A Yoga State of Mind

Christi Idavoy has dedicated her life to movement.  As a young dancer and philosophy student at NYU she found an instant affinity with the science and practice of yoga.  The Himalayan Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy in NYC was Christi’s second home as she studied the traditions of Swami Rama from 1999 – 2001.  On a voyage to share her passion for yoga as a healing art she moved to Costa Rica where she taught yoga and furthered her studies as a graduate student at the United Nations University for Peace.  In 2005 she stumbled into a Pilates studio in San Jose, CR where she started her career as a Pilates instructor. 

Today Christi has lectured and taught yoga and Pilates in many Latin American countries thanks to her role at Polestar Pilates Education.  When she met Polestar founder, Brent Anderson in 2009, she knew she had found the organization that would allow her to bring together her passion for international relations and development with her career as a movement practitioner.  With her extensive experience as a Polestar Senior Educator, Ambassador, and Examiner Christi is a truly a “teacher’s teacher”.

What if yoga were a mindset, a state of being, a way of identifying with ourselves?  What if we could bring this yogic identification into all of our activities, classes, and relationships? 

In celebration of International Yoga Day, we will have a look at what yoga is, how we can benefit from it and bring into our everyday lives. 

There is a universal order to which all things belong.  When we contemplate the natural rhythms of day and night, the way a seed becomes a tree, the rise and fall of our breath and heartbeat, we can see that there are patterns that repeat themselves, which are not dependent on our knowledge or understanding of them.  If we reflect on human development and the processes of the natural world we will find again and again a series of innate, unconscious living patterns that our lives depend on and yet, they do not depend on our cognition.  The observation of living organisms is what gives rise to many ancient schools of thought, including classical Hinduism. 

Just as these universal patterns inhabit and animate us, so are we able to witness and observe them with the right stimulation, guidance, and focus of the mind…this is where the yogic state of mind comes into play.

We often think of yoga as a series of movements and breathing exercises and while physical movement and breath is a part of the yogic system, yoga is actually a philosophical school of thought that addresses all aspects of life.  There are six schools of classical Hindu philosophy that originate in India, one of which is yoga.  The Indian sage Patanjali systemized yoga circa 200 BCE in the Yoga Sutras. 

Although references to yoga already existed in older Hindu scriptures, it is believed that the ancient texts were very varied and too complex for the general public.  It is also believed that Patanjali authored the Yoga Sutras by compiling the already existing teachings into a simpler and more concise format.  The Yoga Sutras are the most commonly referenced yoga text, making Patanjali the father of yoga in the eyes of many.  A sutra is a literary aphorism, or a small amount of text that contains a universal truth.  The word sutra literally means thread or string.  The Yoga Sutras are a series of brief statements weaving together universal truths, namely truths that are self-evident.  

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.2, defined yoga as the cessation of the fluctuations, or whirlings, of the mind.  We see here that the central focus of yoga is not the body or the breath, but rather the mind.  What is really interesting is that yoga is a verb. When we look at the etymology or origin of the word yoga, we find that the word yoga comes from the root ‘yuj’ meaning to yoke; to unite or bring together.  

It is something that we do.  So the question becomes, what is it exactly that we are bringing together?   

The human mind has the ability to travel in time.  We can spend countless hours reminiscing on the past or dreaming of what the unknown future has to bring.  Although it may not feel like it at times, our will determines where our mind goes.  We can choose to travel down the endless corridors of the imagination and we can also choose to think about how we feel in any given moment.  What we are yoking together in yoga is our mind with the present moment. 

The body and the breath are tools or vehicles that allow us to practice and embody presence.  Presence is the state of existing, fully immersed, in mind, body, and breath, in a present moment.  Realizing that you are not separate from your experience, but rather you are the essence of an experience. 

You are the agent of all that occurs because without you there would be no occurrence.  In order to simplify this concept let’s recall a moment when we experienced great bliss, happiness and joy.  So much so that it felt as if time and the world around us ceased to exist.  All we experienced and can remember to this day is that enormous sensation of joy that ran through our entire being, to the extent that the mind became fully immersed in that particular moment.  This absolute consumption of mind and body in the present moment is a yogic state of mind.  Sometimes it occurs during confusion or exhaustion. 

For example, have you ever been in a movement class where you are so focused on what you are feeling that your mind just doesn’t have the opportunity to jump out of that particular moment?  Or that when it does you are able to notice the wandering mind and bring it back to the moment when cued by the teacher?  Here you are moving in and out of a yogic state of mind.  

In order to ‘cease the fluctuations of the mind’ or practice yoga, you do not need to do any physical exercises.  Yoga as a mindset is achieved through the same non-judgmental observation our ancestors engaged in.  The accepting and curious mindset is the one that arrived at the axioms that form the foundations of the modern world we enjoy today.  Perhaps our greatest power lies in our ability to observe and listen.  To guide our mind into our body and feel how we expand as we take a slower, deeper breath.  To guide our minds, without judgement or the need to classify sensations and perceptions as good or bad, right and wrong, but rather simply accept what is, opens us up to endless possibilities.  When the movement of the mind is centered on anything occurring in the now moment we feel can feel presence.       

As movement teachers and practitioners we have endless opportunities to bring ourselves and others into presence. 

How one acquires this skill takes time and is quite simple.  Notice your body and breathe.  Acknowledge how you feel. Do this over and over again until it becomes a habit.  When you are in a Pilates class, notice where your mind is, are you wondering if you are ‘doing it right’ and if so, pause and shift your attention into noticing what you feel, what you are doing, and how you are breathing.  Keep asking your mind to notice, acknowledge and accept what is, for here is where every now moment is occurring.  

You can find Christi on Social Media @christiidavoy

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