Yoga is still pretty immature in its adoption in Australia. And often those who feel the benefits of the practise still don't really know what it is or why they keep turning to the mat. Something we hear often from new students is that they attend their first yoga class and something shifts and they feel like they have never felt before. Something is released, untapped potential, a sudden new awareness or realisation. I'm going to share with you the secret behind how a powerful class is structured and how these simple cornerstones of the practise have the ability to make massive transformations on and off the mat.
Integration: Those first few moments on the mat are possibly the most important in class. It is time to take stock and measure up the day you have had or what has been taking up your attention till now. It's is in that moment where we offer child's pose, a deep forward fold, inward perspective and a moment to retreat from the outside world. To bring your attention to the four corners of the mat and in that moment connect to the breath and meet yourself where you are at. Pay attention to the physical body, aches and pains, injuries, an observation of your energy levels. It's an offering to the student to gently acknowledge where they are at right here and now.
Breath (Ujjayi): The breath we use in the power yoga practise is a type of diaphragmatic breathing called Ujaii (ooh-JAH-yee). Ujjayi is a technique that helps calm the mind and warm the body. When practicing Ujjayi, you completely fill your lungs, while slightly contracting your throat, and breathe through your nose which makes an oceanic sound (think of the vocal muscles used when whispering). Ujjayi is primarily used in the power yoga practise as a tool to help the student focus and create strength through the centre line of the body, whilst performing powerful movements.
Drishti: Focused gaze, is a means for developing concentrated intention. It relates to the idea of sense withdrawal, as well as concentration. Have you ever heard the saying, "where the eyes go, the mind will follow"? Where we place our gaze influences our physical body, both posture and alignment, and equally influences the energetic body. Thus, through the intentional placement of where we hold our gaze, drishti supports not only physical alignment but encourages self-awareness through mindfulness.
The Centreline: Yoga is all about finding and restoring balance. And to each and everyone of us this can mean something different. The way we hold our posture left/right, anterior/posterior, in fact in each pose the centreline can feel different. Starting with whatever is touching the mat, from periphery to centerline your muscles are drawing in toward the bones, and there is an organisation of all physical parts toward the center of your body. From there we express out to the possibility of the pose and the practise.
Flow State: In my opinion it is hard to get into the state of flow in a yoga class until at least the 20 minute mark. The idea of vinyasa flow, or flow is that the body is moving with the breath in synchronicity. All the previous 4 pillars of the practise need to be in place (integration, breath, drishti, centre alignment). In order to move into a state of flow the difficulty/effort required must be slightly above the skill level of the student, but not so difficult that it is unachievable. Thus providing real time positive feedback loop that continuously supports your practise for the remainder of class. This is a heightened state of awareness called Flow State. Flow in class is the pinnacle of where internal heat comes from, where we start to sweat, the momentum builds, the endorphins kick in which makes us feel amazing.
See You On The Mat!