What do you mean you’re not coming? What…you are gonna wake up at WHAT time?
Yes, at 5.30 in the morning and no I’m not kidding, this means I’m off to bed at ten or so.
That was a conversation between me and most of my friends when a more regular practice of yoga slowly made it’s way to my life. It was changing the rhythm of my life, my habits and my values I guess too. Ashtanga was first very physical for me, I’m not denying it, I loved the way I felt after the asana work. That’s what kept me going, I felt younger and more energetic while the cold dark Finnish winter was wearing out all the friends around me.
It was only after a few months that I really began to discover the importance of the internal work of the bandhas, the breath and the meaning of focusing the attention that every teacher was talking about.
But everyone seemed to emphasise the “regular 6 day a week of the same set of asanas” -thing which I was just quite not getting at first. Then there was all kinds of Yamas and Niyamas to discover and follow while doing all this physical stuff. Where do I put all those in the practice? My yoga was all over the place and I was more like a bending question mark than a steady down dog with peace inside. I was trying out some other yoga styles too when I felt like it. I loved doing yoga but I was not really doing yoga, was I? What was I supposed to do to feel the transformation everyone was experiencing? I needed some answers.
Uhm…so now I do what do I do?
This is when my teacher decided to quote his teacher with a great big smirk on his face:
“Practice and all is coming.”
-Shri K. Pattabhi jois
The first thing I noticed, this was grammatically incorrect. Putting that aside, in that moment, those words gave more than an answer and I let them in my heart. I had heard of Guruji but never before I felt such honest trust towards this system of ashtanga and the ones that have dedicated their lives in learning this all and passing the knowledge on, simply from this quote.
This “Practice and all is coming” was a set of beautiful words, and as satisfied as I felt hearing them, still I was puzzled. Translated into the real work on the yoga mat this is what those words actually meant:
Traditionally ashtanga yoga should be practiced 6 days a week, Saturdays are rest days for an oil bath and no practice during the moon days. Yoga is meant to be done as what is called the “Mysore style” named after the city in India where the father of this traditional ashtanga yoga system lived and taught his whole life. That man would be Shri K. Pattabhi Jois. The traditional system aims for the student to memorise a set sequence of asanas to be done in a specific order day after day. This method will allow the student to develop strength and flexibility as well as heal and purify the body while turning the focus inwards. The yoga practice is 1% percent theory and 99% practice.
Wow, this was not so easy and yummy as they make it look on those cool handstand videos on the beach in Instagram.
The more often I returned to the yoga mat, the more I became aware of my body. One of the biggest turning points of my practice was to have an experience of a real connection with the present state of mind together within the feeling body. And that was only the beginning, these experiences grew stronger and became more frequent, not just on the mat but everywhere I went.
“Do your practice and all is coming” silently transformed into these inner experiences inside of me. And these experiences slowly turned into a strong sense of dedication and trust towards the regular practice of yoga.
Thats the thing about this practice, no one can tell you to do it 6 days a week, no one can tell you to wake up at 5.30 am, to become vegan or to feel more peaceful. It’s not like there are rules in some book what you must do to reach the ultimate goal of yoga.
It all should come naturally, from within without even trying hard. That’s the magic of this practice, you start to observe yourself, what feels good, what doesn’t, how does your mind and body react to more or less sleep, different foods, different people and situations. What and all should you surround yourself with in order to grow in life, what to let go when it doesn’t serve you anymore.
Over time I have made some observations of these side products and lifestyle choices that have slowly integrated into my habits and daily life:
My body has become resistant to meat. I never meant to become a vegetarian but during the first year of yoga I noticed that the less I ate meat, the more flexible and light I felt even just walking, not to mention the yoga practice. Meat made me feel heavy and later even more stressful and annoyed. So when I finally gave it up even the smell of it felt foreign to me. Like I’m not suppose to even put it in my body. Now I believe when they say, you literally become what you eat. I can say from experience that proper, fresh and natural vegetarian food supports a healthy mind and body.
Night owl turned into an early bird. I was never a morning person. Always went to bed around 3 am. Since yoga happened, I have fallen in love with early mornings, the earlier the better. I love waking up when it’s still dark and when the whole house is still asleep and doing my practice. Quiet mornings are amazing to me.
Alcohol and partying hard are not my cup of tea anymore. I used to organise a lot of get-togethers and loved being out there in the night, drinking and being the last one to leave the party. This completely turned around and now I go to bed when others enjoy their first beer of the night. Even when everyone around me saw it as something that ruins your fun, for me I never felt I was missing out on something, still don’t. Nowadays I have learned to respect my sleep, the body and the mind needs a proper rest in order to keep up with the 6 day a week practice. You can easily figure out how much is enough or less once you start the regular yoga, your body is wise, it will tell you when and how much.
My body forgot what alcohol was. This is a funny one. Before yoga my whole body was filled with toxins from processed foods, different types of alcohol, even cigarettes. The thing about the ashtanga yoga system is, it begins with heating up the body with sun salutations. Then it makes you sweat, twist and stretch. The internal organs and your nervous system begin to purify, the toxins leave your body through sweat and other natural ways. This happens in time but stronger once the practice is daily and done well. Now I cannot handle alcohol at all. Even one glass of whisky and I can feel it the next day, my body is just not accustomed to have such amount anymore. I never even crave for it anymore, I do enjoy a drink or two every now and then but mostly this happens once in 6 months or so.
Letting go of the “wrong” people created room for the “right” ones. Basically the ordinary world around me and the people in it turned out to be mucho mucho wonky. Yoga put me in a pressure cooker to reflect on the relationships with everyone in my life, both friends and the romantic ones. The spiritual journey of yoga enables one to grow a more loving and compassionate attitude towards others and at the same time you learn to respect yourself and to surround yourself with people who do the same, who bring you up instead of dragging you down.
The list goes on. Writing this all has made me realise how different life was before yoga and the regular practice. I really didn’t see all this coming when I heard those famous words by Guruji for the first time.
I don’t practice yoga for the physical reasons any longer. Well maybe a bit that too, it does feel good to have a healthy body, but there is much much more in it now. These changes that have happened are not forced or unnatural. These are some of the results of the power of ashtanga. Once you dedicate to this practice, change is inevitable, transformation will happen. Keep practicing, because sooner or later, all is coming.