Or: 3 ways to practice yoga on the mat AND in everyday life
I have been teaching yoga for almost 18 years now. Despite this, I experience the wisdom of this ancient science every day anew. There is an aphorism from a Tantric script (Kularnava Tantra) that has revolutionized my yoga practice and attitude to life. Verse 14:38 says, “If the seeker is in tune with nature, he is ready, open and able to recognize the flow of life as grace, as happiness.”
That is, with our personal orientation (physical, mental and emotional), the ability and sensitivity to recognize our individual truth and magnificence increases. Happiness, according to said aphorism – and I can attest to that – is absolutely and directly linked to one’s own orientation and attitude towards the environment. The practice of correct orientation is called “alignment” in Anusara Yoga (the yoga style I predominantly practice).
Prof. Gerald Huether describes the term “coherence” here: to recognize the meaningfulness of connections and thus to reach a state of satisfaction. Every being strives for this moment, in which thinking, feeling and acting form a unity. It is not a moment of stagnation, but a moment of action, of movement, of personal development. The moment when you feel good and safe.
Good yoga practice should bring you exactly there: that you optimally align the body and thus physically, mentally and emotionally take a step towards coherence. The change in perception is usually noticeable after just a few yoga sessions.
Three concrete steps for your yoga practice – on and off the mat:
Some practitioners of yoga focus their practice on physical issues, others on self-realization, and still others – on training the mind. There is no difference to me here. In the West, introduction to the world of yoga often begins with anatomy and kinesthetic, that is, yoga poses. However, this “physical work” is inextricably intertwined with the mind. Physical and subtle anatomy interact with one another, the emotional state is contingent upon physical posture and vice versa.
I’d like to introduce you to a highly effective and yet very simple 3-step roadmap. All three steps start with “A”, we call them the 3As:
Attitude refers to the spiritual or emotional relationship we have with the environment, with the world itself or with each other. The mind and the quality of thoughts and emotions should always be considered first.
For example: a heart is broken, a relationship is over. Physically, in this emotional grief situation, the shoulders stoop, the upper body lunges, the head becomes heavy. Those affected then experience this physical misalignment, for example, as neck pain, tinnitus, migraine, weakness, etc. When we sit up and put our shoulders and neck back in an upright position, that helps the soul to some extent, but as long as the inner attitude is not changed, the right alignment cannot cure everything. The energy of mourning will keep bringing the shoulders out of the comforting position and we will have to “realign” over and over again.
Regardless of whether we are performing a yoga position or just functioning in everyday life – it is important to observe our attitudes and to change them if necessary. An example: “The bark of this tree is so wrinkled, it is ugly.” Or we say, “The bark of this tree is so wrinkled, it looks great and special.” The bark will always remain the bark, but in our eyes it will change. In yoga, we call this Darshana: the point of view, the way of viewing something. We have a choice of where to focus our attention, and with a yes from the inside, the shoulders will stay well-aligned with little effort.
The optimal alignment of the body carries you through the flow of life, painless, powerful and life-affirming. Let’s go back to the example with the broken heart: The shoulder blades are upright, the breastbone lifted, so we can breathe deep and sustain an upright and radiant posture. This can initially feel uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Nevertheless, it will do the body and the aura good. The power and freedom we give to our body with good alignment must transform into action. A good yoga teacher will be able to lead you into holistic positive alignment in the yoga class.
We practice yoga to set the right attitude and alignment in our lives. Alignment-oriented yoga practice creates a natural flow of energy in the body that allows us to perceive both stability and joyful freedom. Once we are able to feel these actions in our own body, the same qualities (stability and freedom) will manifest in the mind as well. We will be more and more able to develop our potential beyond the yoga mat.
It is important to practice all three steps (Attitude, Alignment, Action) at the same time: Check the attitude, align the body and bring the pent-up energy into action. That is exactly what we practice on the mat. Just as impressions and emotions manifest themselves in our posture, we can let the mind become wide and open through posture and good alignment for all the possibilities and potential that life offers us.
See you soon on the mat!