A LITTLE ABOUT...
“Yoga is an awareness, a type of knowing. Yoga will end in awareness. Yoga is arresting the fluctuations of the mind as said in the Yoga Sutras (of Patanjali): citta vritti nirodha. When the mind is without any movement, maybe for a quarter of an hour, or even quarter of a minute, you will realize that yoga is of the nature of infinite awareness, infinite knowing. There is no other object there.”
– Sri T.Krishnamacharya
This ancient practice is one of the greatest gifts bestowed upon us by our ancestors, and has withstood the greatest test of all – Time.
There is much speculation as to exactly when Yoga originated. Some scholars date it back to pre-Vedic times (around 4000 years ago), there is even some archaeological evidence of yoga postures, mostly cave paintings and seals, from over 5000 years ago. The root of the word “Yoga”, is first mentioned in the Rigveda; a collection of Vedic hymns composed between 1500 and 1200 BC. However, it was not until later that it began to emerge as a tangible concept in various philosophical texts (among these, most notable are the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita). Then, around 1500 years ago, a great sage named Patanjali composed his beautiful Yoga Sutras, which remains the most important guide to this beautiful, enduring philosophy
However, we must not take the written records as the sole indication for the history of Yoga because, for thousands of years before the first written records began to appear, and long after, Yoga was not written knowledge, but passed down through generations from Master to Sadhaka (student) as an oral tradition. As such, it comes as no surprise that the origins and evolution of Yoga remain a mystery.
Yoga, as described by Patanjali, (called Raja Yoga,) is the practice of “ashtanga”, which is the Sanskrit word for “8 limbs, parts, or steps”. The ashtanga (8 limbs) of Yoga are: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. The first two are social and personal vows by which the yogi strives to live. The third: Asana, is the beautiful yoga postures. Pranayama is control and prolonging of the breath, while Pratyahara, Dharana, and Dhyana are techniques of constraint, concentration and meditation. Samadhi, the last limb of Yoga is actually not a technique, but a transcendental state of body, mind, and soul which is achieved when a yogin is deep in Dhyana (meditation).
Through the centuries, Yoga evolved to include many variations on this theme. For example, Hatha Yoga is an expansion on the two central limbs of Raja Yoga, which are Asana and Pranayama and added other practices to these, such as bandha (locks), mudra (gestures), and the concept of chakra (energy wheels). Vinyasa Yoga is a style of Hatha Yoga which puts together the breath and the movements of Asanas. Yoga, as I have experienced it, first deals with conquest of the body and equanimity of the mind through Asanas (postures) and pranayama (breath flow). And through the muscles, glands and nerves, begins to transform the central nervous system. Then from here, inner clarity and focus set in, one becomes aware of the deeper meaning of Nirodha (stillness of the mind). Then, Dharana, Dhyana and finally Samadhi come very naturally and in a very personal way over time. For me, Asanas are the foundation for Yoga practice. There are hundreds of Asanas, each skillfully designed to bring health, beauty, strength, tone, flexibility and steadiness in the mind. As one of my teachers in India so beautifully put it: Asanas create space for prana to flow through your body and mind.
As you progress in Asanas, you find your health improves, various aches and pains in the spine and limbs disappear, your immune system gets stronger, and you have so much more energy. You also find greater concentration and focus. For me, Yoga isn’t a work-out, but a “work-in” because after a Yoga practice, rather than being exhausted, you feel energized, light and free. Asanas also have profound effects on the circulatory and respiratory systems, they stimulate and perfect the release of hormones, rejuvenate and refine the nervous system, and bring the body to its optimal condition. The body becomes leaner, stronger, more agile, and increasingly energetic. Postures and movements that you thought were just too acrobatic for you soon become easy. But the effect of Asanas are even more profound because, through their effects on the nervous system, they bring the mind closer to a reflective, meditative state, to which meditation comes naturally.
I practice Raja and Hatha Yoga as I was taught by many Yoga my masters in India, using both Vinyasa and static styles when practicing Asanas, always ending my practice with Pranayama and meditation. I follow the teachings and Vinyasa sequences as taught by Sri T. Krishnamacharya, his 30 year long pupil Srivatsa Ramaswami, and Ji Shelar Mamaji. But in many ways I incorporate much of BKS Iyengar's teachings, as well as those of Pattabhi Joise and Desikichar.
Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya
Revered Gurudji, and the Father of Modern Yoga
Krishnamacharya was born in the south of India to a Brahmin family and was trained in the study of the Vedas by his father (the Vedas are the basis of what is known as Hinduism). He was an avid student and obtained various university degrees in different subjects such as the Vedas, Ayurveda, Astrology, Indian Philosophy, and Yoga. In his search for enlightenment, he traveled to the Himalayas in Northern India and Tibet to study with the great masters who lived and practiced Yoga according to ancient traditions passed on very intimately and over long periods of time from Master to Sadakha (student) for thousands of years. Krishnamacharya returned from his personal journey after many years, he then married and had six children, although he lived with a strict (monk-like) discipline. He taught Yoga to his children and students, but also to princes, Maharajas, and the Royal Family of Mysore. The basis of Krishnamacharya’s teaching was “to teach what is appropriate for the individual”. He probably would have been surprised by the way Yoga is taught now, in big groups. Krishnamacharya was probably the first Yoga Master to introduce the concept of “Vinyasa”, and I personally am so grateful to him for doing so, since I love practicing Yoga in Vinyasa style. Vinyasa means “movement inside the parameter of the breath” or “putting one thing after another”, it consists of moving from one asana to the next, linking breath with movement. This makes the Yoga practice more dynamic and it flows with a choreography that is also visually very beautiful.
Yoga began for me at a young age while living in India as a child, and my love and fascination for Yoga has always been a part of my life somehow. During my time at university I studied biology, evolution of life, neuroscience, mind-body relationship, and consciousness, this brought me further into the underlying science embedded in Yoga and I felt drawn to the deep understanding that Yoga brings, so after completing my Masters degree in Biology at the Universities of Florence, Italy and Southern Denmark, I returned to India on a yearly basis for months at a time to advance in my own personal Yoga practice, then began teaching Yoga, at first in small capacities just to friends, then more intensely over the past 10 years after completing various teacher trainings and courses in India. I have also danced classical and modern ballet and continue to incorporate this training into my daily life. I love traveling and have studied and taught Yoga in many different countries such as Denmark, Italy, the USA, now in Poland, and return to India regularly to advance in my personal Yoga journey.
Over the years, my gurus, instructors, and teachers have been many, I thank in particular Ji Shelar Mamaji, Srivatsa Ramaswami, Swami Rama, Johar Navtej, Patricia Walden, Yogi Ji Yogendra Mishra, Lokesh Bhardwaj, Swami Yoganandaji, Sachin Gorge, Sangeetha Menon, Mary Helen Bowers, Kathleen Froelich, and BKS Iyengar for their wisdom and guidance along my yoga journey. Ever the student, I look to them at every step of my personal Yoga journey and hope to impart some of their great wisdom in my classes. I live in Warsaw with my husband, Rafał, and have created YogiTribe studio as an elegant, peaceful, homey space where I teach and practice Yoga .