May '08 Mysore Highlight

Beauty in Motion

By Elissa Scott

My up and down roller coaster India journey is nearing its end. I leave in nine days. Since yoga is mostly what brought me to this mystical place, I thought that I should write about my love affair with the practice.  

I started 2 1/2 years ago when I asked a client what she did for sports to have such an amazing physique. Jackie said Ashtanga yoga! I had tried Hatha yoga before and found it boring and frustrating while not being a workout (I come from a running background of races and marathons)... So I gave it a shot. I went to Lion's Breath downtown and fell in love. There, they even had yoga to the beat of a live hand drummer, which was very unique.  

I ended up practicing at the Yoga Loft (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), as it was very hardcore, and I knew what to expect. In those days, my beloved would come with me and it was more of a date night. We would hold hands as we lay on our backs with our eyes closed in 'Savasana' or 'Corpse pose'- The final relaxation which allows the body time to process information at the end of a class. Since he injured his ankle, we have missed our yoga dates, but I always think of him at that pose. 

I have come so far during the commitment of practice. When I first started, I wore fake finger nails, and I remember looking down while in 'Downward dog', thinking how ridiculous they looked!  

That was the first memorable change. Inside, I noticed I was calmer, more secure in the moment and less fearful. The stillness of mind and focus on breathing really brings one into awareness without the distractions of daily life. Yoga has a calming, peaceful affect on the mind as well as the body. It was so physically intense, some days I could barely walk down the stairs of the Yoga Loft; my hip muscles were so stretched. With the opening of the muscles, simultaneously comes the peeling away of emotional layers. People tend to assimilate their emotions within the body and it manifests into physical pain. A sore back may mean carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, for example. ("You Can Heal Your Life" by Louise Hay is a good read on this subject).  

People may cry and sob in class, and at times I have left angry and irritable as the stored emotions are stripped from my body through physical exertion. It is very cathartic! Poses are also said to symbolize your struggles in life. If you have trouble doing a back bend or "Wheel" pose, it means you are holding back- afraid of moving forward in life. Once you know this, one thinks about it during practice and pushes through the issues. 
Everyone is said to come to yoga through the "Asanas" or physical poses. I am finding out here in India that other things are discovered and learned through the physical practice. It is also said that only those who come to yoga, are those who have practiced it in previous lives. This makes sense to me because I was doing yoga poses even before I knew it was yoga. I would be sitting around on the floor when the kids were babies and I'd stretch and pose because it felt good. Now I realize I was doing shoulder stand, plow, back bend, etc.! My first class of yoga, I did a headstand and did not even know I could do it. People wonder how to do it and I said I just popped up like toast and stood on my head like it was a natural thing to do and joke I must have done it in another life. 

Not only do I feel like I am in the best shape of my life, but I am inspired and excited by what the body is capable of. (Other than party tricks!) Inner beauty radiates from within and the entire exterior plastic world melts away. My other favourite is when my adorable daughter Lexi comes to class with me...she is so flexible! Kids don't hold onto their emotions as early I guess and physical movement is just play. As adults we sit in chairs all day long, rarely sitting on the floor (which opens the hips!) 

Practicing in India has been an experience! Humbling, inspiring, motivating, and more. The class is packed with yoga mats touching side by side. Sometimes, overlapping. It really helps with your "Drishti" (a point of focus where the gaze rests during asana and meditation practice, aiding concentration. One may become distracted when the eyes are wandering all over the room. Each yoga pose has a particular drishti, which also aids in alignment), as people are walking by and grazing you, and those around practicing are bumping into each other. But seeing all the expert, advanced yogis around oneself is awe inspiring... 

My definition of ashtanga? 
Using the body to reach the heart and mind. Going within, through the self discipline of holding a pose, breathing deeply and intently and stretching the body in ways it may not be familiar with or comfortable. After, you will feel relaxed, at peace and detoxified physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Elissa Scott is a Home Design Expert, Columnist and Professional Speaker, specializing in eco- chic renovation and new construction. Visit her website at

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