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  • Meric Ekren

Finding my Flow in Ashtanga Yoga


"There is a difference between doing something because you think you ought to do it and feeling that you are pulled by it." -Ram Dass


We all, at some point in our lives experienced a feeling of 'full immersion' while doing something no matter how complex or difficult it might have been.

This state of #consciousness is known as 'flow'. It is described as deep level of concentration or complete absorption with the activity or situation at hand.


Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi; a Hungarian American psychologist brings a new perspective to the psychological state of 'Flow' and explains the process in four stages:

Struggle- Release- Flow- Recovery . Find further reading on this here.

I've had lucid moments of this graceful 'flow' state in my yoga practice . It was random, unexpected but very noticeable when arrived. So here, I'd like to relate to the 'stages of flow' through my experience on the mat. Let me begin with a short background.


I practice and teach #Ashtanga Vinyasa method. It's fair to say it has swallowed my life since the day I had a glimpse of its potency after a guided class in London. It's helped me develop a relationship with my body & consciousness unlike any other and helped me become strong physically & mentally. On a subtle level it continues to feed my consistency in making the right decisions in every-day life. Simply put, the method requires learning the skillset in postures and cultivating the patience for the process to unfold.  no short cuts . hard work. commitment  & endless supply of humility are required.


Stage 1

The Struggle

The alarm goes off at 6 am. I wake up to an icy, pitch dark winter morning in #Norway.The sun will not rise for another few hours.

I feel tired.

It's cold.

The body feels heavy and the day ahead is planned with lots of tasks.

The mind is already scattering my morning with suggestions as to how to make the 'most' of my day. It would be much easier to go back to bed. Instead, I choose to obey the call of the howling wind outside, take a shower and step on the mat.

Nobody is forcing me to this. It is self-imposed action which has taken me few years to develop. Resistance has always been there; every single day but my response to it have changed in time. Withstanding the "same"difficult set of #asanas have become my dwelling place; my center.


I stand tall in #Samastitihi, chant the opening mantra and reach my arms up to begin.

During the first couple of #sun #salutations, there is a lot going on. I'm using a lot of effort in my physical actions, organising my body carefully, seeking alignment.

My body and intellect are collaborating intensely; are my shoulder blades in the right place? am I activating my serratus anterior muscle ? where is my #drishti?

This method is demanding a 100% of me- in some ways it would be easier to go for a run or cycling.

In between chaturangas I catch myself; I am 'doing' too much by mostly moving with my bones, muscles and flesh and this is creating tension.

Then, my teacher #Sharathji's voice lingers in my inner ears. "#Yoga has to happen inside you." 


Stage 2

Release

As I sway between pain and ease, something shifts. I start to consciously breathe and let it guide my movements. The cultivation of this awareness starts to re-organise, re-shuffle my mind in a way the muscles or 'doing' can not. Drawing of each inhalation starts to feel like a beginning , each exhalation re-affirms there is nothing to hold onto. As my relationship to the breath changes and the brain activity slows down, my relationship to the postures change. The physical body starts to relax, pain and pleasure become like the two sides of the same coin.


Stage 3

Flow The process is unfolding itself inside. Now, I'm going down the stream with effortless paddling, passing through inner terrains full of valleys, jungles, caves and peaks . I feel spacious and flow from one moment to the next as naturally as the #breathing.

Trusting of this awareness is leading me up to all the postures, and all the postures are leading me up to 'this moment'






Stage 4

Recovery

It is 8.30 am. I'm resting in #Savasana, floating in ectacsy of deep exhaustion and delight.

Who I am now hardly recognises the person I was before the practice;  my face is different, my voice is softer, my aching bones are fluid, my mind is focussed and I feel positive about the day ahead. Who I am now feels great compassion for who I was in that morning darkness. There is nothing sweeter. No other activity would have had the same effect. It was hard work but surely the most worthwhile I ever will undertake.





The world will continue to keep telling us who we are and what we should be doing.

Don't listen.

Hear the inner voice, Practice not doing, Trust the process of breath, and All fall into #flow.