Δευτέρα, 21 Δεκεμβρίου 2015

What a Yogi Looks Like

There is something that bugs me about the way yoga is portrayed via the western media, yoga-themed sites and online communities included. There has been a lot of discussion on the internet lately as to whether yogis should or shouldn't post their so-called "yoga selfies". Some say it is important to share the happiness and confidence you feel through your progress; others deem those pictures unfaithful to the purpose of yoga and daunting to the aspiring beginners; my view, which I present here and leave open for discussion, is somewhere in the middle.

The problem with modern, westernized yoga has very little to do with whether or not you can rock a headstand, tie yourself up like a pretzel, or hover upside-down defying -seemingly- all laws of gravity. I think anyone can agree that those poses, advanced as they may be, even impossible for most of us -myself included- are a considerable part of the yogic tradition and require years of practice and a level of expertise anyone would be proud of. And if your jaw-dropping forearm balances took years of unrolling your mat daily and comprise the result of hard work, why the hell not post them on your wall  for your friends to see? After all, comparison and feeling daunted by someone else's abilities have very little to do with the selfless roots of the yogic filosophy.

So, what is it that drives so many people into desperation, frustration, and ultimately away from yoga? For me the problem lies in the way yoga practice is presented by the yoga media themselves. Yoga in the western world, like everything that sells, has become a business, and as such, it has to be profitable. And it does; clothes, special mats, mala beads, aromatic candles, props and an endless bunch of online communities and articles glorifying all the wrong aspects of the practice, to the point where it looks like an extravaganza of impossible acrobatics, performed by skinny girls in flowery yoga pants, and nothing more. And, while there is absolutely nothing wrong with showing with pride your handstand on Instagram, literally everything is wrong when one out of two articles devoted to yoga practice - a practice of seemingly countless styles and asanas to choose from- moves along the lines of "how to perform a headstand" or "firefly pose breakdown for beginners" (sarcasm intended). My progress is mine, asana is endless, and nobody has the right to tell me what I should and shouldn't be proud of. 

So I posted my own yoga selfie. I am performing -badly enough- a shoulderstand combined with splits. My asana is imperfect and requires work, but at the present moment I am proud of how far I've come and everything I have achieved. My pants are cheap and pitch black. My face looks rather silly. I am using the carpet instead of a formal mat because after a certain point I sweat and inversions become slippery.

But I am proud of this. I am proud of my yoga selfie. Anyone should be proud of their own progress.

 And, yes, I am having tons of fun.

Δευτέρα, 14 Δεκεμβρίου 2015

Honoring BKS Iyengar

Today google decided to honour the 100th birthday of one of the pioneers of what modern yoga is, BKS Iyengar.

 BKS Iyengar was an ashtonishing yoga teacher, a guru of modern yoga tradition, a true sage, as well as the author of the book that is considered to be the Bible of modern yoga, "Light on Yoga". Iyengar Yoga is still taught in many modern studios, and is the prefered practice of many contemporary yogis.

Of course, like any other apprentice, I consider it of vital importance to delve into the teachings of this exceptional man. Light On Yoga is an essential reading for whoever is serious about Yoga, in that it is an easy but profound and thorough read. Iyengar shares the basic of ancient yogic wisdom and tradition, and most importantly, he proposes a week-by-week practice plan, guiding the reader in their journey from a total beginner to an advanced practitioner.

As loath as I am to admit it, this gem only recently came in my possession, not only because I practically am a beginner, but also because, like many westerners, I discovered yoga as a physical practice and did asana for physical purposes. But, as they say, yoga changes ad shapes the practitioner in unimagined ways, so I gradually became more interested in what the core of modern yoga philosophy really is.

So, if you are a yogi in their first steps, an enthusiast that, however, indulges only in the physical benefits of yoga without delving deeper, or just a practitioner that thinks their studio practice is enough, add this magnificent work in your christmas whish list, or -why not?- buy yourself a copy of Light on Yoga as a gift.

I, as a yogi whose only refuge is my home practice, find it an absolute essential.

Κυριακή, 30 Αυγούστου 2015

Off the Mat!

“Exercises are like prose, whereas yoga is the poetry of movements. Once you understand the grammar of yoga; you can write your poetry of movements.”   

~Amit Ray

It's that time of the year again... holidays are coming to an end, and of course, among the many things I am going to miss about summer is doing yoga at the beach.

Yoga can be practiced whenever and wherever you feel like it. I enjoy performing comfortable and dynamic asanas right next to the waves, feeling the sand underneath, listening to the pacifying sea breeze filling my senses. The vibrant murmur of the ever oscillating water truly sounds like the universe whispering "ohmmmm" in my ear. Sometimes I practice tadasana (Mountain Pose) on the bus while on my way to the University. To people it might look like I am simply standing up but I am actually properly aligning body parts, breathing deeply. It is frankly quite a great way to start the day.

On other occasions I may practice yoga while seated in front of the computer screen, twisting and stretching, because otherwise it would be really hard to concentrate on any kind of assignment.

So, is a sticky mat really necessary? Some practitioners feel that it is so. The true spirit of yoga, however, can be carried with you wherever you go. The traditional yoga mat provides a feeling of safety, a kind of cherished personal space where you can supposedly face yourself, sometimes it even works as motivation to go back to practicing asana. But for those who can appreciate and worship beauty in every possible place, deep down, it remains just another tool.

 This is why I am going to miss doing yoga by the sea. There is no feeling in the world capable of replicating the indescribable joy of getting "lost" in the abundance of nature, predominantly evident in the presence of the ocean. But don't worry about that. Be it on the subway or amidst a crowded place in the city- there is love and beauty everywhere. And the truly magical thing that very few non-practitioners will ever understand is, that wherever those two exist, yoga somehow finds the way.


Σάββατο, 29 Αυγούστου 2015

Hello World!

B.K.S. Iyengar, in his breakthrough work "Light on Yoga", supports the idea that Yoga is for everybody. This is what I believe.

 There is something that bugs me about the way yoga is portrayed by the modern media. Hovering, gravity-defying girls wearing iridescent yoga pants, articles claiming to provide "beginner tips" on "how to safely perform a headstand" (!) and lists of basic asanas starting with arm balances. My growing discomfort due to these phenomena, and the feeling of incompetence and intimidation I think many of you who already have a home yoga practice or even want to begin one but don't feel "fit" enough share with me, have urged me to realize this humble little weblog.
  First of all, there really is no such thing as beginner yoga practice to me. Yoga, requires you to be in a relatively good shape and to have a moderately strong body before you even start trying asana. The notion that there are levels of practitioners and difficulties to choose from is at least hilarious, if not daunting to the complete beginner. Yoga is simply yoga, no matter what the "level" of your practice is, and your ability to defy common physics and bend in, as Kino Mc.Gregor puts it in her "Ashtanga Yoga", "Pretzel-like positions", is simply a side-effect of the whole process of discovering your inner self. Personally, no matter how hard I try, I haven't *yet* mastered any "advanced" poses, and making this weblog is partially about letting practitioners and aspiring yogis know that this is perfectly okay, no matter what popular yoga sites might imply about what a "non -beginner" should look like.

So, on this site there will be thoughts, tips, articles, photographs and true experiences of what it means to have a true home practice, with its difficulties, frustrations, nutritional and psychological flops, imbalances, and all those hectic days when you feel your body will never cooperate. No impossible asanas or poses that defy logic. I am not yet capable of those and plus, if they ever happen, they will be the fruit of hard work that hasn't quite been done yet. Feel free to share this wonderful journey that is yoga, or if you haven't tried it yet, who knows? - you might actually realize that it truly is, yogalicious.