At first glance, a yoga practice doesn’t look that different from gymnastics. Both practitioners showcase incredible strength, focus and flexibility. But yoga has an entirely different goal than let’s say a body pump workout: yoga aims to calm the mind and realise oneness with existence. Yea I know, now that yoga booty doesn’t seem that important anymore. Vinyasa ashtanga yoga achieves this by applying the Tristhana method.

In a yoga class, you train to focus on 3 elements: the breath (pranayama) , the poses (asana) and the gazing point (drishti). By bringing your awareness to these 3 focus points, the mind calms down and attention is turned inward. After consistent practice, you achieve a deep meditative state. This system is referred to as Tristhana.

It can take years for the body to open in an asana practice, but Tristhana is something everyone can do from the start. Mastering these three elements is what distinguishes your practice, not the ability to do handstand or put your leg behind your head.

Pranayama: the breath purifies the nervous system

The first thing that makes a yoga class different from another workout session is the focus on the breath. A yoga instructor guides the students by telling when they should inhale and exhale. In yoga you work toward synchronising the breath and the movement in a deep, relaxed and equal way.

From there, you learn ujjayi breathing. By slightly constricting the throat, you start breathing with sound. This slows down the breath, creates heat in the body and calms the mind as you hear yourself breathing.

The Bhandas (muscle locks) support the breath.

There are 3 bandhas: moola (root), uddiyana (stomach) and jalandhara (throat). 

Moola Bhanda

Squeezing the pelvic floor muscles engage the root lock. It brings your attention to your pelvis, strengthens this area and keeps energy and heat in the body.

Uddiyana bhanda

The uddiyana bhanda pulls the belly in and moves the energy further upward.

Jalandhara bhanda

Jalandhara bhanda draws the chin into the chest and keeps the energy from flowing away through the head.    

As quoted from sharathjois.com/the-practice/:

“An important component of the breathing system is mula and uddiyana bandha. These are the anal and lower abdominal locks which seal in energy, give lightness, strength and health to the body, and help to build a strong internal fire. Without bandhas, breathing will not be correct, and the asanas will give no benefit. When mula bandha is perfect, mind control is automatic.”

Asana purifies the body

The poses you practice in yoga are intended to be performed in a specific way and are intelligently sequenced to prepare your body for what’s to come. A vinyasa links the poses to each other. This is a transition of 9 linked poses, where each movement has one breath. The purpose of the vinyasa is to stimulate internal cleansing by creating heat in the body. The sweat purifies the body.

As the body becomes stronger and more flexible, so does the mind. This is because emotions and trauma are stored in the body and twisting your body in these shapes is a gentle yet powerful way to release this tension over time.

Drishti: the gazing point purifies the mind.

Each asana has a specific place where you should look at. This increases focus and calms the mind. There are 9 drishti’s:

  • Nose
  • Third eye
  • Navel
  • Hand
  • Toes
  • Side
  • Thumb
  • Upward

During a demanding practice you can stay calm by fixing the gaze to one point.

These 3 elements is what makes a yoga practice a spiritual endeavour. As we twist and turn our bodies in these shapes, we induce a deeply meditative state where at the end of class in savasana you can experience for a glimp the feeling of oneness, peace, silence and equanimity.

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