Focus

Posted by Laila Kirkpatrick on

There are nine drishti, or gazes in the Ashtanga yoga method. Each one corresponds to a specific point of focus. 

Drishti is a Sanskrit word that means ‘gaze’ and is closely connected to Pratyhara (sense withdrawal), Dharana (Concentration) and Dhyana (meditation) the 5th, 6th and 7th limbs of The 8 Limbs of Yoga. The use of drishti integrates our asana practice, as it helps us focus and steady the mind and turn our awareness inward. 

Where the gaze goes, the attention goes and the life force (prana) follows. Energy which is directed towards the gaze point is said to stimulates the energy channels (nadis), the energy centres (chakras), Prana flows and we awaken energy that would otherwise lie dormant. 

Do you ever notice a deeper connection to Mula Bandha when you gaze towards Nasagre drishti (tip of your nose)? This practice is so much more than making shapes 😉

 

Laila x 

 

📸 of Krounchasana with Padayoragre drisht (toes).  In this case the corresponding drishti is encouraging me too lengthen fully from the hips all the way out through the crown of the head. This aids my alignment so that I’m not rounding my lower back or my shoulders, and I’m more focused on strength than flexibility.

 

 

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Whan Satya and Ahimsa Collide

Posted by Laila Kirkpatrick on

Satya (truthfulness) is the second of the five yamas (restraints) described in the The Yoga Sutras. It guides us to think, speak, and act with integrity ❤️

However, should we always tell our friends what we think about their behaviour, their life choices or their baked goods? This is where the principle of satya gets more complex. Satya follows ahimsa (non-violence), which is the highest-ranking yama. This means that we need to honor the principle of non-harming first and should tell the truth in a way that causes no (or the least) harm possible. We need to acknowledge that what we perceive as “truth” might not be another’s truth, as we all perceive things differently. For this reason it’s essential for us to put ahimsa first, and be mindful that our words are beneficial and compassionate. Before we offer an unsolicited opinion or criticism, can pause and consider: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it useful? Is it kind? 

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Exhale, Samasthiti

Posted by Laila Kirkpatrick on

What is the difference between Tadasana (mountain pose) and Samasthiti (Equal Standing)? Physically, nothing. It’s all about intention. Tadasana (practiced in Iyengar and now vinyasa) is a pose, while Samasthiti (practiced in Ashtanga) is a command of attention. A call to stand in balanced stillness. A practice of standing with equal, steady, and still attention. 

What is Samasthiti for you? Is it your time to adjust your mat or wipe your sweat? Do you skip it altogether, like that poor, tiny overlooked town that gets passed through on a road trip to a seemingly more exciting place? Samasthiti  serves an incredible purpose, but often times it gets overlooked, and pushed aside for the more dynamic components of our asana practice.

So, why do we even do it? Our physical practice is an opportunity for our bodies to strengthen, heal and soften. It’s a vehicle to live a life with less suffering, so that we may know our true nature, so that we may embody peace. All of the asanas we practice offer unique benefits to our overall experience, allowing the tension and patterns of our life an opportunity to unravel. The patterns we’re struggling with in our life, eventually rises to the surface in our yoga practice and give us a new realm to witness and experiment with alternative responses. Then, new patterns of balance and sustainability may rise to the surface. These postures are building a foundation for a process of evolvement, allowing us to have awareness of our conditioned patterns and start to transform ourselves into more peaceful beings.

In a world where we are called to transition rapidly from one task to the next, one role to the next, one experience to the next, we rarely allow ourselves time to process and digest the phase of transition. We miss the opportunity to pause, the opportunity to allow ourselves a moment to feel the space between, to know the space between.

Samasthiti is an opportunity to pause, and feel the spaces between our postures, between our movements. We are given the chance to reconnect to steadiness in our breath, body and mind and then, continue from that point of steadiness.

Samasthiti is more than a time to sneakily checkout what’s going on around you 😉. In our Ashtanga practice, we return to this position over and over again as a reminder to pause, a reminder to honor the spaces between.

 

Lots of love, 

Laila 

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The Sweet Spot

Posted by Laila Kirkpatrick on

स्थिरसुखमासनम्
sthira-sukham-asanam

Practicing yoga with strength and in a relaxed manner gives rise to harmony with the physical body (asana).

 

Patanjali describes asana only once in the yoga sutras. He doesn't talk about alignment, loose hamstrings, or deep backbends. Sutra 2.46 simply says, "Sthira Sukham Asanam."

To put it simply: yoga asana is a balance between effort and ease. The postures should teach us how to make wise choices, that will help us to move toward homeostasis. We will often find that balance requires us to move toward the opposite of our usual habits and comfort zones. For many of us, this means learning how to YIELD.

So the question for many of us becomes: how can we incorporate more ease (sukham) into our practice? Both on and off the mat, we're often used to pushing toward “success”, multitasking, or perfecting. Instead, how about moving toward refining, and quieting from the inside out? Finding sukham takes LESS effort... but requires more awareness.

 

Laila x 

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The Practice of Discomfort

Posted by Laila Kirkpatrick on

"There is a common misunderstanding among human beings who have ever been born on earth that the best way to live is to try to avoid pain and just try to get comfortable. You see this even in insects and animals and birds. All of us are the same. A much more interesting, kind and joyful approach to life is to begin to develop our curiosity, not caring whether the object of our curiosity is bitter or sweet. To lead a life that goes beyond pettiness and prejudice and always wanting to make sure that everything turns out on our own terms, to lead a more passionate, full and delightful life than that, we must realise that we can endure a lot of pain and pleasure for the sake of finding out who we are and what this world is, how we tick and how our world ticks, how the whole thing just is. If we are committed to comfort at any cost, as soon as we come up against the least edge of pain, we’re going to run; we’ll never know what’s beyond that particular barrier or wall or fearful thing." Pema Chödrön

Our yoga asana practice can be a place for this, on the safety of our mats, perhaps with the guidance of a teacher, and our own gentle approach. Playing with poses we find difficult, that bring up fear and our own aversion can be the grounds to slowly practice embracing the uncomfortable. Particularly methods like Ashtanga Yoga that don't allow us much wiggle room to play into our own story, can be an opportunity to play with the uncomfortable until it is simply just another experience, without our need to label it good or bad. Just is. A practice in time that permeates into our life, and can feed our steadiness and courage when the going gets tough for real.

Laila x
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