I posted a video (below) to Instagram with some of my thoughts in the description area. I think it's appropriate to share it here as well. So here it is...
Good action in our morning class today. Thank you all for coming each morning. I'm sitting in the train now, riding home and felt like I wanted to share some of our thoughts about the practice. When I say "our" I'm talking about me and Terje, so I'm not claiming to know what other people think.
Anyway.. on January 2nd we have a ten year birthday to our yoga school. That is when we started teaching ashtanga yoga in Estonia. During the past decade many things have happened. We went deep into the traditional system and for the past almost a year now, we have gradually started to shift away from that, in our opinion, rigid approach of yoga and started to find ourselves again. Now the question is why. Why do we feel that the rigid approach might not be the best approach, at least for us? The answer is simple really. Yoga, whatever style you practice is just a tool. It's not the end goal. If you spend any time in contemplating any of the more existential questions, you will soon understand that a rigid belief system is false and it will not survive a more serious critical "investigation". No beliefs do, they are all false and they will all eventually be destroyed.
Rigid belief systems, like "this is the only way to do it" are designed for "children". Someone else is in charge and I don't have to think for myself. All systems in general, all structures, everything with form will be destroyed. This should tell us something. It's not the form that is important, rather the source of the form. No, it doesn't mean the source of a belief system. Rather the source of this existence. No, I'm not talking about god, which is yet another belief system. Anyway, that is starting to go a little too deep for this instagram post, so I guess that's all for now. Enjoy your practice and find TRUE freedom in it.
#ashtangatallinn #ashtangaestonia #ashtangamonkey #ashtanga #yoga #spirituality #freedom #breathe #move
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Without any preparation and after having a crazy idea of riding my bike to my parents place (almost 300km), I found myself sweating my a$$ off in the hot roads from Helsinki to Koskenpää. Parts were easy and some parts, because of some bad choices, were awful. Really needed to use some of the things I've learned from yoga. Patience being one of them. In the hardest times I just kept repeating ideas like: the bike is moving, if I just continue and wait, I will eventually be in my destination... just wait. I was also repeating one part of the slogan of YOGAFUNC... Never quit!
I was right.. I didn't quit and I just waited.. and after waiting for 13 hours, I reached my destination. Way harder than the marathon I once ran in New York. That's quite obvious really. I ran the marathon for 3 and a half hours, riding my bike for 13 hours is something else. :)
Here is a short video from the road.
I think I have been in the yoga festival every year now. I'm not quite sure though, I might be mistaken, but I think so. How many times has it taken place? Four? Five? I did a radio interview together with Merit Raju and it was discussed there but I have emptied my mind with yoga many times after the interview, so I really don't know. :)
Anyway, it was fun. Thank you Merit, thank you JAGASPACE, and especially thank you all who participated. We had a big group, even if the "main act" was having his own class at the same time as we were doing ours. Thank you, thank you, thank you...
I was testing the live streaming on youtube while doing my practice. Here is the video:
Like some of you might have noticed, I skipped a couple of poses. This was a short form version of my intermediate series practice. More videos coming soon.
SUP yoga? What's that?
Like you already hopefully know, my approach to yoga is very simple. It's a tool and we shouldn't (in my opinion) take it too seriously. It can change your life, like it did mine, but still it's just a tool. It's not the end goal. Yoga is not just gymnastics, it's a deep internal practice and through a regular practice your body, mind and the whole nervous system will be affected quite strongly. It can even lead you to places that you didn't really expect. Who am I? Where am I? These are questions that might start to come up.
I don't have the answers to those questions. It seems that the more you practice, the more questions come up. :) So what to do? Patience. Eventually we will know. Maybe the unknown is the whole point of this life? If we knew the whole truth, what is there left to do.
So what does this intro has to do with SUP yoga? Nothing really. :D I just started writing and this is where we ended up. Maybe I wanted to say that even though yoga is a powerful practice, it shouldn't be taken too seriously and we can even have fun with it. That is SUP yoga. It's not a serious yoga practice, it's a fun yoga activity, done on a stand up paddle board (SUP). It's like a surf board but bigger and we practice yoga on it. This, in addition to the super fun SUP polo, is what I'm doing in Männiku Wake Park this summer. I'm developing a SUP yoga concept and eventually (in the fall) we will also train instructors here in Estonia and abroad. Check out these videos below and come and try out the classes with me in Männiku. More information through our FB page, click here. (while you are there, like the page :).
Here is a video about the handstand on a SUP board.
There are countless of times where I have promised that I will start updating my blog more regularly, followed by a long period of absolute silence. :) I won't promise anything but let's see. You never know. :)
We are now located in our new rooms in Pärnu maantee 102. These rooms are not really ours though, rather they belong to the Taiji Klubi that we cooperate with. Our main practice times are early mornings and those times were free here, so it was a win-win situation for everyone. In addition to the morning classes that go from Monday to Friday morning, we also have lunch classes Mon, Wed and Fri and evening classes on Mon and Wed. Go to our schedule page to find more exact times or even better, download our app that you can find on the bottom of this page.
This new arrangement in our school, meaning that we do our classes in someone else's space, gives us a lot more freedom and allows us to expand in a way that was not possible before. I will write more about it in the near future, but if everything goes as I see it in my monkey mind, I'm expecting to open our next location already before the year changes. These "Ashtanga Monkey" schools will teach YOGAFUNC, TRINGAYOGA and Ashtanga Yoga. Maybe you are interested of this? If yes, make sure to come to our classes and let me know.
Below are some photos from this morning. I really like our new space. It's very spacious and the energy is really nice and relaxed. Ok, I wanted to share some thoughts but this post is already long enough, so I will share them another day... maybe tomorrow. :) Take care of yourself, enjoy your life and practice. See you on the mat!
The Ashtanga Monkey
The mentality of a professional athlete
Today in my blog I want to talk about my ideas regarding the way we approach the practice of Ashtanga Yoga. I regularly see people coming to our school and looking for change. Change in the physical, mental or emotional health. What I often see lacking, is the understanding of the dedication required to get the results they are looking for. I want to use an example of the athletes that are trying to qualify to the Olympics or even better, trying to win gold. Before I go there, I need to make one the clear. Yoga is not a sport and I'm not talking about making it that, I'm talking about the mental qualities needed to be a great athlete.
What is required to win the gold? A huge amount of hard work. If you are not willing or capable to do more training (quantity) and better training (quality) than your competitors, you will not go home with the gold. A pro athlete knows what it takes to get in the top and they are willing to do it. When they are hit down to the ground, they get up again.
So let's come back to our yoga practice. The system of yoga that I practice and share with others, is a life transforming practice. This is the case when you know what is required and you are willing to do what it takes. Also, because life does sometimes throw some challenges on our way, it's important to learn the skill and attitude of "getting back up again". So what is required?
1) Dedication. Those who are getting the results you are looking for, are the people who are dedicated. They are the people who are willing to rearrange life in a way that supports their goals. An example. If my goal is to become stronger and more flexible in my body, and I know that a daily practice will give me that, I choose to get up every morning to do my practice. For me to be able to do it, I'm required to change my evening routines so that I can get to bed earlier. If I'm dedicated enough, this is not a problem.
2) Discipline. Discipline is a muscle. A muscle that can and should be trained. Discipline is the power that will help you on your bad day. It gives you strength to get out of bed when you really don't want to. But if you don't want to, should you? In most cases, yes. When you practice yoga for a long time, you learn to differentiate between truly being tired and just being lazy. :) Sometimes it's better to rest, but often it's more useful to get up and do a light practice. That is if you really want the results you are saying.
3) Patience. The process for getting the results you are looking for, is often slow. If you have used the majority of your life in walking in one direction, it takes awhile to get back. For most people the physical, mental and emotional health has not really been one of the top priorities. There were many things, like friends, relationships, studies, work, money, power, etc., that were much more important. These are not always aligned with the health goals. In today's world, everyone seems to be excepting results right now or even better, yesterday. It's just how the human mind and ego works. More, more, more... Now. What happens to the athlete who has that mentality? He will break down and never reach the top. Patience is the key. Be willing to do what it takes, for a long time.
4) Daily practice. There is not really much to say about this. It just works. In sports you have training and recovery days, in yoga it's different. We learn how to do it everyday, gradually shifting ourselves from one place (tight, weak, sick) to another (flexible/open, strong, healthy), one millimeter at a time. It's a lot more useful to do an easy practice every day (Saturdays and moondays resting) than one or two practices a week with full power. When you learn the system of daily practice, you will automatically learn about patience and discipline. My suggestion is this. Try it out for yourself. Try it out for a whole year and you will certainly understand what I'm talking about.
I'm writing this post as Christmas is closing in. There is a reason why I'm doing it now. Professional athletes train, when the rest of us are enjoying our Christmas break. Nothing bad in taking it easier during the holidays, but I just want to motivate you to keep the break from your practice minimal or maybe just skip it altogether. The shorter the break, the closer are the results you are looking for.
I talk about results in this blog post because most of us have some goals we would like to reach. This is ok, but I also need to briefly mention that the practice is also a process. A process of self discovery. And the more you start to discover who you really are, beyond the many layers of ego, you might notice that some of the goals you had are not really that important anymore. An example. When I started practicing Ashtanga Yoga, I wanted to learn cool tricks like standing on my hands. As I got into the daily practice and kept doing it for a extended time, I realized that the handstand didn't motivate me anymore. I learnt how to do it, but it didn't give me any feeling of superiority, which is one of the feelings the ego wants to experience. Ego is not an enemy, it's often even a great source of energy. Use that to get you going and then gradually let it go. Practice with your heart, not your ego.
I hope you have a great time during the holidays and I wish you all the best for 2014. Maybe it's a year of yoga for many of you. Find the dedication and I will be there with you, to support you in the process. Do as I did. I chose to dedicate one year to the practice. To really see if it works or not. It did.
Ps. If you struggle with a pose today, it's ok. Have patience. See this video of this mature yogi. If you just keep practicing, not for one year but let's say 10... 20... 50 years. Do you really think the situation will stay the same?