the kneesjoint pain in cancer survivorsgeneral improvement of rheumatoid arthritis, );
  4. yoga improves your balance and reduces fear of falling;
  5. yoga improves your posture – and good posture is shown to have positive effects on your confidence, self-image and mental well-being;
  6. yoga improves 4 of the major components of physical fitness: strength, flexibility, endurance and coordination;
  7. the breathing techniques you learn in yoga improve your respiratory and cardio-vascular function;
  8. practicing yoga sometimes is good, but more often is better: there’s a correlation between practicing often and general health and well-being.
  9. physical well-being through exercise has proven to drastically improve work floor productivity and lessen the costs of health care.
  10. And, it’s fun! No scientific backing for that, just experiential evidence…

So: get away from your desk and start!

P.S Here’s an article about the physiological, psychological and biochemical benefits of yoga that sums it all up…

Why Iyengar Yoga?

There are many different styles of yoga nowadays. Here are some points that make Iyengar yoga different from other types of Hatha yoga classes:

  • props: we use blocks, belts, blankets, bolsters, ropes, chairs, walls or even other students to facilitate learning and to adjust asanas to individual needs. In this way we make asanas more accessible to every body, to challenge the student more, or to improve understanding.
  • alignment: correct alignment in asanas will develop strength, stamina, flexibility and balance, as well as concentration and meditation. Accuracy in the performance of asanas is not a goal in itself, but a tool, aiming to unite the body, mind and spirit for health and well-being. Everybody tends to overstretch in their more flexible areas and rely on better-developed muscles for strength. This will reinforce existing habits, and make you end up exactly where you started. In Iyengar yoga we aim to strengthen weak parts and release stiff areas, and hope to awaken and align the entire body.
  • timing: Iyengar yoga classes will give you generally more time in a pose to explore its effects and work on detailed alignment.
  • sequencing: in Iyengar yoga there is not one set sequence, but poses can be practiced in various orders for different effects or benefits. A sequence is a safe and systematic progression of yoga postures to develop each students ability and skill, both within each class and from class to class. It can be used to develop strength, flexibility, stamina, concentration and body alignment.
  • training of the teachers: there’s a well-regulated program one has to follow in order to be certified as an Iyengar yoga teacher. Instructors are evaluated on precise use of language, demonstration and teaching of specific points to develop understanding and intelligent action, and individual correction and adjustment of students when necessary.
  • therapeutic use of asana: the Iyengars have done, and are still doing, groundbreaking work in this area.