A consistent yoga practice isn't always easy. Life is filled with endless distractions and responsibilities to lure us in the opposite direction. As if that wasn’t enough, the mind has this amazing ability to drift and procrastinate. Once we make it to the mat, the idea of ‘quieting the mind’ can sometimes seem simply impossible.
The Ashtanga Yoga method approaches the practice with three elements to release distractions and focus the mind. This is what sets Asthanga Yoga apart from other systems of yoga. This focused energy is the gateway to the depth of the practice. Thus, leading students on the path to Self-discovery.
The three elements are known as Tristhana. They are the posture, the breathing system, and the gazing point. Performed correctly, tristhana also covers the three levels of purification: the body, nervous system and mind. They are always performed in conjunction with each other. This method creates a deep internal space of focus and clarity.
The postures (or asanas) are used to purify, strengthen and give flexibility to the body. The breathing (or ujjayi pranayama) is steady and even. The length of the inhale should be the same length as the exhale. Breathing in this manner purifies the nervous system. The audible sound of Ujjayi heats the body and controls the breath from becoming erratic. The gazing point (or drishti) is the place where you look while in each posture and stabilizes the mind. There are nine dristhis: the nose, between the eyebrows, navel, thumb, hands, feet, up, right side and left side.
Through this method practitioners develop control of the senses and peel back the outer layer of the self into the deeper awareness within; inner sensations, emotions and workings of the mind. Instead of being distracted and drifting off in yoga, a student should use the tristana method as a road map for the practice. Following this map transforms the asana practice into a moving meditation, thereby helping practitioners achieve the equanimous, one-pointed mind that is the beauty of yoga.