As an ashtanga yoga student, having the routine of a everyday practice is of great importance. Beginning with pranayama (controlling the breath through certain exercises) and meditation, followed by a set of asanas (poses) that are bound together through vinyasa (movements that make the sequence flow smoothly).
This might sound daunting and complicated, but the method sets us starting from the level we are at; as a beginner, one will start with a few different movements, adding more only when there is control and ease with the ones at hand.
The practice proves a wonderful time to prepare the mind for reflection. Every morning is an exercise of calming the mind, making it strong and steady. From an outside perspective, it might look as if it is purely physical work: the practitioners sweat and jump and it’s not very quiet in an ashtanga yoga room!
In the beginning, it might feel more physical, too, but this practice really goes as deep as one wishes to follow; after a while, you'll realize that the strength built in the body reflects on the mind and back to the body again, and this is only the beginning.
When meditating, try to keep the mind as quiet as possible. Thoughts will come, so ask them kindly to wait, to be quiet, to go away, that you will address them later. Sit in stillness.
For a beginner, 9 minutes is a good start. Set an alarm so that you don’t have to keep peeking at your watch. (Believe me, sometimes 2 minutes can feel like 10 should have already passed.) Focus on the breath, inhalation and exhalation, and try to leave all the other thoughts to themselves. Don’t engage in their dramas: those thoughts will still be there after the meditation is over.
The beauty of quiet time in our busy, crowded, powerhouses of minds, is that it gives the space for fresh thoughts to enter. We need to make the space and clear out the clutter for there to be room, first for nothing and then for something new.
The realizations do not always come while meditating. In fact, I think most often they come to us later in the day. Or maybe after a night’s sleep. But through the preparation, and the empty spaces in our mind, there is a possibility given for seeing something in a different way, reflecting on something we otherwise do on instinct, learning from this and being able to take a different route.
Meditating as a tool for everyday living is a great way of changing patterns, of creating new pathways in our behavioral actions; while we learn to sit quietly and keep our mind still, we also learn to take pause before making a decision, before acting or reacting. We become more stable and stronger and our possibilities of becoming whom we want to be will multiply.
For myself, something that has totally changed my body/mind (the two are so closely linked here they can be named ”being”), is the daily attempt to stand or sit straight, with chest open and shoulders drawn down and back instead of hunching slightly forward, trying to protect the heart, shoulders reaching for the ears, worked-up and loaded with emotions.
The work of these subtle changes will show an immense change of how we are perceived in social life, and also how we introduce ourselves and interact with others. Try it out for yourself and see what changes start to appear in your own daily life.
Want to reflect with us? Sign up for our Reflection & Roadmapping Workshop on December 14th!
Frida Sjögren is a Sweden-based artist and jewelry maker. She is also a devoted yogi and currently studying the beautiful teachings and practice of ashtanga yoga as an apprentice at the Mysore program in Stockholm.