Still on the Yoga Challenge photos, this sets are taken in Hämeenlinna, Finland. We went to the Aukanlo Järvi area which is really picturesque with the beautiful lake and natural untouched forest surrounding the lake. Hämeenlinna is a small town which has its own medieval castle and a watch tower which is situated on the hill just by the lake thus giving an amazing bird eye view of the lake itself. I have been to this lake many times for walking, running or trail hiking. But I have to say that keeping an eye for a good location to take a photo that will complement the Asana itself is another challenge! It is interesting to see the same place transformed into something else just because you added an Asana or two. Here we go!
Notice that I am doing the normal Koundiyanasana instead! This is an easier variation which you can try before making an attempt to do the twisted one. Just a note of observation on arm balancing, I realized that the power of flight comes mostly from the act of exhaling. When you exhale, the body become lighter, relaxed and free. Without the necessary tension, you can start to feel which part of your body needs to be engaged without having to deal with the added weight created by tension and contraction. Exhale more, and you are suddenly in contact with the core, an inner strength that lifted you up from the center with an invisible string, allowing you to express you Asana with an absolute lightness and freedom. So, next time you are making an attempt to fly, remember one thing : inhale, closed your eyes. Exhale, let go and be free.
We took this photo and the one above on one of my favorite wooden pathways that goes around the Aulanko lake. When I first visited this place in the Spring of 2015, I could not stop taking a photo at every bent and corner since it just felt so magical to be walking in the middle of the forest by the lake, smelling the wet spring earth, the fresh fragrance of trees waking up and flowers blooming against the soft spring sun. I was speechless, and I remembered just staying quiet for a while, soaking the nature and being overwhelmed by it. Raised and spent most of my years growing up in Jakarta, it was really an eye opener experience for me of an alternative reality. Something that feels so far away from the hustle and bustle of the city, remote yet not far away from the city itself. 2 years after, I am happy to settle down in my adopted country and to really call it home.
Hanumanasana is one of those Asana which requires a certain openness of the hips and hamstring, and usually is very challenging to be done without a proper warming up. I have not done this asana for a while so it took me quite sometimes to really open and lengthen before I was able to go down with straight legs and even so, it was not so comfortable. Which reminded me of the very famous phrase from the Patanjali Yoga Sutra “sthira sukham asana” – an Asana should be stable and comfortable. Comfort itself is the trick here. I think that an Asana in general, especially challenging one, requires a certain amount of effort where you need to find a point in between pushing too hard and not doing enough. You have to choose a state of the Asana where it is comfortable enough to be held for a while without causing to much discomfort which means – a little bit of effort is required, just not too much. So, it is our homework to choose and decide what is enough, to stay stable and comfortable when holding the posture, and continue to exhale nda release the tightness in our body. An Asana is a dance between our body, our mind and our ego. When the mind let go, the body will become more relaxed and suddenly it will melt into a sincere expression of your heart.
This photo was taken at the wooden pier at the Aulanko Uimaranta or the swimming beach. I love to walk to the very edge of the pier, and to sit there for a while watching the calm and quiet lake rippling in peace, providing a transparent view of the sand at the bottom of the lake. The water is so pure and pristine that it is like a transparent looking glass showing us an undisturbed view of the world under the water.
The calmness of the water reminds me a lot of a short parable that I sometimes used when describing the practice of Pranayama, a controlled breathing method used as a meditative practice in classical yoga. When asked why do we practice pranayama, my teacher OP Tiwari always say that we do pranayama to “channelize the fluctuation of the mind” – because the problem with human being is not in the mind, but mind itself is the problem. The mind is like the surface of the water. When it is calm, it gives us a clear view of the world under the water, undisturbed by the ripples created by the fluctuation of the mind, which in this case, our thoughts. Thus, to be free from the fluctuation of the mind, we have to be able to quiet the mind and to channelize our thought accordingly to have a clear, undistorted view of the world surround us. To have the clarity to act without being disturbed by the wilderness of our mind. Pranayama is useful in helping us to channelize the mind, because it has been found that the behavior of the mind is reflected in the pattern of our breathing. Therefore, if we can control the breathing, we can eventually train our self to control the mind and thus be liberated from it.
Skandasana is wonderful hip openers, as well as a great stretch for the hamstring. The trick here is to stay well supported and grounded on the lower body so that you can achieve freedom and lightness on the upper body.
My teacher OP.Tiwari always said, “Do not be serious in your practice. Be sincere. Sincerity will give you the intensity in practice” – so, what is better than having a bit of fun in your Asana? Strike a pose and throw a smile or two to make it way more fun! This is one of my favorite Asana because it gives a nice twist to the spine while lengthening the hamstring at the same time, which I needed to do after climbing all those stairs going up to this viewing platform!
I have written previously about the famous Aulanko Järvi, so there it is on the background. Beautiful isn’t it?
Posted from Helsinki, 26 September 2017