Yoga is not purely a physical exercise, nor a religion. Yoga is a life style; it is life itself. It is not possible to separate the practitioner and yoga. If you have a choice: yoga or career, yoga or family, yoga or something else – it does not work out. There is no such choice. Yoga is inside you. Yoga is the state of your soul.
But it is difficult to explain this to a beginner taking his first steps on his yoga path. In the very beginning, most people consider yoga to be just a physical exercise. It is especially true in cases involving a physically demanding practice, such as Ashtanga yoga. With time one understands that Ashtanga is more than just gymnastics. If someone works on a particular asana for a year but cannot make it, he starts questioning himself, “Why?” Soon after, the awareness comes – in order to realize the asana; one must not focus attention on it. One must stop using the conscious effort to perform and simply let the body line up by itself.
One of the main aspects of the practice is to switch off the conscious effort. Many people who are already familiar with yoga join an Ashtanga class thinking, “Am I aligning my body correctly? Am I squeezing shoulder blades enough? Am I engaging my hips in the proper way?” This is a common mistake for all newcomers. When you start Ashtanga yoga practice, turn off the brain; let your body align itself.
Our body is very intelligent, the asana is very intelligent. Let go and you will see the result.
You must be conscious and feel that you are only here and now. You must be aware of your Ujjayi breath, which is one of the three main aspects of Ashtanga yoga (http://suryayoga.ru/ashtanga-yoga/?lang=en). You must concentrate your attention on Drishti and feel the asana with your entire body. If you concentrate your attention on something besides the Drishti it might slow down your progress and even lead to injuries. Try to relax in the asana. It is written in The Yoga Sutra, “Prayatna shaithilya ananta samapattibhyam” (“The means of perfecting the posture is that of relaxing or loosening the effort, and allowing attention to merge with endlessness, or the infinite”.)
True practice of Ashtanga Yoga requires a great deal of discipline, dedication, humility and concentration. There are only six sequences for you to practice in your entire life. The sixth series is the top level. Not many people practice more than the first two series. Day after day you practice the same sequence. This routine requires a huge commitment. But this practice is very rewarding. You see and you feel the result.
I am infinitely in love with Ashtanga yoga, but it does not mean that I recommend this practice to each and every person. Yoga practice is always strictly individual. Through the practice, we try to achieve Samadhi. And everyone does it in their own way. It’s like eating an apple. A person with strong teeth and healthy gums just eats an apple as a whole, while another would cut the apple into pieces and some would prefer apple juice. But the end result is the same; the apple is consumed and vitamins absorbed.
If you crave yoga, it means that in your previous life you have ascended to a certain level and are getting closer to the divine Self. Thrust in the Spiritual, thrust to yoga implies that your soul is rising with every new incarnation. Do not disrupt your progress. Keep practicing and may peace and harmony always be within you.