A yoga practice is very much about being present, of observing how our body is in time and space, and allowing the thoughts to come and go without becoming involved in them. It is about bringing our life to the mat and using it as our teacher – the good and the bad – realising that every day is different and giving ourselves space to respond accordingly. Within the context of Mark’s yoga classes, the emphasis is very much about coming back to the breath and to our connection with the ground. Classes are gentle and acceptable for those who prefer a less dynamic form of yoga. Usually the asana practice – a series of postures – is the main focus although pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation are sometimes included. The focus is always about allowing ourselves to move as our body and breath allows us, to go into and out of a posture with presence and an awareness of our connection to the ground. It is about being in the body as opposed to doing to the body. Yoga is therefore not an exercise – it is really a form of meditation. It is also about coming into the class feeling one way, and leaving the class hopefully feeling better. This is because we have created ease in the body.
Yoga, as most people know it in the west, is the asana practice of Hatha Yoga. This is a small part of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (one of the six systems of Indian philosophy within the context of the Indian tradition). The sutras give us a systematic definition of the art of yoga. Patanjali shows us that human beings are controlled by the mind and have to understand the mind to get beyond it. Only when there is a quietening of the thought waves can one ever understand what that is. Yoga might therefore be seen as the stilling of the thought waves which allows us to take control over our lives. It gives us that space, that clarity and peace, which enables us to stop reacting to situations and instead respond. This means that we can live more fulfilled lives without all the stress that has become such a major contributor to sickness and ill health. Practising yoga is the catalyst that gives us that freedom. It can help us face ourselves and shows us a new way of living. This is available to anyone and everyone, no matter what their background, shape or size!