Reveal your true self

Inspired and based on Patanjalis’ Yogasutra by Ralph Skuban

Reveal your true self by ‘vairagya’

I chose this topic as part of my yoga exams presentation. Whilst dealing with the Yogasutra in more detail, I realised just how much of a code of practice this book is for life. At least for me. This blog post is inspired by the book and Ralph Skuban, however, it only reflects my way of approaching the topic and is written in my own words.

The word ‘vairagya’/letting go is one of the most important words and statements in Patanjalis’ Yogasutra. Whilst it appears more than once, I focus on chapter 1, verses 12-16.

However, my starting point lies in chapter 2, verses 3-4, where it’s said that we humans suffer, because we don’t know, who or what we really are. Also referred to as ‘spiritual blindness’ or ‘avidya’.

If we are now conscious and mindful enough, we will probably seek getting out of this suffering and spiritual blindness with the objective to reach inner freedom. For me, this means being, who we really are.

Start walking as to reveal your true self. 

In the Yogasutra, this is a higher level of ‘vairagya’, it is ‘paravairagya’, a complete detachment of everything.

Where to start

I would recommend to start at the beginning, just like Patanjalis does in chapter 1, verses 1-11. He states to dedicate yourself to yoga, to self-realisation. Yoga is basically a way to heal, it means healing to the grounds of our being, through a process of cleansing.

One way to cleanse is by calming down and quieting our thoughts and mental patterns, which are continuously changing and evolving, making it even more difficult to quiet them. The stillness of our thoughts is referred to as ‘chitta vrittis nirodhah’. And once they become still, we will be at rest, feel peaceful and find inner peace.

How to find inner peace

In chapter 1, verses 12-16, there are some insights on how we can quiet our mind, and the most important finding for me is that we need to understand that we are NOT our thoughts, that we are NOT our emotions and that we are NOT our memories. We mustn’t identify with our thoughts, if we want to quiet our mind and reveal our true self.

Also, it’s beneficial to establish a ‘practice/abyhasa’ like a regular meditation and yoga practice, and most importantly we need to cultivate an inner attitude of letting go.

Vairagya

By practicing ‘abyhasa’ and ‘vairagya’, we will be led into stillness and hence closer and closer to our true self. With the help of letting go (‘vairagya’), we can find our inner light, our true essence again and we will start shining our (moon)light again, that has been hidden and covered with dust for a long enough time. We can begin to walk the way to our true self.

I love the image of a crystal here. We all are a crystal, but over time, our crystal, our true self, may begin to dust based on wrong identifications or at least identifications that we didn’t really question and hence accepted. The good news is we can start blowing off the dust, today, right here, right now. We are free to dissolve beliefs and limitations, that don’t serve as any longer, and we can create and absorb beliefs that well serve us. By dissolving our old beliefs, we approach our true essence of being, slowly, but surely.

We understand that our happiness does not depend on external factors, but only on what’s within us. We will break out of the prison that we built ourselves, we will break up accepted dogmas, we will free ourselves from living the life that others want us to live and will develop back into our true essence.

Yes, this is somehow rebellion, we rebel to get our lives back and to live the life we really want to live. However, that’s good rebellion, if you ask me.

Let go

To summarise, Patanjalis biggest calling is to practice letting go.

  • Accept what you cannot change.
  • Forgive as if it never happened.
  • Do not judge everything.
  • Let go of what is hurting you.

Imagine a full glass of water. Only by letting go and emptying your water glass, you can create space for new, beautiful things that make you lighter, freer and happier.

For me the most beautiful effect of ‘vairagya’ is that I will be able to love and serve even more, as I develop more empathy for others, more strength to support others and I gain clarity for my life.

A matter close to my heart

This is a topic close to my heart due to my personal experience. Through yoga and my travels to Latin America, I became more mindful and conscious about me and my life, hence I started to reflect and question the existing.

Knots were bursting and I started going my way to reveal my true self. I began blowing off the dust of my crystal and gradually saw parts of my true self again, my inner light that I had somehow forgotten. Out of sight, out of mind.

I’m still in the process of dedusting my crystal, but knowing that I’ve already broken open a few chains and limitations, makes me feel so happy and free that I would always walk this way again.

Yours, Nina

Yoga Teacher Training-Episode 5

The last blog posts about my yoga teacher training were a review of the asana and philosophy practice, but this blog post will be different. I don’t feel like writing a summary of these last 3 days, I feel more like writing how I’ve experienced this intensive training from a mental, physical and emotional point of view.

We started on Friday 4pm again and I was so happy to go back to the yoga teacher training. At the same time, I realised that the completion was about to get closer, so I don’t really know if it was pressure I felt or excitement. Maybe both.

Nevertheless, once I stepped into the yoga studio and sat down onto my mat, I just felt ‘home’. I’ve been practicing yoga many times per week, in the studio or at home, but being in this peaceful and protected environment again, just made me feel at home, silent and loved.

We did loads of forward bends on Friday and whilst I’ve been making massive progress on going deeper into the poses, especially in Uttanasana, I really felt my hamstrings and my inner thighs working, to make a long story short, I could feel my entire body working. I don’t know how you feel about physical work, but I love it. I simply love it. I love it from a physical point of view to go further, and I don’t mean pushing myself into poses, nevertheless, yes, I am challenging my body by practicing and executing the poses properly, by really working those muscles, by being in proper alignment and trust me, doing that, builds up loads of heat in our bodies. And then again the challenging yoga poses reflect life for me. That’s the mental and emotional aspect.

The 2nd and 3rd day focused on backbends. I am not the kind of person that you would call bendy. Bendy Nina probably wouldn’t be my nickname, but you can call me Ninja. I had respect for backbends especially for the wheel, Urdvha Danurasana. Since childhood, and until I started practicing yoga, I’ve not been doing the wheel or bridge at all. Simply because I didn’t really like it and I thought – for whatever reason – that I cannot do it. Here we go: another limiting belief that I imposed on myself. The good news is with being on the yoga way, I realise just how much more I’m trying out, I say yes to things way more often, I experiment more, I am just offering even more openness.

This life attitude made me realise that I’ve actually got a good chest opening and that I am pretty ‘strong’, but there is definitely still potential in my shoulder opening. After day 2, I was so physically exhausted (but happy), that I just ran myself a bath with some herbal salt that my closest friend got me as a present from Peru. I listened to a podcast about health and essential oils whilst relaxing in the bath tub and I noticed just how happy and grateful I was.

I started day 3 with feeling literally every single muscle in my body, especially the ones that very obviously I’ve not been using a lot or intensively enough. Getting out of bed this morning was not easy, I felt my hamstrings, my quadriceps, my triceps, my hip flexors, and the area between my shoulder blades. Phew, plus I knew that today’s practice will lead to Urdhva Danurasana as peak pose.

We started the training with a lovely opening. It always grounds me, it gets me to my happy place. Literally 10 minutes later and an intensive warm up – especially for shoulder and chest opening – I had built an immense heat in my body. And yes I had seconds of thinking ‘Why is this so damn hard?’ but the next second I focused on my breath again thinking

Wow, it’s incredible what my body is capable of.

I felt so strong and empowered mentally that I was able to work even deeper into my muscles, because I was flooded by positive energy. We did an intensive training of 3 hours in total repeating forearm stand (Pincha Mayurasana) as prep pose and then reaching our peak pose, the wheel. First of all, I held the forearm stand for a satisfactory duration, but secondly I was so so so happy to be able to go into the wheel, whilst applying the correct technique. Trust me, if you do work it properly, it’s really an intense and advanced pose. If you don’t work it properly, it is still an intense pose, but there is a risk of injury (like in any other pose), so please be careful. This practice made me feel empowered, self-confident, content and strong and it definitely proofed my point of being open to new things, playing around and just trusting myself that I can do this.

Trust yourself. You can do this.

We finished the practice with a beautiful Savasana, gosh, how I love this asana and my teacher’s closing words were

I trust myself and life that all I need to know is already within me.

Match! I left into lunch break feeling very happy despite the physical exhaustion. After lunch, we continued with yoga philosophy and the Yoga Sutra. We talked about the 3 Gunas (sattva, rajas, tamas), how everything existent is a combination of these 3 qualities, and how the gunas affect our mind (Chitta). It’s like a rainbow. A rainbow wouldn’t be a rainbow with only one colour. No, it needs 7 colours, whilst each colour shows up in different intensity. The same principle applies to the Gunas in Chitta. However, the closer we get to Sattva or even beyond, the less we are being controlled by our ego, which in return leads to a calmer mind.

Since Friday, I wished for a Yoga Nidra session with our yoga philosophy teacher Ralph Skuban.  And when he wasn’t sure today whether to continue with the topic Chitta, I suggested a Yoga Nidra session. He said yes and led us through a wonderful Yoga Nidra journey.

And for the first time, I experienced something truly beautiful. The left side of my body felt like it was lifting off the floor, like it was floating, being very light, whilst at the same time, my right side felt totally grounded, touching the floor.

And I happily realised that I was coming closer and closer to a sattvik mind symbolising light, ease and clarity in life. I hadn’t realised just how emotional I was about this experience, until I left my closest friend an audio message on Whats App with tears in my eyes.

I would like to conclude this article with the following words:

I feel truly grateful for my yoga path, as it is leading me to my true self.

Yours, Nina

 

Yoga Teacher Training-Episode 2

As promised, I will be reporting about my experiences during my yoga teacher training in Munich. Yesterday, we completed our second weekend after we’ve had one weekend off. And that was necessary I believe, as it was quite a lot of information to digest and I also wanted to use the ‘break’ to gradually practice yoga with the lessons learned. And there were already loads, which I’m so happy about and grateful for.

Episode 2 started on Friday afternoon at 4pm and finished at 9pm. 5 hours of asanas practice, assists and breathing exercises. Whilst writing this, I’m realising how much I love doing what I’m doing at the moment and I really wish this feeling will last as long as possible. No, actually, you know what? I’m manifesting this for me, right here, right now.

Yoga is the way to come closer and closer to the real me.

Day 1: We started with a yoga practice on Friday. I was fine for the first 20 minutes, however, afterwards, my arms felt weak after we practiced the 20th downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). I kept sinking into my shoulders and I didn’t stretch my arms properly. Phew, good thing is, I’m so conscious and mindful about these things, that I can directly correct myself. The bad thing is I was really fighting to hold the asana. And then we even practiced Chaturanga and upward facing dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana), but I somehow found my breath, strength and will power from within to flow through the sequence. And I really loved it.

The second part of day 1 consisted of breathing techniques and body scan methods. We went through them last time and our homework was to guide a small group through one of these 2 exercises. We went into groups of 5 and one person led through the meditation and breathing exercise. I started in our group, not because I’m a geek, but it actually enables me to really do it how I would do it, without the influence of the others and their ways of working. I decided to lead my participants through an active Savasana with the help of a body scan. I do love body scans, as we can all use a bit more feeling and mindfulness regarding our body, that walks us through life day in, day out.

Take good care of your body and yourself. It walks you through life, every single day.

I realised as well, how much we take our breathing for granted, but how do we know that there will be another breath in after we breathed out? I will leave this with you. Just think about it and treasure your body, your breath, everything that you are to the fullest. Be grateful for everything that is already there.

Don’t take your breath for granted.

We ended the exercise with feedback and discussed things like timing and pace, whether to address your students with “you” (Plural) or “you” (Singular) – yes in German there is a actually a difference. It’s complicated… We were recommended to speak in Singular in order to make people feel treated as an individual. Makes total sense!

Day 2: We started at 9am with a yoga practice with Nella. I set my alarm that morning for 7.25am, but you know that’s the thing it didn’t go off. So, I slept until almost 8am which was tight timing, considering that I always need breakfast. So, I tried multi-tasking, getting dressed and preparing my porridge plus packing my stuff out. Who created multi-tasking anyways? It is completely stressful and in the end things take even longer, or is it just me? No, I really want to go to single-tasking, it is less stressful, and focus is key, as we all know. Whilst I’m still struggling with this at times, I can feel my progress and my self-discipline is increasing. We revised asanas from the previous week and also learned assists on warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana 2). Really helpful and I can see how, if done properly, the assists have such a great impact on the posture in this asana. It’s fascinating how our bodies work and how they always try to compensate for body parts that are less stretched, for example. We also did other standing poses such as warrior 3 (Virabhadrsana 3). Haha, after practising this pose in the middle of the room and literally everyone letting the standing foot slip inside, we moved over to the wall to practice this pose, with more resistance. And again, I felt that my body always wanted to move away from the wall to compensate what my balance and strength wasn’t able to deliver.

After this pretty sweaty asana practice, we did a bit of theory in our script and started with sequencing. It seemed clear to me in which order you’d put various asanas, however I found it difficult once we added asanas that I’m not practicing as often, so I wasn’t too familiar with how you’d integrate them into a sequence. But hey, that is exactly why I’m doing the YTT, I want to learn as much as I can, as deeply as possible. We also got some homework on sequencing as well as categorising standing poses, so let’s see how this works out. So happy to be able to learn something that I love!

Day 3: We started at 9am again, but this time with our yoga philosophy teacher Ralph. The day commenced with some lovely breathing exercises that calmed us down and made us more grounded. The highlight for me was to breathe in when you go into a stretch with your body, instead of breathing out. Usually when doing a forward bend, we tend to breathe out automatically, however in order to widen the lower back area, it is great to breathe in. I felt different and lighter in a way. We practiced different ways of Pranayama and I indulged in Savasana before the break.

The second part of the day was yoga philosophy with focus on the ‘Yogasutra’. We work with Ralph’s translation and interpretation of Patanjalis’ Yogasutra and I keep thinking just how helpful it is to make this piece of yoga accessible for us through someone so experienced and wise. The core message for me so far is that we need to free ourselves from pain (dukha), that we need to become silent and still, that we must realise that we are nothing of what we believed we are in the first place and only by giving up this thought, we can be freed and free of pain. In school, I never liked subjects such as religion and history, but now I’m fully hooked to the topics we discuss during the YTT. Of course, I’ve chosen to do this, but I also find it fascinating to really understand the word Yoga, where it stems from and where it can take us, if we keep working on ourselves. And as I understand it, it can take us to Purusha, which is when the seer in us has become fully silent and peaceful.

Yours, Nina