WHAT IS YOGA?
Describe your practice how you will – physical, mental, spiritual, Ashtanga, Bikram, Hatha, Hot, the list goes on and on and on – but there’s no denying yoga is, in essence, a tool for everyday life. It’s a tool for transformation. For concentration. For meditation. For self-discipline. For learning. For self development. For change. For empowerment. For self-care. For recovery. For so many things, and when you add them all together, the result you get is life.
So if yoga is a tool for life, your yoga studio must be a little bit like the toolbox you use to keep everything together. Within the four walls of your studio are another series of smaller tools you can call on to help you improve your daily practice. Your teacher fits into this toolbox too (though we suggest you don’t call them a tool!), as they work to bring you towards the concentration that will lead you to meditation, which will bring you towards leading a better life.
So let’s cut the metaphors now and get specific. What exact tools are we talking about here? Because when you go online or to your nearest sports store, there are an array of tools available to the modern day yogi – blocks, bolsters, straps, rollers, blankets, DVDS, books, mats and more. But these are NOT the tools we’re talking about. If anything, all of these tools often serve more as a distraction.
After all, do you really think the ancient yogis in the caves of India were using special sweat-absorbent towels to aid their daily practice thousands of years ago? No. They used the primary tool we all need for yoga – the one we were born with. That tool of course, is the body, which should always be accompanied by the mind and spirit. And another absolutely essential tool for your practice, comes directly from your body, and that is of course your breath.
Your breath can be used as a tool to regulate the rhythm of your asanas. Your breath stimulates your circulation and delivers fresh oxygen to your blood and your brain. The pranayamas (breathing exercises) you do as part of your class work in conjunction with your asanas bring prana (energy), heat, concentration and relaxation to the body at different times throughout the class. Towards the end of class, you use the Kapalbhati pranayama as a tool to clear your respiratory passages and remove excess carbon dioxide from your system, before additional breathing prepares us for the final concentration during Savasana, leading to meditation.
Depending on the style of yoga you choose to practice at Hot Yoga Ibiza, either the mirror or the white wall becomes a tool for you to use during the practice. Both are tools to help you reach concentration. In Bikram and Hot Yoga, the mirror encourages you to connect with yourself, to focus on the position. In CORE 40 and Ashtanga, the white wall gives you somewhere specific to place your focus on while encouraging you to feel within yourself if you are doing your asanas correctly, rather than watching.
A valuable tool that your teacher brings into the room, in addition to their knowledge and experience, is the dialogue – particularly in the case of Bikram and Hot Yoga classes. It is almost impossible for your brain to focus on anything else other than the physical asanas as it absorbs the rapid-fire dialogue. Many students will testify, when their thoughts wander to lunch or work, their concentration is easily broken, they may lose balance and fall out of the pose. This is intentional – the dialogue is designed to keep students in the moment, and out of their comfort zones.
Again in Bikram and Hot Yoga classes, the intense heat and humidity are tools to bring you towards concentration and out of that familiar comfort zone again. In addition to this, the heat is a tool to aid your flexibility – in the same way that the flame from a silversmith’s blowtorch heats up the metal, and the hotter it gets, the easier it is to weld. You can think of your muscles in a similar way during class.
As we’ve discussed, concentration is a vital tool used throughout your practice. It is this overall concentration that will lead you to meditation – the point you want to reach at the end of your practice. Students have so many expectations as to what meditation is, always wanting to know how they will know if they are meditating. There is no tool to officially tell you that you are meditating. You will just know. No thoughts, no judgement, no sense of ego. Concentration, along with the combination of delivering energy and relaxation to the body, is the tool that will bring you here. Meditation is a tool to help you live a better life. To be a good person. To be conscious. Aware. Kind. Calm. The ultimate tool for living the best life you can live.