For many yoga is a theory that we follow, a thing that we do. Here, MFML teacher, Andrea Kwiatkowski, shows us how yoga can gradually become a practice that applies to your whole life.
MFML teacher Andrea Kwiatkowski writes…
Recently a student asked me about how my practice has changed over the years and it made me begin to ponder just how and why it has changed from when I began practicing at the age of 24.
When I began yoga it started from books. I began reading about philosophy – Indian and Buddhist – whilst I was travelling and dancing in my early twenties. At this time I was already a committed vegetarian and on and off vegan.
(1) Moving towards conscious breathing
My first Asana class was a local class close to where my parents lived. I loved the physical movement but found the breathing difficult to master. Throughout the rest of my twenties I studied wherever I could take a class around the world.
At the age of 29 I began my first teacher training where my practice really took off. It was normal for me to practice Asana for 3 hours a day. I began a meditation practice but it was sporadic and breath work was not something I was used to until the point in my training where I was required to keep a pranayama diary for a minimum of 3 months. This really showed me emotionally how the breath was linked but it still wasn’t a big part of my practice.
(2) Moving towards a home practice
During my 30’s my teaching really began to take off so attending classes which was always such a big part of my practice in my twenties changed and I began a home practice. I became very committed to having a dedicated space which I would tend to daily. I had an altar and photos of my teachers, family and other inspirations as a focus for my attention.
(3) Looking after your health
I began eating consciously, looking after my health and learning about a vegan diet and Ayurvedic principles as well as becoming more conscious of those around me. Asana was still a very strong part of my daily yoga alongside monthly retreating, time off from teaching, studying and becoming more reflective, inward looking.
(4) Moving towards yoga off the mat
At this time I also began to think about politics and how my personal choices affected everyone else. This was a massive turning point in my practice and became something off the yoga mat.
(5) Moving towards meditation
In my late 40’s my practice has evolved again. My meditation and pranayama practice has become a bigger part of daily life over the last few years. Some of the practices I did in my twenties I still practice daily but some I’ve let go.
Complicated asana is fine if we know what to do with that but if it’s just to pose on Instagram I’m not interested. Having said that I enjoy a strong Asana practice… but I’m open to the notion that may change.
(6) Appreciating longer holds
I love a good soundtrack whilst I’m practicing but sometimes I enjoy silence. My inversion practice has deepened and I enjoy long holds in many asana now, often staying much longer than 5 breaths. If I’m tired a good restorative session hits the spot.
I love exploring and experimenting and can sometimes lose myself in that. It’s still fun exploring the body. For now my yoga room is filled with a chair, roller, sandbags, bricks, belts
(7) Finding Yoga in other places
Now I listen to a lot of music, radio and podcasts for inspiration.
I like online yoga courses.
And I love walking meditation, feeding the animals and walking barefoot on the grass. I go to walk in our local little forest with my dog and it clears me mentally and spiritually.
(8) Relating To Yoga Philosophy
I read passages from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Bhagavad Gita, The Lotus Sutra and Srimad Bhagavatam as daily inspiration because I believe yogic philosophy is still relevant to the world we live in. If you read how the seeker in these stories looks for enlightenment it hasn’t really changed in 5,000 years … we can still relate.
I like teachers who can make this relatable. We don’t need to re invent the wheel but we should remember to bring this to NOW, this present time.
I continue to practice kindness, generosity and patience but try to add this to myself as well now. Knowing my limitations but also my potential is something that yoga has helped me with. Recently I listened to a podcast from a teacher who was questioning why we call it a “ practice” and how it isn’t relevant anymore. When you look up the meaning of the word practice it reads
“the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method, as opposed to theories relating to it.”
For years yoga was a theory I was following. Now it’s become something that I can apply to my life.