Archives for posts with tag: body

I have not been writing for a long time. I do not know but I think this is a process. I have quit writing for some time, calmed my mind down and started writing again. Can I manage to go on writing without any intervals from this day on? I do not know that. I am not thinking about the future. I just wanted to write now and now I am in front of my computer,

Actually there are many things to write. Many experiences I gained in my classes. All physical, emotional and mental but I cannot make up my mind, relax and calm my mind down in order to write. Today is the right time and now I am writing.

A student who is interested in energy came to the class recently. Even though she wants to join every yoga class, she cannot since that class is taking place at an office during lunch time. Therefore sometimes some students can join and sometimes they cannot. When I woke up that morning, I was sure that this student would show up in class. It was the new moon time and I planned to do something related with the new moon. But in fact, I wanted this student who is dealing with healing and energy to do this. We had earlier talked about such plans but did not schedule any time. That morning I woke up and said, “this is the day.” I knew that the student was not always showing up in class but I had the instinct that she would that day. I was not wrong,

When I was about to enter the gym hall we were practicing, that student was getting out of the hall. She said, “teacher, I am coming today. I will join the class.” I said, “I had known that you were coming. I felt it because I would ask you to heal us if every one agrees. It is the new moon, new beginnings and for everything new.” The student could not object us and accepted the offer.

We began with meditation. Every one sat in a comfortable position. We wore socks and put on blankets in order not to be affected by the cold and the mind which could be affected by the cold. We began the healing with “Gayatri Mantra”, which has always been my favorite. I closed my eyes, focused on my breath, began watching my inhales and exhales and I relaxed my body. I leaned on a wall to feel more comfortable. I had been teaching yoga for so long time that I had forgotten to “take.” I was just giving energy but not receiving any. I reallly was in need of “taking” and “receiving.”

The new moon was happening in Taurus and its planet was Venus. So, we would work on “svadhisthana” (sacral) and “anahata” (heart) chakra, the student said. Listening to mantras and guided by the students, our bodies, minds and souls were flowing. My breath was calm and even stopped, I remember. I could not feel my body as if I had no body. There were colors and geometrical shapes in front of my minds. I thanked god, “my brain waves were moving from beta (stress mode) to alpha (meditation and savasana mode). This was the last thing I realized. Then I let myself totally be present with the mantras, the knowledge of my student and the flow. When mantras were following each other, the shapes and colors in front of my eyes changed. First two red lines came from right and left and hit each other in middle. Then colors softened and turned to parliament blue and just blue. I could not keep my head straight and still. It was dropping to right, left, front and back. Then there was no body. I was like flying. Some say that people rise from the floor when practicing yoga and meditation, which I have not witnessed myself, but if you ask if I had been off the floor, yes I would say I had that day. When my eyes were closed and my body was so light and listening to those mantras, I felt so light. As if I was a feet above the floor. That was really what I felt.

We laid down in “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) at the end of the healing. When we were resting, the student came beside us. When she was with me, I felt energy spreading to my entire body from my crown chakra (sahasrara), from the top of my head up to the tips of my toes. I shrank and felt a vibration on my body as if my body was electrified. It was an unbelievable and amazing experience. I had not felt such an energy for a long time. Since I was a person who was always giving energy but forgetting to get, this healing was so fruitful and beneficial to me. I think energy givin people should sometimes remember themselves and join such practices.

I did not want to wake up after “savasana.” Unfortunately it was time to return to the real world and get away from that peaceful world. The student said,” actually it is not the right time to do this healing because the new moon has not been realized yet. It is about to happen one and a half hours and the effects will be better then. Normally I would not do this healing before the new moon happens because you cannot healed enough and benefit from it. But I felt that everybody needed this practice and therefore I did it. I had not thought that the outcome would bso good. Actually the moon has not entered the new moon phase and I could not be so giving and fruitful but I think that this is because you were so willing and in need of this energy and therefore we all benefitted. I am so glad.”

After that day, I made up my mind that I would start “taking” and “receiving” from time to time. In order for the cycle to operate well, we should sometimes take not always give. It was necessary to keep the give-take cycle equal. Neither giving more nor taking more. And one should always get healed, purified, refreshed, renewed and give time to herself/himself for peace and to try different practices.

I sometimes got myself thinking why I am posting yoga blogs and why I am trying so hard to write these blogs. Yes, I love to write and I feel as if I was just born to write. However, I cannot keep myself from thinking whether people are really reading the posts or whether they are making a difference or being beneficial to some people’s lives. When these thoughts come to my mind, I stop writing for a while. Then a moment comes and life reminds me why I should write. 

I have not been writing for a few weeks. Besides group and private yoga classes, the yoga teacher training program is so full and I cannot have time to post blogs. Moreover, I have a private life. Whenever I turn on the computer to post a blog, I find myself taking notes for the training or making researches for the training. However, I should write. This is what makes me happy. How could I get away from myself and the things that makes me happy this much and when did this happen? 

Daily flow of life reminded me the answer to this question. One morning, I got the answer when a friend of mine with whom we are training teachers called me. She told me that a woman called the studio, who was suffering from a serious herniated disc in her lumbar spine. Doctors had advised that she undergo a surgery but she instead googled to read about herniated discs. That was when she found one of my blogs on herniated discs and then she found the yoga studio of my friend and called the studio. My friend invited her to the studio for a free trial class and had a really beneficial class with the woman. The woman told my friend that she felt so relieved after the class and she had not felt so well for a long time.  

After the class, my friend called me and informed about the development. That was when I found out the answer I had been searching for a long time. Why was I writing? I was looking for an answer for a long time and I was thinking that what I was doing was just in vain because there was not any satisfying answer to my question. However, maybe I was writing a blog in order to beneficial to only one person. Only one person would benefit from it and maybe this benefit would be today, tomorrow or a year later however that blog would be a healing for “just one person.” This reminded me a story I shared with you years ago. A story by Lauren Tseley: 

“Once upon a time there was an intellectul who used to write his stories on the shore of the ocean. Before starting writing, he used to walk on the shore. One day, he saw a man who seemed like dancing on the beach. He thought that the man could be a person who liked to start the day by dancing and he smiled. He walked fast to catch up with the man. When he got closer, he saw that it was a young man who was in fact not dancing. He was running a few steps, taking something from the ground and then throwing it to the ocean smoothly. He talked to the man as he came a few steps closer: 

– Good morning sir. What are you doing? 

The young man raised his head and answered: 

– I am throwing starfish to the ocean. 

– I think I should ask in another way, thought the intellectual. Why are you throwing starfish to the ocean? 

– The sun has already risen up and it’s the low tide. If I don’t throw them to the ocean, they will die. 

– But don’t you see that the coast is kilometers long and full of starfish. It will make no difference. 

The young man listened to the intellectual politely, took another starfish and threw it to the ocean. 

– It made a difference for this one. 

This answer surprised the intellectual and he could not know what to say. He went back home. When he tried to write for the rest of the day, all he could do was to see the man’s face in front of his eyes. He tried not to think of the man but he could not. In the end, he realized what the young man was trying to do. The young man was trying to be an actor in the universe and making a difference instead of being just an observer and watching what was going on. He felt ashamed. That night he did not sleep well. He woke up next morning, got out of bed and went to the shore to find the young man. He spent the morning throwing starfish to the ocean with the young man.” 

Maybe I am calling it “just a blog” however maybe that single blog will make a difference in the life of “a single starfish” that is just one person. I really want to thank to that person who inspired me again in days when I question why I am still writing blogs. I am grateful for having yoga in my life, reaching people with yoga, helping and extending body, soul and mind support to people with yoga as much as I can, and touching not only my life but also lives of other people. How could one be better than this? 

I have been so busy recently due to yoga classes and yoga teacher training program. I have been reading new books for the teacher training program and preparing documents besides ongoing yoga classes I am teaching. Of course, I am not on my own in this program. A friend of mine who is a genuine “yogini” and I have started the program. Despite all her contributions, it is not so easy to get to the classes on time and prepare the training program and go on living your own personal daily life. That is why I had to stop posting blogs, which I did not appreciate.

I welcomed the new year in a seaside town away from the city I am living. This four-day retreat was really excellent for me. I really needed such a retreat, away from the city and I was desperately in need of having some spare time in the rural area. To be alone, to just stare at the sea, to drink something while staring at the sea, to take a stroll and to spend a few days without watching the time or without having a need to hurry. So once I returned home, I sat in front of the computer to write again.

I have experienced a great deal of things since I write the last blog. Not only reading resources on yoga but also reviewing the training programs I had attended before and making a synthesis of all of them made me a progress on this path. I realized that I have been focusing on only physical aspect of yoga in my classes for a long time. However, yoga is something that cannot be thought of without the spirit, soul and the mind. As I started to deepen on the path of yoga, I started to deepen in my own yoga group classes.

In the group classes, I aimed to end the previous year by leaving everything behind, the good and the bad before welcoming the new year. The past was just the past, nothing beneficial for us but taking a lot from us. Making us sorrowful and sad. Ego or the mind liked to feed from the past and pitty for itself. So, as we were leaving behind 2017, we should not bring any burdens from that year to the new year but solve everything and leave everything behind. We should purify ourselves bodily, mentally and spiritually and get cleaned up. In 2018, we should neither focus on the past nor the future as future was one of the best friends of the mind, by which it was feeding up itself. The future was unknown and the fear and worry caused by the unknown. What was need for sorrow or fear or worry? So what should we do? What kind of a path should we draw ourselves in 2018? We should just live the moment, stay in the moment, pay attention to the “right now”, understand what “now” means and experience just the “now.” How was the yoga classes shaped up with this aim? The aim was obvious: “Just to live the moment, to stay in the moment, to pay attention to the right now and understand what now means and experience just the now.” So, what type of a class should we perform to reach this aim? A class which gives priority to the breath and focuses on the coordination and harmony of the breath and the body. Thus, we could enable the unity and harmony of the body and soul. Surely, we should also add the mind to this couple. The mind should watch and follow the body and the breath but at the same time listen to what the instructor was saying instead of doing what it knows would come the next. We should do “vinyasa”s (flow) different from the flows the class was used to and confuse the mind. Thus, the mind would not do what it knows and walk on the path it knows but stay in the moment and do something by being totally aware not automatically. If you ask what was the most important decision we made for the new year… To stay in the moment, to live the moment, and to be totally aware, to work with full unity and harmony of the body, mind and soul even if it was hard in the daily life and even if we cannot do it in our daily lives,

 

When I go to my yoga classes, I usually have some flow to pratice that day and believe me, what I have in mind is mostly what the students need that day. What a coincidence, isn’t it? However, some days I want to just show up in the class and get inspired by the students. I go to the class almost half an hour before the session begins, put my yoga mat and I either meditate or lay down supine to relax and rest. When people show up in class, I chat with them and this conversations mostly ends with a yoga plan in my mind. This is exactly what happened a few days ago.

When I went to class, no one had arrived yet. I put my yoga mat on the floor and I laid down to “supta baddha konasana” (reclined bound angle pose). I closed my eyes and totally surrendered my body on the floor. I calmed my breath down and rested before the class began. The students were showing up one after the other. When they came, I left the pose and started to talk to them That evening, our class was a “yin” (female energy) class. Our aim was to relax the bodies and minds on the last week day.

In “yin yoga”, we do not have so many options. As this type of yoga focuses on the sacroiliac joint, hip joint and the thigh bone and it aims to stretch even the deep connective tissues for a genuine relaxation, the “asana”s (pose) are limited. But that evening, I wanted to practice something different but I did not know what when one of the students helped me find what I was looking for. He inspired me.

Before the class began, one of the students had asked whether we could work on “vishuddha chakra” (throat chakra). We had practiced this chakra in our “vinyasa” (flow) classes before and the students was willing to know whether we could also work the same chakra during a yin yoga session. Why not? Surely, we could.

Meanwhile, a new student with “scoliosis” in her throacal spine arrived in the class. I talked to her and learned about her story. I looked into her spine and made some recommendations to her to pay attention during the class. Surely, I would also keep an eye on her during the entire class.

Suddenly, something came up in my mind. That day, we would not only stretch the chest but also stimulate the throat chakra. I could not only make the new students benefit from the class by stretching the chest but also make the other student happen by stimulating the throat chakra. Also, all students would experience a different type of yin yoga class.

We began the class in “supta baddha konasana” to stretch the chest. We rolled the yoga mats and placed it under the scapulato raise the chest and stretch it this way. I asked the students to close their eyes, direct their breath towards the chest and to fill their lungs with oxygen. After staying in the pose for about five minutes, we dropped the bodies to the right side and came to a sitting position.

We stayed at least four minutes in poses like “melting heart” and “sphinx” to stretch and open up the chest. In sphinx pose, we turned the neck to right and left and dropped it to the chest and lift it up the ceiling to stimulate the throat chakra. We rested in “balasana” (child pose) after all these poses. We were stimulating the “anahata chakra” (heart chakra) and letting the “energy of love” rise out of our bodies.

For the throat chakra and the shoulder girdle, we opened up our arms on both sides of shoulders and worked out wrist flexion and extension. Then we accelerated the blood flow in arms with “finger fans.” With “broken wings” we stretched shoulders and relieved the scapula. We stimulated the lung and heart meridians with these poses.

The other throat chakra poses were “marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat-cow stretch), “sarvangasana” (shoulderstand), “halasana” (plow pose) and “karnapidasana” (ear pressure pose).

We ended the class with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) after “twisted roots”. When everybody was in “savasana”, I got into “supta baddha konasana” , my favorite pose. The lights turned off, the class dark, the class peaceful and the instrumental version of “What a wonderful world.”

It was hard for every one to wake up from “savasana.” What did I feel during the class? Was it so hard to listen to the voice of our hearts instead of our minds? Weren’t we happier and more peaceful when we listened to our hearts? Actually, wasn’t it the heart that knew the very right for us? So why were we always listening to the mind and were unhappy? Could we feel the vibrations of love in our heart? With the love in our hearts, could we speak out good words? Could we express ourselves in a right way? Could others understand what I was saying in the right way? “Let’s wish to listen to our hearts and do what it says as well as establishing right and accurate communication from now on. I bow in front of my dear student for he has become a source of inspiration for me. Namas’te my dear student.”

We had worked on and practiced two different types of classes during yoga teacher training program. One of them was a circular class and the other one was a class with a peak pose. After I had started teaching yoga, I preferred classes with a peak pose. I prepare the bodies and minds to the peak pose in the first half of the class and I neutralize, relieve and make the bodies rest in the second half of the class. Last week in one of the group classes, one of the students asked whether we could do something “mixed” that day, a class that included everything. At that moment, I remembered the circular-style class.

After the opening meditation, we warmed up the bodies with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series. Once the bodies were warmed up, we focused on standing asanas. We were refreshing the bodies with a “vinyasa” (flow) after each “asana” (pose) and then we were practicing another “asana.” Moreover, we were doing a “vinyasa” immediately after we did the right side in assymetrical poses. This way, the class was lika an “ashtanga yoga” class. But of course, I was not a professional at “ashtanga yoga” series but when I decided to teach a circular-style yoga, the class looked like an “ashtanga yoga” class.

We went on with forward bends and backbends. We were practicing two or three “asana”s from each asana group. Twists, core strengtheners and hip openers. One “asana” followed by a “vinyasa”… It was hot, the class was hot, the “agni” (element fire) in us was burning and maybe this was the first time that I had ever practiced such an active class like that with this group.

In the end came inversions. Since the class was cosmopolitan with the beginners and the advanced students, I asked the students to choose among “salamba sirsasana” (supported headstand), “salamba sarvangasana” (supported shoulderstand) and “adho mukha vrksasana” (handstand).

We ended the class with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose). I was thinking just one thing at the end of the class. Why do I love and prefer classes with a peak pose? I guess I have found the answer. I do not like monotonous things. I do not like to know the next move and to act by knowing what is coming the next. I loved the unknown. “To live the moment”, “to stay in the moment”, “to be happy and peaceful without knowing what the next moment will bring but just to live that single moment.” I loved that. When we live by knowing the next step, the mind has already known everything and it moves before the body and the breath, i.e. the mind. Then we become people directed and steered by the mind. We become puppets. However, it is possible to live just the “moment” and be happy. And this is what I am trying to do.

I have been waiting for summer to come for almost two months. As I am waiting, it is not coming. I love hot weather, sun, pool, sea and sunbathing. The more I want all these summer-linked things, the longer it takes for summer to come. Moreover, I want to write an article on what type of yoga we can do during the summer. However, I cannot write it as the summer has not arrived yet. I decided to write anyway June 21, the summer solstice, has passed away. What type of yoga should we do to celebrate the summer solstice?

Before answering this question, let’s try to explain what summer solstice mean and what happens that day. We experience two solstices a year, including winter solstice on December 21 and summer solstice on June 21. It is the time when the movement of the sun’s path (as seen from Earth) comes to a stop before it reverses direction.

The summer solstice or June 21 is the longest day of the year. It is the completion of the cycle that began at the winter solstice. The sun is at its highest point on this day. After June 21, days start to get shorter and nights grow longer until September 23 — the autumnal equinox. I should remind you that all these things happen in the northern hemisphere. It is just the opposite in the southern hemisphere.
Let’s come back to the solstice after this brief scientific information. The solstice is the best time to let the nature embrace us. Particularly during the summer solstice, we can find ourselves dancing with bare feet on grass or sand with the sun warming our bodies and soul. So far, we have only talked about the effects of the solstice on our souls.

If you ask me what type of yoga we could do to mark the summer solstice, I would just tell you to perform 108 “surya namaskara” (sun salutations). The sun is at its highest point on this day, so it is so meaningful to mark the day with sun salutations. This way we can burn the fire within us. We can expand each time we inhale and imagine that the sun is warming us each time we exhale.
Can we only mark the summer solstice with a flow yoga? Of course not. We can also mark June 21 with yin yoga. We cannot burn the fire within us with this type of yoga but we can extinguish the fire and we can calm ourselves down on this summer solstice. These are types of yoga we may perform on June 21 summer solstice. Now let’s try to find an answer to the question “what type of yoga during summer”.
As you may remember from my previous articles, our bodies are divided into three groups according to Ayurveda (Indian science of living). They were “vata, pitta and kapha”. Only one type was dominant on some bodies. On some bodies, two or three types were active. Also, one of the body types can be dominant over other during different seasons. During cold, dark, severe and harsh winter, the “vata dosha” (air and space) in our bodies was increasing. Therefore, we were giving priority to grounding in our yoga practice. During winter, the “kapha dosha” (earth and water) was dominant and to this end, we were feeling heavy and exhausted.

What happens to our bodies during summer? When summer comes, the “pitta” (fire and water) in our body increases. We may feel ourselves tired due to hot weather. Moreover, as the “pitta dosha” increases in our bodies, we may be aggressive and demanding. For this reason, it will be good for us if we begin our yoga practice by lying supine during summer. Starting with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) to bring the awareness to our yoga practice, then a lateral stretch and a twist will make us feel well at the beginning of our yoga practice. This way we can balance our internal heat.
Not only at the beginning of our yoga practice but also during the entire practice we may prefer a calmer yoga style than a fast and active yoga style. This way, we can give more priority to relaxation and meditation. But, this does not mean that we should not practice a flow yoga during summer. We can do it in a calmer and more aware way when we practice flow yoga.
Naturally, we can begin the practice with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series and go on with all standing asanas such as “trikonasana” (triangle), “ardha chandrasana” (half moon pose), “utthita parsvakonasana” (wide angle pose), “setu bandhasana” (bridge), “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel), “bharadvajrasana” (sage Bharadvaj pose), “upavista konasana” (seated angle pose), “parivritta janu sirsasana” (twisted head to knee pose), “baddha konasana” (bound angle pose), “paschimottanasana” (east looking forward bend), “halasana” (plow pose), “salamba sarvangasana” (supported shoulderstand), “karnapidasana” (ear pressure pose), “matsyasana” (fish pose). We can focus on forward bends in our yoga classes or own practice in order to calm the mind and body down.
In addition to all these asanas, we can use a “pranayama” technique called “sitali” to cool our bodies down. In short we curl the tongue and protrude it slightly past the lips. We inhale deeply and smoothly through the tongue and mouth and exhale through the nose. This technique calms and cools us. You may feel cooler when you do this pranayama for a few minutes.

Another “pranayama” technique we can use during summer is to close the right nostril and just breathe through the left nostril. Right nostril is the male and solar side of our bodies and named “pingala nadi” (solar energy center). The left nostril is the female and lunar side of our bodies and named “ida nadi” (lunar energy center). When we close the right nostril, we close the male, active and warming side of our bodies and when we inhale and exhale through the left nostril, we use our female, passive and cooling side.

At the end of our yoga practice, we can either rest in “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) or we can reverse the flow of the body and rest in “viparita karani” (legs up to the wall).

Have you noticed that yoga is such a wide world that you may practice different types and use different “pranayama” techniques in every season. It is possible to warm or cool our bodies during winter and summer with these breathing techniques. So you may ask how to breath during spring or autumn? There is a breathing technique to equalize the right and left energies in our bodies, which can be used especially during spring and autumn. That is, yoga offers us many different things.
This or that way, summer or winter. Or spring or autumn. Not important. What is important is to love yoga and have yoga in our daily lives during all seasons maybe only by asanas; or by asanas, pranayama and meditation; or by asanas, pranayama, meditation and philosophy.

 

 

“Teacher, I was undergoing an MRI last week. There was something wrong with the MRI device and I had to stay in the device for about one and a half hours.” “So, how could you endure it?” “Teacher, I only thought about the yoga classes. I told myself that this would not last forever but would end soon. And I closed my eyes and focused on my breath.”

One of the students told me all these things in one of the yoga group classes last week. That day, we were working on “vayu”s (wind/air flow/energy flows in the body). Therefore that class was a bit different and more spiritual than any other yoga classes. We were working on some “asana”s (pose) related to the energy flows and trying to observe towards where the body was moving  and how the body was moving together with the breath.

When we were resting in “balasana” (child pose) in-between the flows, one of the students said, “teacher, I can see the advantages and benefits of yoga classes in my daily life. Yoga has changed my daily life. I have turned into a very different person. A recent incident helped me once more see how yoga is beneficial to me.”

The other students and I wondered what had happened to the student and asked her to tell the whole story. At that point, the student said,”teacher, I was undergoing an MRI last week. There was something wrong with the MRI device and I had to stay in the device for about one and a half hours.” “So, how could you endure it?” “Teacher, I only thought about the yoga classes. I told myself that this would not last forever but would end soon. And I closed my eyes and focused on my breath.”

“I remembered the opening meditation and overviewed what we were doing in that meditation. I remembered that we closed our eyes and focused on the breath. I inhaled and exhaled and started to count my breath. I tried to realize at which part of the body the breath was moving. At first, I panicked and my breath was shallow. Then I closed my eyes and tried to leave my mind aside and shut it down. Then the breath started to calm down. And I started to take longer breath. I could deepen the breath from my chest to the abdomen and even to the pelvic floor. The deeper my breath was, I was calmer. As I kept my eyes closed, I was calmer. I concentrated my mind on my breath. A while later, my breath was so calm that it almost stopped. My body was no more tense but relaxed.”

“At that very moment, I realized your words. Bad news, nothing lasts forever. Good news, nothing last forever. Nothing is permament. Everything changes. We were closing the eyes and focusing on our breath in order to silence the mind in yoga “asana”s in which we really have difficulties. We were trying to connect the body and the breath. This was one of the moments which was really hard for me. And, I told myself that it was not permanent and it would last soon. And I believed in what I was telling myself. I hadn’t realized before how yoga got a part of my daily life. It was the first time I realized that I was applying to yoga in the moments I really felt difficulties and problems in my daiy life.”

I could not explain how happy I was to hear all the story. Yes, I am teaching yoga in gym clubs but this does not mean that yoga should be regarded just like any other physical activities. Of course, our priority is to get a good physical and body shape and look. Even though many people come to group yoga classes at gym clubs for only this goal, they start to “be yoga” in time. “To be yoga”… “To be whole bodily, spiritually and mentally.” Then in time, the goal to have spiritual and mental peace replaces the goal to get a good physical shape and look. I guess this is what yoga is and here we can find the philosophy of yoga. To get loved and adored by people just by being itself and without imposing anything or forcing anything or anyone.

“Teacher, there is an important issue I have to decide upon. I have two choices and I cannot decide which one is the best and right for me. Can yoga help me decide?” This was a question I came across in one of group yoga classes recently. I decided to teach a class on the third eye to answer this question.

That day was the day of “yin yoga” (the type of yoga in which we stretch the bodies up to connective tissues). I decied to make a practice which included “yin yoga” poses and poses that would stimulate “ajna chakra” (third eye chakra). I was planning to talk about mind and soul when we were practicing.

After we began the class with meditation, we stayed in “utthita balasana” (extended child pose) for at least three minutes. I recommended that the students place their hands or something like a sweatshirt under their forehead if they were not able to place their forehead on the ground. When staying in this “asana” (pose), I started to talk about the mind. I told the students that the mind was totally pure and clean when we were born but was being polluted as we got socialized in time. The right, the wrong, the sin and the shame. All these were things that the society was putting in front of us and asked us to accept and obey. And the mind believed in all these things and made us live our entire life within these patterns. The mind believed that it was safe and healthy to live within these borders and patterns. Therefore, it preferred to stay in the safe haven and was not pushing itself hard. At this point, we were losing our connection with our soul and the divine power. We could not see the signals and messages sent to us and we were turning into individuals only conspired of mind, brain and reason.

We practiced poses to stimulate the third eye, i.e. the area between the eyebrows, throughout the class including “salamba sarvangasana” (supported shoulderstand), “halasana” (plow pose) and “karnapidasana” (ear pressure pose). During the closing meditation, we closed the eyes and turned the eyes towards the area between the eyebrows.

I was talking about the mind and soul all during these poses. “When was the last time you did something really from the heart? You did not listen to your mind even though it said it was wrong but listened to the heart and did what the heart told you? Anything that your soul liked but mind and reason objected? I just want you to think about it as we wait in this pose. When was the last time you put your mind aside and did something that your soul wanted? Can you remember or was it so long before?”

“When the mind is active, there are always patterns, borders, the right, the wrong, the sin, the taboos and the shame. The mind prevents us from seeing clearly. However, if you listen to your heart, it will show you the right way. The mind knows the truth and what is right but we never listen to it. We always take the mind into consideration. Now, we should return to the question the students asked before the class began. If we are the pieces of the God, then we should know the truth and what is right once we are born.  The soul knows what is right and wrong however the mind prevents us from seeing them. If we inactivate the mind for some time, we could hear the sound of the divine power, the earth, the universe or the God — however you may name it. And thus, you may see which choice or which path is right and good for you. However, the mind makes our eyes so blind that we cannot see the signs that are just in front of our eyes. If we listen to our soul and if we keep listening to our mind, we can realize that the divine power is talking to us and showing us the right and the good. As long as we become more aware, as long as we open our hearts, as long as we listen to our soul, as long as we get away from “robot-style” individuals who only act with their “brain” and “mind.” Then, we will become individuals who are not polluted by the society but instead clean, open-eyed and loveable individuals. As long as we re-establish our connection with our soul.

Every yoga class is a different experience not only for students but also for me. Not only the students progress in every yoga class but also I learn new things. Particularly when I am practicing with groups to which I feel close and with which I have a good communication, I do not think about what comes the next but the class flows. What is important is our interaction.

It was such a class when I asked the students what they wanted to do that day. The students said they felt so tired that day and wanted a calm class in which they could stretch their bodies. I had always liked calm classes however that day I wanted something active and I did not know how I could handle a slow and calm class.

When the students were on all-fours in “marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat-cow stretch), something came into my mind. We should work “pelvic tilt” that day. “Pelvic tilt” was the exercise in which we moved the pelvis front and back. In an exhale, we were tilting the pelvis posteriorly and in an inhale we were tilting the pelvis anteriorly. If we assume that we have a tail, we were hiding our tail in-between our legs and pushing the “iliac bones” forward when we exhale and showing off the tail at the back of our hips and pushing the “iliac bones” backward when we inhale.

We tried “pelvic tilt” in “tadasana” (mountain pose), “ardha uttanasana” (standing half forward bend), “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog), “padangusthasana” (big toe pose) and on our back. All these “asana”s (poses) were added in-between “vinyasa”s (flow). During the flow, not only hamstring and gastrochnemius muscles stretched but also the back muscles and core muscles strengthened. After strengthening core muscles with “pelvic tilt”, we worked out “mula bandha” (root lock).

All these preparatory poses should be followed by a peak pose. We would stand in “ardha sirsasana” (half headstand) and do push-ups only with our legs, extending the legs to the ceiling in each inhale and descending them to the level of the abdomen in each exhale. Those who thought they could not do this pose would do the same thing in “salamba sarvangasana” (shoulderstand).

That day, we realized one thing. We were not aware of the power within ourselves. Even though we think that we engage our core muscles and pelvic floor muscles, we were not using them effectively. We thought that we were efficiently engaging these muscles, however we were so weakly engaging them. If we could use our inner power in the real sense, there was nothing that we could not do. Everybody was saying the same thing at the end of class: “I was thinking that I was using my pelvic floor muscles, however I was not. I just realized what it means to engage the pelvic floor muscles together with core muscles. Everything will be different from now on. I will be open to new experiences by using all my inner power”

I do not know why but yoga classes are considered just like other physical activities. Maybe this is because yoga classes are so wide-spread in gym clubs. Who knows? Whatever the reason is, we should separate yoga from other physical activities. Why? Because yoga is the “state of being” not a physical activity, as most people think. It is a discipline and a spiritual philosophy.

You may consider yoga as just like other activities and just as something we do with our bodies. However, it is a bit different. Yoga means the harmony of the body, soul and the mind. Yoga means to unite the body, mind and the soul. Yoga means to bring together the body, mind and the soul. That is, yoga is not a physical activity but a state of being. The only relation of yoga with physical activity is “asana”s i.e. “poses.” What we want to do in yoga classes is to keep the body and breath together with the help of “asana”s, focus the mind just on what we are doing without thinking anything else and do everything with full awareness.

What is the use of talking about all these? Yes, you may ask why I am telling you all these. Because of what happened in one of group classes last week. When we are doing the “asana”s that our body is used to, like forwardbends, most of us do not have any problems. Our spine and body is used to forward bends and rounding of he spine so we do not lose the connection of the body and the breath and we can do most of the sequence without the need of the focus of the mind. However, we start having problems in backbends, balancing poses and inversions. In these asana groups, if we do not have body-breath connection, we can have problems. We may hold breath and when we do so, the poses become more challenging, The mind is so important particularly in balancing poses and inversions. What does the mind think and how it feels? Am I afraid and am I short of breath because of my fear? Am I holding my breath? Does my mind tells me that I can do this pose or does it say that I cannot? Does my mind trust my body? Is my mind supporting me or is it preventing me?

I remembered all these questions in the group class last week in which we tried an inversion. I have been working with this group for about a year. The group had practiced with another yoga instructor before me and they are also attending pilates classes twice a week, which means they are bodily and physically strong They have enough physical power to do all “asana”s. But they are having problems in “sirsasana” (headstand), “pincha mayurasana” (forearm balance) and “adho mukha vrksasana” (handstand). So what is the problem?

If we have enough physical power and if our core area and shoulder girdle is strong enough to do these poses, we first look into whether we are aware of this physical power. Let’s assume that we are aware. Then the second question is whether I can really use this power. Do I really engage my core muscles or do I only assume that I am engaging them? Can I use my pelvic floor muscles or do I only assume I am using them? Can I engage all my muscles or just asumme that I am doing so. If I just assume and cannot do the pose, then this means that I am not aware of my physical and bodily power and it is high time that I trust my power and be aware of it.

When we do so and we still have problems, another question comes. What am I afraid of? What prevents me from doing this pose? We may be afraid of falling. We may be afraid of falling in front of others and disgracing ourselves. We may be afraid of falling and injuring ourvselves. We may be afraid that we can break our necks. We may have different fears. It may be hard to look at the world from another perspective and change our routine perspective. We may not be afraid of standing on top of the head but we may be afraid of getting down from the pose. It may be hard to get on the top of the head but once we get there with the help of somebody else it may be so easy for us to stay there. This is where the mind is in business. At this point, yoga practice is separated from other physical activities. What does my mind think? Does my mind acts in line with my body and breath, i.e. soul or acts separately from these two? Does my mind support me or prevent me? Does my mind believe that I can do the pose or not? Does my mind focus on just what I am doing and live the exact moment with full awareness? The answer to all these questions can raise us to “sirsasana” or drop us from “sirsasana.”

That day, students got by the wall and tried “sirsasana” there. One of them could not rise in the pose but when she did so, she was feeling so safe and did not think of getting down. The other was thinking of how she could get down so she could not do the pose. Once she did, she was panicking that she could hurt her neck and she could not get down in a proper way. Another student could get half-way on her own, panicking there and forgetting to use the pelvic floor. She rose in the pose but she fell as she did not try it by the wall. Another student was trying the pose on her mat in the middle of class, not by the wall. However when she rise in the pose, she panicked as another student told her that she was doing it so well and she immediately and carelessly got out of the pose. When the mind hears “yes, you have made it”, it wants to hamper the body and it is successful in its attempt.

That day, we once more realized that we could not do “asana”s just only with the body power. If our breath does not help us, if we lose body-breath connection and if the mind does not focus on what we are doing, we may not do some asanas we consider as “challenging.” What differs yoga from other physical activities was the state of “being.” The body, soul and mind are in harmony and together and the picture that comes out of this harmony.