Yoga: Approaching Your Practice With Fun, by Ella Isakov
As a yoga instructor, I frequently get questions and comments from students, such as: “I can’t do yoga, I can’t even touch my toes,” “I am not flexible enough to do yoga,” or “Am I too old to start yoga?” We like to see visual progress and results for the hours of effort we put into something. What if the result was mental well-being that could not be measured physically but would bring peace and joy into your life? What if you went to have fun and you actually reaped benefits on the physical level? You could release tension in your body and your life, letting you be happier within yourself and with others.
We get on the mat. We breathe. We challenge ourselves physically. Then there is the challenge of releasing expectations of where we think we should be or what we should be able to do. What if we let go of the expectations and just let ourselves be? What if we just tried to move and breathe in meditation?
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the eight limbs of yoga serve as a pathway to transformation, bringing balance to one’s life. The eight limbs contain five Niyamas that sum up to self-discipline and self-observation: how we treat ourselves in daily life. Two of these directly relate to having fun and letting go on the mat.
One is Santosha (contentment), which reminds us that when we stay in the present moment and surrender to what is happening, ultimate contentment is the result. When you are content with where you are, nothing can bother you. Be present, and peace of mind and clarity will follow. The Niyama called Ishvar Pranidhana (humility, surrender to the Divine) is about surrendering to the goodness of nature and the universe. Patience and believing that you are doing all you can, letting go of the ego and trusting that things will work out as they should. This is true surrender.
Once you bring your consciousness to these two Niyamas and increase awareness on the mat, enjoyment of the present moment in your yoga practice will follow. Having fun is all about letting go, changing the way you see things, and moving away from the regular worries and thought patterns. When you have fun with what you are doing, that will resonate with how you present yourself in everyday life and also reflect onto relationships, both professional and personal. A greater overall well-being will be evident when the attitude is transformed to one of fun and enjoyment.
We practice yoga to release the tension we hold in our bodies and minds. Old tendencies, traumas, memories and experiences that we attach to that hold us back from true happiness. Approach your yoga practice with a fun attitude, watch the tension release and life off the mat will shift to being more joyous, professionally and personally.
Next time you are on the mat, be conscious of your thought patterns, which will strengthen and sustain feelings of peace, even when you are surrounded by chaos and stress off the mat. Awareness is the first step to change, and to a more relaxed state where you can let go and enjoy the process of your yoga practice. Self-observation and being fully present takes practice when on the mat, but over time will shift your state of mind and create a life where there is lightness and true joy with everyone and everything that you encounter. Find your inner bliss on the mat and have fun with each breath. The positive energy will resonate off the mat as you move into the flow of life affirming that we are all one, and start to have fun in your life.
Ella Isakov is a humanitarian and certified yoga instructor in the Toronto area. She teaches Vinyasa flow, Restorative, and kids yoga classes. She has traveled to over 30 countries and lived in seven, bringing a global perspective and life experiences into all her endeavours.
Ella is grateful for the beautiful gifts she continuously discovers on her yogi journey, on and off the mat. Her passion and purpose in life has always been to teach and inspire others along their path. In 2011, Ella raised $20,000 for Haiti with the “Off the Mat, Into the World” challenge and went to Haiti in February, 2012. She is also a leader in the Toronto yoga community and on the committee of “Yoga Unite,” a yoga initiative that holds fundraising events to create awareness for diverse non-profit organizations in the Toronto area that are creating change.
Ella left her career as an elementary school teacher, but has combined her two loves of yoga and children with her company “Stellar Kids Yoga”, providing yoga to children in Toronto with qualified kids-loving yoga instructors. Her goal is to reach out to communities where yoga is not accessible for children and families. Ella is also a Phoenix Rising yoga therapist, writes articles for several magazines, is a certified raw food chef, and leads holistic yoga retreats several times a year.
Ella teaches in studios and homes, as well as private and semi-private classes. She also holds contracts with schools to provide yoga as part of the Physical Education or After-school program. To find out more about Ella Isakov go to www.yoginipath.com and www.stellarkidsyoga.com