Hey everyone! I’m Jess and I’m a Hatha and Vinyasa yoga teacher. As many of you already know, I have a personal blog at http://heelstobarefoot.tumblr.com/ which is a candid, raw journal about my journey of finally making the plunge to up and leave my corporate life and become an internationally accredited yoga teacher. My experiences from quitting my job to living in India are all here. And believe me when I say nothing was censored or left out. Upon reflection, I couldn’t have been more real or vulnerable with the world if I tried - certainly worth a look if you want a laugh as well as some food for thought.
My intention is to keep this blog going as it acts as a form of therapy to self and in the modern world we live in, if it helps me to remained centered amongst the chaos, then it’s necessary to keep. With that said, I also realise my blog is lacking in one area and that’s giving my readers very specific information about ‘how’ to perform certain asanas, kriyas, mudras and so on. Or ‘why’ something is beneficial for the body. Understanding traditional texts is also important to assist the aspiring yogi on their path. I therefore want to introduce an additional blog here at www.jessicadewaryoga.com which is committed to, in essence, educating people about yoga. Every day I’m amazed at how much there is to learn about this magnificent practice and if there is something important I’ve learned about yoga, Hatha and Vinyasa especially, then I want to share this with you also.
With all that said, I would love to first share with you all a sutra from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, which I believe is fundamental to yoga:
“Yoga chitta vritti nirodha”
“Yoga is the control of mental processes”
Something I found fascinating to learn was that asana practice, which most of us associate with yoga, is essentially a strategy to control our minds. Just as Christians may focus on an image of Jesus to bring their attention to their prayers, or Hindu’s may visualise Lord Ganesha, asanas are a strategy for yoga practitioners to bring complete stillness and focus to the mind. It is in this place where the highest goal of yoga can be attained, Kaivalya - Enlightenment. But as a lay person, we cannot achieve this higher state without first using asana as the ladder for getting there.
As we all know, our mind is the hardest thing to bring under control. It’s like a drunken monkey jumping all over the place. We can control almost everything else in this world - animals, plant growth, our education, physical fitness and so on. However our minds are one of the most difficult things in the world to bring under our complete command. With an average of 10,000 thoughts a day, this makes sense! But when we are performing an asana, the level of focus this requires helps us to bring our minds under control, and when we can control our mind, anything is possible.
Here in the west, yoga has become more about a participating in a latest trend or an opportunity for a workout. What people are failing to see, is that without committing 100% of our attention to the practice, to truly listening to the body, we can never attain the phenomenal health benefits associated with the practice. I’ll give you an example of weight gain.
When we look at some of the contributing factors to weight gain, eating all the wrong foods is more often than not, top of the list. I know - I’ve been there! Weight gain can occur when we are not truly 'connected' with out body and it's natural processes. Now - we can kill ourselves at the gym, running on treadmills for hours or near dying in an aerobics class after a hard day at work - I’ve also been there too! - but aside from an aching body the following morning, this doesn't necessarily mean we've become more attuned to how we are truly 'feeling'. This also doesn't stops us from having the self discipline to walk out of that gym session and put down the chocolate bar after a lovely pizza dinner... By this point, the common thought becomes - “I worked out tonight so I deserve it.”Or, “I can afford the calories after that spin class.” I’m honestly talking from experience. I was that gym junkie who told myself such ridiculous lies/stories all the time and then wondered why I would gain weight rather than lose it, despite religious attendance at the gym 5 days a week at 6.00am. The problem I found was my inability to truly connect with 'myself'.
So think about this - if one has the ability to truly bring their minds under control, turning their attention inward rather than outward and embrace healthier eating habits, surmounting cravings for junk, is it not likely that our bodies will take their healthiest form as a result - emotionally, physically and spiritually?
I shall leave you this this thought - when a person truly learns to ‘listen’ to their body whilst performing asanas, drawing the mind inward - the urge to eat poorly (as an example) diminishes. There is a new respect for the body and it’s processes. By obtaining a better understanding of self, those external forces which take from our lives, such as unhealthy foods, will fade away. This is just one example why yoga, practiced in its true and traditional form, is so important. The physical benefits, not to mention emotional and spiritual benefits, will always come as a direct consequence of learning to control our minds. Once we can do this, remember, anything is possible.