Saturday, May 17, 2014

Ashtanga yoga and concentration

Indeed, yesterday I practiced at home. We still live with 80 boxes, so I put my mat closer to the kitchen, facing the balcony doors. This seemed to be an ideal place for my Friday primary practice. Exactly at 7am I started with the sun salutation. I imagined all the yoginis/yogis who practiced in the shala, at Airyoga and this motivated me.

After 11 years of practice I'm able to do every pose of primary and they feel good. This is surely a development. Many of us focus on the performance of the asanas.

Yet what bettered, too is my ability to concentrate. 
One can also see this mental skill. A trained mind can focus. I remember that I used to leave my mind several times when I practiced at home to check my emails i.e. Was it only a bad habit? Was I exhausted and needed this break? I rather think that it's also difficult to tame the mind. It requires energy to concentrate on anything for some time. To concentrate can be as difficult as to perform supta kurmasana. The ability to concentrate can be learned. What good news.

Again I see how perfect Ashtanga is, also the teaching method. In Ashtanga yoga we learn first only a few asanas. We get stopped then. New students usually have a very short practice. This allows to develop performance of the asanas and the ability to concentration step by step.

How to concentrate: 
1. Listen to your breath.
2. Keep the eyes calm and look at a gazing point.
3. Stay on your mat during a practice. Even in classes I realize that people run around.
4. In Ashtanga yoga we don't use blocks and straps. It's a huge distraction and interrupts the flow to use props.
5. No music.
6. Have a boring life, no parties, no love affairs....... just a joke. It's possible to focus on what's happening in the current moment also when you have a most exciting life. It's a skill one can learn. It's possible to fade out the thoughts about yesterday's night events when you do sun salutations........

Also the ability to concentrate develops slowly. Be patient, yet know that it's as important as to work on the asanas. It also can be seen if someone has a focused practice.

Without concentration we cannot see a movie on TV, because we switch channels. We won't read a book from the beginning to the end. Being able to concentrate helps to stick to a task for some time. It's a basic skill if one wants to learn something. Don't underestimate this skill. Concentration is more important than being able to do handstand. Handstand is just another asanas. Concentration is a basic skill for the mind.

Ashtanga yoga is also a mental exercise. Seeing this is one of the first steps to work on it.

It's not so spectacular than doing fancy asanas, yet it can be really helpful. If you're able to concentrate you get things done. You learn to forget about your issues for some time. You learn to stop worrying. This all betters daily life.

Pictures: One is taken in 2007, the other one yesterday, 2014. Seven years are between these pictures. I looked so young when I was young. Hahaha......


Anonymous said...

So there a few subtle signs of the passing of seven years - but really not many. We all have it: a slightly stronger prescription for glasses, a little change in skin texture, a grey hair or two. On the other hand your body can do more than it did seven years ago. It is more comfortable, stronger, and your concentration is sharper. How wonderful that we improve with age! You age beautifully.

Ursula Preiss said...

Thank you very much Mike. It's such a wonder full comment, compliment.

Indeed there is improvement in my yoga practice. And yes I age, I realize it. We all age differently and I think I can be happy how it goes in my life.

All the best for you. Ursula

evaviktoriasblog said...

I like your view of the things because I really need to read such things every day - otherwise I would become too ambitious, which is not good in yoga. I am 23 years old and have started practicing yoga this year, and I love it but I always struggle with my wish to making progress faster and become better...
So I am reading this book now, about a yoga teacher who in her first years when she started practicing, could perform the most difficult asanas, but she was having trouble with standing straight on two feet.
She says that by that time she was ambitious about it, but had lost the ground under her feet - not only concerning yoga, but all parts of her life.
This is exactly what I can read from your text: It's very important to be dedicated and concentrated on what you are doing, because otherwise, what's the use of yoga? Then it's just some physical exercise and you could do some strechting maybe as well!

Ursula Preiss said...

Thank you for commenting, evaviktoria. Your post inspired me for some blog posts. Ambition, competition could be titles to come. It's how the mind works.

Keep practicing. When younger the body is much more flexible. The body learns faster. The challenge: Usually young people have so many distractions. One also has to find out what fits.