Archives for posts with tag: drishti

The falling leaves, cool weather, less sunshine, more clouds and sudden rainfall… Yes, again autumn has come. And September 23rd the fall equinox. Day and night was equal. However, this equinox was a bit different from that on March 21. On March 21, there is the summer ahead of us. We all know that days will be longer, the northern hemisphere will be hotter with longer and brigther days. However, on September 23rd heralds darker, shorter and colder days for the northern hemisphere. You may think, “what’s the use of informing us about all these geographical facts?” In fact, it concerns us. If you keep following  my blog for some time, you must have seen that the sun and the moon affect our bodies, souls and minds. So do the changing seasons. They all affect our yoga practice. What type of yoga should be do in the fall equinox and the following two-and-a-half-month fall season?

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Before talking about this issue, I have to first remind some facts about Indian science of living, “Ayurveda.” As you all know, Ayurveda classifies bodies in three different types, called “doshas” and named “vata”, “pitta” and “kapha.” “Vata dosha” dominates in some bodies whereas “pitta” and “kapha” doshas dominate in some others. Similarly, certain “doshas” dominate the seasons. Fall is the season of “vata dosha.” “Vata” is a “dosha” that activates the nervous system and the process of elimination and governs movement in the body. The qualities of vata are cold, dry, rough, light, changeable, irregular and moving. Vata is composed of elements of air and space. As the energy of vata increases during fall, we may feel ourselves unbalanced and ungrounded. For this reason, we should attach importance to grounding in our yoga practice. When we are practicing a standing asana, we should feel the energy of the earth under our feet and try to feel more grounded and when we are in a seated asana, we should try to ground ourselves from our buttocks.

In order to balance the energy of vata and to feel a bit warmer energy, we can also use “pranayama” (breathing) techniques. We can close our left nostril and inhale and exhale through our right nostril, which will wake the male and solar energy in our bodies and help get and feel warmer in the cooler days of autumn.

When we talk about equinox, whether its fall or spring, we should always talk about a balance. Day and night are equal in these times of the year and either night or day will start to get longer in the following few days. When night and day are equal, dark and brightness will be equal. We should establish a balance between fire and water and yin and yang are equal. Static and dynamic, known and unknown, inner and outher journey, seen and unseen, logic and intuition, conscious and unconscious because on September 23, we are moving from sun to moon, light to dark, yang to yin, outer achievements to inner reflection, action to contemplation and fire to water. To this end, balance is so important in these times of the year. Either in our yoga classes or own yoga practice, we should practice balancing poses like “vrksasana” (tree pose), “garudasana” (eagle pose), “natarajasana” (dancer’s pose), “utthita hasta padangusthasana” (hand to toe pose) and “virabhadrasana III” (warrior III).

Moreover, we can practice asanas stimulating the lung and large intestine meridians during the fall equinox and autumn. For instance, “marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat-cow stretch), “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog), “uttanasana” (standing forward bend), “tadasana” (mountain pose), “high lunge”, “virabhadrasana I” (warrior I), “parsvakonasana” (wide angle pose), “garudasana” (eagle pose), “natarajasana” (dancer’s pose), “apanasana” (knees to chest pose), “yogic cycles” (abdominal work) ve “jathara parivartanasana” (abdominal twist) can be a beneficial flow to stimulate large intestines and lungs.

“Eka pada adho mukha svanasana” (three legged downward facing dog), “virabhadrasana III” (warrior III), “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II), “trikonasana” (triangle), “parighasana” (gate pose), “ardha chandrasana” (half moon pose), “malasana” (squat pose), “bakasana” (crow pose), “sirsasana” (headstand), “dandasana” (staff pose), “paschimottanasana ” (seated forward bend),  “balasana” (child pose), “phalakasana” (plank pose), “chaturanga dandasana” (low plank), “salabhasana” (locust pose), “dhanurasana” (bow pose), “supta virasana” (supine hero pose), “bhujangasana” (cobra pose), “vasisthasana” (side plank pose- Sage Vasishta pose), “marichyasana” (SageMarichi twist), “ustrasana” (camel pose) are other asanas we may practice in our yoga classes and own yoga practice during fall.

I have said that we should attach importance to grounding in our yoga practice during fall. “Ujjayi pranayama” (victory breath) not only warms our bodies up but also prevents us from getting injured. So, it is an efficient breathing technique we can use in all our yoga practices throughout the year, not only in autumn.

We can feel more flexible due to the increasing element of “vata” in fall and we can cross our limits and get injured. Therefore, we should practice at a slow, smooth and steady pace. We can stay in “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) — the sine qua non asana of all yoga classes — longer than usual to balance vata energy. We can get a blanket and cover our eyes with an eye pillow to feel calmer.

We can also welcome the equinox with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series. “Vata dosha” is related with the elements air and ether in the body. In order to balance the elements air and ether, we could increase the element air in the body. Therefore if we practice 108 sun salutations in the equinox, we can warm the body up and increase the elements fire and water, I.e the “pitta dosha” in the body.

I had no intention to celebrate the equinox when I went to group class this week. When I went to the class, I did not realize that the equinox was so close. Since there was a holiday due to a feast in our country next week, I realized that we could not celebrate the autumn equinox and I decided to practice sun salutations in this week’s group class. I started to play “mantra”s (sacred syllables uttured to clear the mind) and we began the flow by keeping up with the pace of the mantra. Unfortunately we just had limited time in the group class and so we would just practice 54 sun salutations. At the end of every five rounds, we waited in “tadasana” (mountain pose), turned to the center, re-established body-mind-soul integrity and rested. We completed 54 series at the end of the class. We ended the class with a forward bend, twist and “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).

There were some students that rested from time to time in-between the flows. What pleased me the most? Yes, we have been practicing altogether for about two years and I once more saw how the group had progressed in that time. They could practice “surya namaskara” series without any short of breath but so easily. Sometimes with eyes closed, sometimes eyes opened, sometimes using “drishti” (gaze) and sometimes without my directives but with their own flow, pace and breath.

Getting feedbacks after class… How tired and exhausted they were feeling at the beginning of the class and how they thought they could not make it up… But at the end how lively and energetic they felt. We had triggered the element fire in the body, produced energy within ourselves and revived.

Days, months and seasons… One come after the other. There is a flow in our daily lives like in yoga. Always an action. Winter, spring, summer. And now comes the autumn. We can practice different types of yoga to make our bodies, minds and souls happier and calmer in each season What is important is to ensure the integrity, unity and balance of our bodies, minds and souls in all these seasons. The rest! No need to care about!

“Mrs. Yircali, we have practiced asanas and flow yoga in our classes so far. I have been trying meditation on my own for some time but I do not know whether I can do it or not. Can we try meditation in our next class?” Why not?

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When I arrived at the gym club that day, I forgot that we would focus on meditation and therefore I was planning a very different class. The student who wanted to try meditation showed up and said, “Mrs. Yircali we will try meditation today, won’t we?” Of my God, I have totally forgotten. I had promised to try meditation and “trataka kriya” (cleansing technique) in that class. We needed a candle and a lighter for “trataka kriya” and I had not brought a candle and a lighter for I had totally forgotten about my promise. For a minute, I thought what I could do. We could focus on another object instead of a candle. I could put my water bottle in the middle of the class and we could try “trataka kriya” that way. Yes, this was the best solution.
At that moment, another student told me that her house was so close to the gym club and she could rush home and brought a candle and a lighter as the class would begin in 15 minutes. That was really good news.
I decided to focus on “ajna” (third eye) chakra since we would try meditation that day. I told the class that we would focus on the third eye chakra and use “drishti” (gaze) in all asanas. I informed them about the “drishti” points when we would get out of one pose and get into another. My aim was to focus the mind on a single point and prepare the mind for meditation.
The “drishti” points were the tip of the nose, the hands, the navel, the toes, between the eyebrows and the right and left shoulder in twists.
When warming the bodies up with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series, we brought the awareness on “drishti” points. When inhaling, we interlaced the palms and lift the arms upward, looking at the hands. When exhaling, we kept the gaze at our hands and bent forward and then turned the gaze to our toes. In the next inhale, we opened half-way and looked between the eybrows and in the next exhale, we got into plank pose still gazing at the point between the eyebrows. Gaze was still between the eyebrows in “ashtangasana” (knee-chest-chin) and “urdhva mukha svanasana” (upward facing dog) and it turned to the navel in “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog). When we walked to the front of the mat in the next inhale, the gaze was between the eyebrows and in the next exhale, the gaze was at the toes. In the last inhale, the palms were joined together and the gaze was at the hands till we totally stood up. We tried to keep the mind on a certain focal point without losing the gaze. Tried to calm the mind down and focus it on a single point.
Then came standing asanas including “trikosana” (triangle), “ardha salamba sirsasana” (dolphin pose), “anjaneyasaan” (low lunge), “parsvakonasana” (side angle pose) and “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II). We tried to increase our concentration by focusing on the gaze in all these asanas.
It was time for some sitting poses including “dandasana” (staff pose), “janu sirsasana” (head to knee pose), “paschimottanasana” (sitting forward bend), “bharadvajrasana” (Sage Bharadvaja twist) and we inverted the bodies with “salamba sirsasana” (headstand), “salamba sarvangasana” (shoulderstand), “halasana” (plow pose), “karnapidasana” (ear pressure pose), “matsyasana” (fish pose) and “setu bandhasana” (bridge pose). We balanced the energy with a twist.
Now, we were ready for “trataka kriya” and meditation. Literally, “trataka” means to look and watch whereas “kriya” means act of cleansing. In this cleansing method, we were focusing the eyes on a symbol, candle or an object and try to keep them open until the eyes get wet. We would blink the eyes for a while when they got wet and then went on with the cleansing method.
We made a circle for “trataka kriya” and meditation. I walked to the back of the class and started to guide the students. We first looked at the entire candle and then to the flame. We looked at the colors of the flame and watched the flames growing and shrinking. We tried to keep the eyes open as much as possible and without blinking for a while. Then the eyes got wet and we blinked them. Then we gazed at a wider angle. Then a narrower angle. Then we closed the eyes and tried to see the candle with eyes closed. “To see eyes closed.” “Trataka kriya” lasted for fifteen minutes.
After “trataka kriya”, we practiced “nadi shodhana pranayama” (energy channel cleaning breathing technique). The aim was to balance the male and female energies in “ajna” (third eye) chakra and help one be and fell one in universe.
Then we got into meditation with eyes closed. I advised the students to focus on their breath. Try to stay in the present time by counting the breath. “The mind always talks. It jumps from one thought to another. It never stops. It never calms down. Our aim is to calm the mind down. One of the best way to keep the mind silent is to close the eyes. We are doing it right now. We should feel comfortable when meditating. If sitting in a cross-legged position and keeping the back straight is hard for you, then lean somewhere. If a cross-legged position is hard for you, then extend your legs. Do not forget! The most important thing in meditation is to feel your body comfortable. When the body is comfortable and relaxed, the mind will feel relaxed. So find the best sitting pose for yourself. If your leg gets numb and if your body is telling it to you, this is good. This means that the mind is here at the present time. If you see that your mind is wandering and goes after some thoughts, then try to bring the mind back to the present time and to the class. How? Focus on your breath. Count your inhales and exhales. Watch your breath. Like I inhaled one, exhaled one. Thoughts come and go. You only watch. Do not comment on them. When you do not comment and go after your thoughts, you will see that you are thoughtless for only a while at first. Only for a moment. Calm and thoughtless. Then in time, this moment of thoughtlessness will prolong. Two seconds, three seconds, one minute, three minutes, five minutes… Our aim is to extend this moment of thoughtlessness in time.”
Then I stopped talking and left the students alone with their own experience. After ten minutes, it was time for “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose). “Keeping the eyes closed, slowly get into deep relaxation pose. Let your body melt in the ground. Surrender your body to the energy of earth. Relax completely. Remember that your body is just a cover. Watch your breath. Be in harmony with your breath and let your body melt in the ground. Leave your body to the ground.”
How would I end this class? Our conscious lived in the third eye chakra. Our eyes could only see the past and present but we could foresee thanks to our third eye. Our intuition, perception and foresight could be stronger thanks to the third eye. “To see eyes closed.” This was the main idea of the class for me. Could we understand others? Could we develop empathy? Could we see the things around us with eyes closed?

From “vrksasana” (tree) to “virabhadrasana III” (warrior III), from warrior III to “urdhva prasarita eka padasana” (standing split), from standing split to “garudasana” (eagle), from eagle to “utthita hasta padangusthasana” (hand to big toe pose) and from this pose to “natarajasana” (Sage Nataraj pose/dancer’s pose)… A “vinyasa” in which we flew from one asana to another with the help of breath.

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This is only a part of a class I focused on balance last week. The student had a difficulty in this flow and said, “I could more easily do it if I knew what would come next.”
Standing balancing poses as well as some other balancing poses… As usual, we began the class sitting on the mat. After a brief meditation, we started to test our balance that day with balance in table pose and “vygahrasana” (tiger pose). In tiger pose, the bodies started to shake from side to side. Were we testing our balance or was ourbalance testing us? After warming up the bodies with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series, we started to include some balancing asanas in-between the series.  “Vasisthasana” (Sage Vasistha pose/side plank) and different variations of this pose, “bakasana” (crow), “svarga dvijasana” (bird of paradise), “ashva sanchalayasana” (high lunge), “parivrtta parsvakonasana” (twisted side angle pose) and “eka hasta bhujasana” (one hand arm balance) were some of them.
Balancing poses are among the most challenging yoga asanas because we have to control our bodies and mind when practicing these poses. We have to use our core muscles in order to establish our body balance. If we are doing a stading balancing pose, it will be good for us to get grounded firmly on our feet. It is possible to control the mind by focusing our gaze at one point.
We should be calm and patient when doing balancing asanas. We should get into the pose slowly and carefully by calming the mind and nervous system down with the help of breath. When doing balancing poses and inversions, we should always keep the impact of the nervous sypstem in mind because these poses stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and send the body “fight/flight response.” You can see that your heartbeat is higher in balancing poses and inversions. In such a circumstance, you should focus on breath, calm the mind and stay in the pose for a few breaths.
When talking about balance, we should also talk about vestibular and proprioception systems because both systems help us keep our balance. Vestibular system contributes to balance in mammals and provides the leading contribution about movement and sense of balance.  Situated in the inner ear, it sends signals primarily to the neural structures that control eye movements, and to the muscles that keep a creature upright. The brain uses information from the vestibular system in the head to understand the body’s dynamics and kinematics (including its position and acceleration). In short, vestibular system is a system in inner ear that gives us information about the position of the head.
On the other hand, proprioception is the sense that helps us perceive where our body is in space and gives us the ability to plan and coordinate movements. Sense receptors in the joints and muscles are constantly sending signals to the brain and with the help of these signals, we can know about the position or tension of our joints and muscles. One should have a developed sense of proprioception in order to move right, healthily and in coordination.
Let me try to give you an example to make it more clear. In “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II), it is the “vestibular system” that makes us perceive whether the back arm is in the same level with our shoulders. With proprioception, we can feel the “grounding” or the connection. With this system, we can plan and coordinate our actions. This system creates “body awareness.”
In the light of all this information, let’s look into the asanas. Some balancing poses strengthen vestibular system, some others contribute to proprioception. When doing “ardha chandrasana” (half moon), we stand on one foot, turn the torso to one side and look at the upper hand. When we do this, we change the balance in inner ear. Therefore, this is a pose that works and develops vestibular system. On the other hand, we can perceive that we need to stand firm on our standing foot in “natarajasana” (dancer pose) with the help of “proprioception.” “Vrksasana” develops proprioception while “vasisthasana” (side plank) contributes to vestibular system.
So far, we have talked about the importance of eyes and gaze. We tested something new in that class to go beyond our borders. To close the eyes in tree pose. Why was it important to try a balancing pose by closing the eyes? Because we can stand firm on our feet in balancing poses with the help of our eyes and “drishti” (gaze). When we close our eyes in “tadasana” (mountain pose), we can feel that we are moving from side to side because vestibular system helps us stand firm and strong. When we close the eyes, the body do not get the signal to stand firm and strong. Therefore, it is more difficult to try a balancing pose with eyes closed.

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Closing the eyes is one of the methods to make balancing poses harder and to progress in these poses. Another method is to change the position of the head and the “drishti” (gaze). It is easier to keep the head in neutral position in “ardha chandrasana” (half moon) but it is more difficult to turn the head to the upper arm and look at that upper arm.
That day, the student thought that she could no more bear ongoing balancing poses as “nervous system” and “vestibular and proprioception systems” were activated in ongoing asanas. And she stopped. After finishing the vinyasa flow in the right side, she said, “now I know the flow and what I am up to. I know which asana will come next. I can more easily do the left side as I know what’s coming after.” Note to the yoga instructor (me): “The mind wants to know what it is up to. The mind always want to know. Ignore the mind.”
Since we were focusing on balancing poses, it could be a good idea to end the class with a challenging balancing pose. The student wanted to try “adho mukha vrksasana” (handstand) and “sirsasana” (headstand). She first did handstand by the wall and then she tried headstand twice, one by the wall and the other in the middle of the class and without my help.
At the beginning of the class, I had set the intention of that class as “to see and be aware of the difference between right and left energies and balance of the body.” I had said that our balance might change every day and we could do asanas well one day but could not even do them the day after.
We had come to another point of view about mind and balance at the end of the class. “The mind always wanted to know what it was up to. It always wanted to know and know and know. When trying to know the next step, we were in fact missing the moment. We could not always be prepared for what we would face. In life, we could face some unexpected things. We could not always keep life under control. When we lived a future-focused life, we would miss the moment. When we missed the moment, the ‘present time’ would be missed and we would miss life. Maybe, there would be no future. If we lived without thinking about the future and by seizing the moment, we could be happier. If we seized the moment and not thought about the future or the past, we could be as fearless and brave as kids. When we were as brave and fearless as kids, we could even run on our hands, not just stand on our hands.” This was what that class had taught me that day.

Is it possible for a yoga instructor and a student to speak the same language, think and feel the same? Can a yoga instructor be moved by the flow of the class, turn inside as if s/he was practicing on his/her own and make his/her student feel as s/he feels? I could not believe such a thing until I felt so a few days ago.

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I had a private class last week. I usually practice vinyasa with my private student. I usually focus on a peak pose and make her prepare for this asana in the first half of the class. After the peak pose, the pace of the class slows down and in the end comes “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose). We have been practicing hatha with this student for a few weeks. We have been getting deeper and deeper in asanas and paying attention to alignment. We have been experiencing the asanas we have done for many times so far in a more focused way. Like “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog), “phalakasana” (plank), “chaturanga dandasana” (low plank), “virabhadrasana” (warrior) poses.
We have started to experience meditation at the beginning of each class in recent weeks. Since it is a private class, we are also trying some branches of yoga besides asanas like “uddiyana bandha” (abdominal lock), “mula bandha” (root lock), “drishti” (gazing point), “pranayama” (breathing techniques) and “nauli kriya” (a yogic cleansing exercise that cleanses the internal organs and tones the abdominal region via a side-to-side rolling motion of the abdominal muscles).
Let me start telling you about that class without digressing. I had a class with the kids at  preschool before my private class that day. I was suffering from the flu and feeling so tired. When I went to my private class, I was thinking how I could manage to conclude that class. Then my student showed up. She was also tired. We worked on our arms and shoulder girdle in our previous class two days ago. At the beginning of the class, she requested that we practiced yin yoga and strecth our bodies. It was very good news.
We began with “butterfly” to stretch our spines. All of a suddent, I remembered a yin class I jonied a few weeks ago. It had focused on urinary bladder, kidneys and liver. We practiced a forward bend then a backward bend and the class went on like that, which I liked so much. It was a different feeling and energy for me. I was turning inside and in the following pose I was opening to the outside world. I do not generally practice asanas with my students in my classes. I show them the poses if necessary, I make them get into the poses with my verbal directives and I observe the class. I adjust my students if something is wrong. Sometimes, they are practicing so well that I try to get them deeper in the pose. However that day, I wanted to practice together with my student. We would practice yin yoga and I prefer letting my students get into their own bodies, minds and souls in such classes.
I talked about the benefits of the asana in the first pose. I said that the asana was stimulating kidney and liver meridians and that we were turning inside when we were bending forward and such asanas were preparing us for meditation. I decided to stay in the poses for at least three to four minutes. Then came a backward bend, “half saddle.” This was an assymetric pose. First right leg and then left leg. Something inspired me and I started to speak. And I did not stop talking during the class.
The flow? I guess it was something like this: “Half frog, sphinx, caterpiller, seal, dragonfly, twisted roots and savasana.”
What I talked about during the class? Believe me, I do not remember so much because I was also practicing and whatever I felt was getting out of my lips. I read three books of a famous professional communication expert, Aret Vartanyan. I was so affected from his books and I talked about them. That we have many masks, that we are using one of those masks when meeting people, that we have forgotten how we really are, that we are trying to show ourselves so differently to make people love us, that we are living a life that we do not want and like, and that we are losing our contact with our own Self. That a person who does not like him/her cannot love anybody, that one has to first love himself/herself.
I also asked if we were behaving compassionate or cruel to ourselves and whether we were pushing ourselves hard or listening to what our bodies were telling us and behaving in line with it?
I also said that how we were behaving to our bodies and to ourselves on the yoga mat was the indicator of how we acted in our daily lives… I asked her how we felt when we turned inside in a forward bend and how we felt when we opened to the outside world in a backbend. Another question was whether it was easier to bend forward, accept, be patient and surrender or it was more enjoying to bend backward and feel enthusiastic, strong and brave.
I said that the left and right sides of our bodies could feel differently in assymetric poses. That the mind was so active and could start wandering around, that the breath was our guide and could keep us in the present time… I guess this was all we talked about.
All these sentences came out of my lips with the energy I got from my student. We were as if one single soul instead of two at that moment. It was as if I was reading her mind when we were staying in the asanas and this was how those sentences were uttered. The most striking thing was that I was feeling everything I was saying.
In yoga classes, we, the teachers, generally speak about some things but generally they are routine and ordinary words. We usually want to say something philosophical. Most of the time, I do so. You cannot get into the class all the time and the words do not just come out of your lips. Sometimes we need classical sentences. But that day was different. That day, everything was progressing outside my own will. Everything coming out of my lips were being uttered by my body, mind and soul. As I have said, I think this was because I was also experiencing the asanas and I was affected by the music and the energy I got from my student, i.e. the interaction.
If we ask the question at the beginning of my post again… Is it possible for a yoga instructor and a student to speak the same language, think and feel the same? Can a yoga instructor be moved by the flow of the class, turn inside as if s/he was practicing on his/her own and make his/her student feel as s/he feels? Yes, a teacher and a student can speak the same language, feel the same in a yoga class. They can be moved by the flow of the class, turn inside and feel the same. I can say so because I experienced it by myself. We should not generalize ideas in a wide world like yoga. “A teacher shall not practice asanas in a class, shall  just observe students.” Ok, such generalizations can be valid in crowded group classes to avoid injuries and to help students practice the asanas in the righest way and get the most benefits. However, a teacher’s prcticing the flow or getting into the poses can totally change the “bhava” (effect) of the class in small groups and private yoga classes. Such a thing can change the dimensions of the class and both the teacher and the student can make best use of the class. Maybe just letting it go and moving with the flow… The flow will take you to the place you are supposed to go.

I am at an aerobic class at the gym club. I am so exhausted that I do not know why I have joined the class. Time doesn’t fly in the class. One minute, two minutes, three minutes… Then only five minutes have passed. I feel as if hours have passed. I cannot stop my mind talking. As my mind does not stop talking, I am disturbed. Everything’s messed up for me.

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I am a yoga instructor. I should calm down my body, soul and mind and harmonize them. However, it is not always possible as I am a human being. I have deficiencies, physical and mental disturbances and insufficiencies like all other people.
When I am thinking all these, I recall one of yoga sutras of master Patanjali. For me, this is one of the most important yoga sutras. “Yogash chitta vritti nirodhah.” In English? When you are in a state of yoga, all misconceptions (vrittis) that can exist in the mutable aspect of human beings (chitta) disappear.
In that moment, I have realized that I have to quiet and calm down my mind. I cannot be at peace unless my mind stops. So, how am I going to calm my mind down? Can the mind stop by itself or do I have to work for that? Mind is like a monkey, it continuously moves. It jumps from one place to another. Or we can define the mind a naughty child, running from one place to another. Then, it is hard to stop the mind. No, not hard, but it requires a little bit awarenss and effort.
The easiest way to stop the mind is to close the eyes. When we close our eyes, the mind also stops. But is it possible to do so all the time? Do we have to close our eyes whenever we want to stop our mind from talking? Of course, this is not possible. We have to learn how to master our mind instead of closing our eyes all the time.
I return back to the class. My muscles hurt, I cannot lift my arm, I am breathless. See? The mind is telling me all these things. It wants to influence me and to urge me to leave the class. It tries to master and affect me as well as convincing me that I am exhausted. I know that it will not stop until it succeeds.
At least I have realized. Ok, I am tired a bit. I could not have a good rest but I joined the class. I am actually at the studio so it is not a wise thing to leave the class. I have to stop my mind and I close my eyes. I bring my awareness to my inhales and exhales, which calms me a bit. My breath is calmed down, so does my mind. It seems that it is a bit silent now. I open my eyes. Surely, my mind does not miss this opportunity and it opens itself up too. It tries to convince me again and again, it does not give up.
Once I have realized that it is the mind that keeps on reminding me the pain and agonies and telling that I am breathless, I am not giving up either. I know that the mind wants to influence me and I am doing just the opposite and trying to master my mind. As it tries, I am trying to do the opposite. I am trying to calm it down.
How do you convince a child to do something? You humor him/her. I am also humoring my mind. Yes, my dear mind, I am totally exhausted right now, I have muscle pain, my legs and arms are still aching. But listen my dear mind, I like this class. Sometimes I want to join a dynamic class and listen to disco music. Let’s make a deal, just stop talking for the rest 30 minutes, take a rest and I finish the class. Promise, I will humor you after that.
Interesting but my mind stops talking. I presents the rest of the class as a gift to me and I ignore my pains and work till the end of the class.
I thank my mind after the class for listening to me and being silent. This means that I had to speak logically to my mind and convince it. I closed my eyes, focused on my breath, realized that my mind was always moving and then brought it back to class, which were all helpful in silencing it.
“Yogash chitti vritti nirodhah”… When you are in a state of yoga, all misconceptions (vrittis) that can exist in the mutable aspect of human beings (chitta) disappear. When doing yoga, we practice this sutra. How? Particularly in a vinyasa or ashtanga practice, we achieve this sutra by focusing on the ujjayi breath (hero breath) and choosing a drishti (gaze). Breath and drishti are means to keep our mind at a certain point and to silence it. In time, yoga teaches us to stop the fluctuations of the mind. It calms and relaxes us. All we have to do is to bring the same calmed down breath, mind, body and attitude on our yoga mat to our daily lives. To give a calm response without being the slaves of our minds and without getting angry but by focusing on our breath and closing our eyes whenever we face a challenge in our daily life. To keep calm and silent by closing our eyes and taking a deep breath without being affected by our mind and being its slave in an aerobic or cardiovascular class, whenever we face a saddening incident, whenever we are angry, when there is traffic jam.
When we achieve this, it is just a matter of time to see that misunderstandings, quarrels, unhappness and sorrow in our lives have diminished. I think it is worth trying to silence your mind for a more peaceful, happier, calm and stagnant life. What about you?

Unity and integrity… Integrity of the body, mind and the spirit… Yoga.. Yoga means unity and integrity and being one and being a whole, so why do we face different types of yoga in our daily lives? Why does hatha yoga exist? Why do we name a certain style of yoga as vinyasa yoga? And then, what is yin yoga?

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In eastern philosophy, yoga is just yoga. It does not have different names and styles. Only the time during which you stay in poses can change, duration of your stay in a pose can be long or short. However, yoga is not divided into styles and types according to the duration of your stay in poses in the eastern world. In eastern culture, yoga is simply “yoga.”
Yoga has started to be named differently according to different styles after it was introduced to the west. More rapid, dynamic and flowing yoga classes are called “vinyasa yoga.” We can also define these classes as “yang” classes. Calmer, more static classes with long-awaited poses are named “yin yoga.” Actually, “yin” and “yang” represent female and male energies, i.e. everything in nature and life are either “yin” or “yang.” “Yin” and “yang” refer to opposite poles like dark and light, female and male, cold and hot. Moreover, “hatha yoga” can be defined as a style of yoga in order to be performed to harmonize female and male energies in our bodies.
It is so natural for us not to have so much time for ourselves in the daily life in the western world. Therefore, we find ourselves in gym halls after we spend a tiring day at work. When we go to gym, our aim is to “achieve the most in the shortest time.” Sometimes we feel ourselves strong, more active and join dynamic classes. Sometimes we feel tired and we wish to have peace in calmer classes.
This is exactly why the western world divided yoga into styles and addressed the working people of metropolises. If we feel ourselves strong, energetic, active and ready to sweat that day, “vinyasa yoga” can be the ideal choice for us. “Vinyasa” means flow. In vinyasa yoga classes, we flow from one pose into another with our breath like a river. Non-interruptedly, we change from one pose into another with the help of breath, and like flowing water. And as if we are dancing. Instructors can add “surya namaskar” (sun salutation series) at the beginning, middle and end of these classes. And also they can ask us to perform a set of “surya namaskar” between some sitting poses, thus we can overcome and eliminate any stiffness in our bodies if there are some at that time.
“Ashtanga yoga” is one of the most well-known of vinyasa classes. It is a style of flow yoga developed by Pattabhi Jois. It has an unchangeable flow, and it is not performed during new or full moon because we do not want to hurt our bodies with moon’s effects. This style of yoga uses “ujjayi” (hero) breath, “mula” (root) and “uddiyana” (abdominal) “bandha”s (locks) and we always have a “drishti” (a perspective) in the poses.
On some days, we may feel something different in our bodies but we cannot even define what it is. This may result because of a change in our male and female energies. One day, our male energy may prevail and the other day we may be under the influence of our femal energy. Hatha yoga can be the best thing to do under such a circumstance. In simple, hatha yoga is the yoga of sun and moon, i.e. the unification of male and female energies. We try to balance these two energies when doing hatha yoga. A bit female, a bit male… After doing “purvottanasana” (reverse plank), we do “paschimottanasana” (seated forward bend) in order to regulate and balance the two energies in our bodies. “Purvottanasana” means looking towards the east, which is a male asana. However, “paschimottanasana” means the posture heading towards the west, which is a female asana. For this reason, we do poses affecting sun and moon, male and female energies, in hatha yoga. Thus, we balance the energies in our bodies and we try to harmonize our mind, body and spirit– which is the final target of yoga.
One day, we may feel ourselves tired and exhausted. Such a day may be a good opportunity to experience yin yoga and spoil ourselves. Yin yoga is a style of yoga that has come out as a synthesis of hatha yoga and Chinese Taoist tradition. In fact, what we should do is to stay longer in asanas, and feel the relaxation and stretch in our connective tissues.
Yin yoga aims at relaxation and stretch. Finding peace in our bodies and mind. Since we aim to relax and stretch up to our connective tissues in yin yoga, we enter into poses and we give ourselves in. We loosen our muscles. However, it is out of question for us to loosen our muscles in hatha and vinyasa yoga. We tighten our muscles all the time when doing hatha and vinyasa yoga, and we try to warm our bodies up by using “ujjayi” (hero) breathing and thus, aim to eliminate the risk of injuries. However in yin yoga, we aim to give ourselves in, and accept the situation we are in. Under such a circumstances, relaxation and peace prevail. Sometimes, our mood and bodies let us do yin yoga but sometimes the instructors asks us to do such a pose that we cannot stay even a single moment in that pose. We should not forget that the philosophy of yoga is associated with flexibility and acceptance. In that case, we can accept this situation and we can try another pose that has the same affect. What does this mean? We are not depended on a single pose in yin yoga. If our aim is to work a certain part of our body and affect our internal organs, then we can achieve this goal with many different asanas, not just one asana. This is what differs yin yoga from others. If our aim is to work the hip external rotator muscles, i.e. the gluteal muscles and iliotibial band, then we can achieve this goal with many poses like “shoelace”, “square” or “sleeping swan” and we can stimulate our gall bladder.
Yoga is such a flexible and wide world. The western world has adopted classical yoga to its own habits, and turned it into a system and philosophy acceptable to everyone.
In fact, yoga is just “yoga”. Yoga asanas are all the same irrespective of what type of yoga we are performing. Only the duration of our stay in the poses change. We can sometimes use props and try to modify the poses for our bodies.
Whatever it is named, yoga is the art of being a whole in the past or today’s world, in the west or the east. It is a mental and bodily relaxation and stretch, finding peace, and acceptance.
The only matter is to stay yin, calm ourselves, accept and give ourselves in, under a yang pose or circumstance whenever doing yoga or in real life. Similarly, we should become yang, get more energized, strong and active in a ying pose or situation if we are supposed to do so.
We should not forget that yin and yang is an indispensable whole. Every yin element can also be yang, and every yang element can be yin at the same time. What we should do is to balance our yin and yang energies, listen to our inner voice and insights, and meet our instant needs. This can sometimes be running or jogging, dancing, meditating, jumping, a yang style yoga, or a yin style yoga. What can we expect and hope more if we balance our yin and yang energies and if one does not dominate the other?

“If you just look forward, you cannot see what is going on behind yourself. Maybe there may be better things in your back, and if you just look forward and do not look behind, you can miss those good things.” A wise person whom I respect a lot has told me so. In fact, he was not talking about yoga when he made these remarks. However, when I heard these words, I immediately thought that I could apply them to yoga and my daily life, and I could create a new blog article. Why not?

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Yoga, the word itself, talks about unity and integrity. When we talk about yoga, some people only recall sports activities and classes like “fitness”, “pilates”, and “abs and butts.”
In fact, yoga is not an activity, but it’s a life style. Yoga means integrity. Yoga means the unity and integrity of mind, spirit and body. That’s why, we do not have a single perspective, “drishti” in yoga. When we enter a pose, we have different “drishti”s. We may gaze at our toes, we may gaze at a point in front of us, we may gaze at our navel, we may gaze at the tip of our nose, we may gaze at our hand above, we may look behind, and we may sometimes gaze between our eye brows. That is, we do not stay at only one point, our perspective and gaze can change.
Isn’t it the same in life? If we are a bigot, if we are fixed on one thing, we miss what is going around us, in our right, left or behind. Maybe there are things that can make us happy on our right, left or behind. Maybe they are more beneficial to us, but we miss them as we just look in front of us.
In fact, yoga is the life itself. Have you ever noticed that we are acting just the same as how we act on a yoga mat? If we are a bigot, we assume a bigot attitude during our yoga practice. We only look in front of us, and looking behind, i.e. backbends, become the most challenging poses for us. Remembering the past, confronting the past, accepting it, accepting ourselves and then the others, accepting the life, and even forgiving ourselves, others and the life itself. All these can be difficult and challenging for us.
As in life, when we just look forward during our yoga practice, we miss a lot. When we do a backbend, when we look behind, maybe we can see a different world. But, as we just look front, we miss these different views and beauties. We can never experience the enthusiasim, happiness, joy and relief of a backbend.
Similarly, when we make a lateral stretch in yoga, when we do a twist, we also have  the chance to see other beauties and light, like in real life.
When we are on a yoga mat, when we use only the front of the mat and do not use the rest of it, we face the same thing. Why do we only use a part of the mat? Is it because of our habits or is it because we just look forward and we close our eyes to what is going on around ourselves. However, if we are dynamic and if we move on the mat, we may enjoy different experiences. So, why do we push new and different experiences when there is such a possibility? Is it because we are bigot and we only look at only one point?
To this end, is yoga a method and chance to change ourselves, have new perspective and ensure unity and integrity? I do not want to answer this question. It is everybody’s own experience. I can only recommend that you do yoga once and give the answer yourselves even if you have never done yoga before. After all, we cannot see what is happening behind us if we just look in front of us.