Yoga is often synonymous with sophisticated Asian (body) exercise. Because of our cultural obsession with visible, material, and tangible, yoga is carried out and taught in the West in a much more physical way than is done in India and Tibet. Two parts of the world where traditional yoga comes from. Yoga has many ways of influencing the physical body (asanas). But this is not integrated yoga. Breathing energy techniques (pranayama) and a variety of internal yoga techniques, as well as meditation, are also an important part of this ancient practice. It allows us to make regular contact with the deepest part of ourselves that lies within our body and mind.
Functional, non-violent, and healthy exercise is an important part of modern yoga. People moved a lot more in the old days. But a modern human is sitting all the time. It's not just the sitting that is the problem, it's the way you sit and hold your body. Often our body is not active enough. And the mind is too active. The combination of both can bring us a lot of pain, problems, and all sorts of diseases. On the other hand, many people today exaggerate to other extremes. The problem lies in excessive, aggressive, and competitive (sports) activities. Properly implemented physical yoga practices can help us find a dynamic balance between "not too much and not too little.''
It is important to focus on the health of our musculoskeletal system. It has to be sufficiently strong, flexible, and also durable. Properly implemented techniques of yoga asanas (body position), which can be carried out dynamically or in a static way, can help our body with this effectively. However, improperly carried out yoga may, unfortunately, also cause damage or it does not support us in maintaining or strengthening psychosomatic health.
Our mind and soul need physical shelter and a home. It is also interesting to look at our cultural heritage of the ancient Greeks. They called the body soma. Although this term (especially in medicine) is understood merely as ''body'', Greeks understood it as a physical framework in which someone lives.
Our way of moving (and breathing) reflects our personal, as well as social, patterns. We live fast, impulsively, and often without a proper level of (self-) awareness. Our way of using the body and breathing reflects both our current internal, psychological-energy state, as well as the environment we are part of.
When we become prisoners of modern lifestyle, expressed in daily haste and impulsiveness, both at home and at work, we unwittingly cause stress to the nervous system. We know today that most people have an overactive sympathetic nervous system. This causes chronic tight muscles. Overactive minds also cause rapid and shallow breathing. Muscle tension and pain and inappropriate breathing are the two most objective and relatively rapid symptoms of chronic stress. Stress isn't bad in itself, in its acute phase. It starts to harm us when it's chronic and too intense.
For this reason, it makes sense to implement yoga techniques in your life on a daily basis. It's like a ritual we can compare to daily hygiene. By doing yoga, we "cleanse" our nervous system and mind and activate, as well as release, different muscle groups. This is how we reduce the negative consequences of stress every day. It gives us greater ease of mind and body. Isn't that what every one of us wants? Greater lightness leads to more efficient energy consumption, prevents burn-out, and allows us to enjoy more. In my professional work as a longtime yoga teacher and as a yoga therapist, I often meet people who are materially very successful. However, due to the variety of internal tension and "heavy" body and mind, they lose their ability to relax. Without that, we cannot enjoy the many joys that life offers us.
For our body and mind to function the best at a given time and place, it is important to take into account the needs of the different parts of the self. Yoga sees a human being as multi-layered. A person has a physical, psychological, energy, and spiritual self. We are fully healthy only when we pay enough attention to the different parts of ourselves. That's why yoga has developed a thousand different techniques that help us maintain the vitality and balance of different parts and layers of ourselves.
The Great Indian yoga teacher, Professor Krishnamacharya, liked to highlight the importance of adapting yoga to the current needs of the human being, which also includes taking into account the current period of life in which the human being is currently living. Therefore, yoga practice should be adapted for adolescents (up to 18. years), when we are in the mid-life period (approximately from 35. up to 70. years) and at a later age.
Generally speaking, it is reasonable to perform more asana practice and bodywork in younger years and few breathing techniques. During the mid-life period, we still need to exercise daily, but also include more breathing techniques and pranayama. In late life, we need more self-reflection, so we don't need much physical activity. We need a little pranayama and a lot more meditation.
Regular yoga will help us develop more sensitivity to the body, the breath, and the mind. This will help us identify the physical-energy-psychological state we're in more quickly. Yoga is an excellent method of learning the potential of greater self-regulation. This is to say that when we recognize that we are in a state of tension, restlessness, and psychosomatic stiffness, remember, you can always do a little something with the body, breath, and the mind. This is how we develop more internal power, confidence, and awareness, which leads to real freedom and a fuller, healthier, and more balanced life. Therefore, in Indian tradition, they do not understand the word yoga as a mere name for various techniques. Yoga is the term for a state of higher, awakened, consciousness. The more we manage to enter this field of spiritual potential, the closer we get to the meaning of our existence and being on this beautiful Mother Earth.
Blaž Bertoncelj began to do yoga, together with a professional athlete, in his youth. He has been teaching yoga for more than 20 years and somatics for 10. He specializes in therapeutic work in spinal problems and psychosomatic and stressful conditions and works with breathing. He is the founder and head of the two largest yoga centers in Slovenia: Paarinama and Devi Yoga Centre in Ljubljana.
He spent two years studying and practicing abroad, both in India, the United States, and Europe. He learned about integrated yoga (asana, pranayama, internal yoga techniques, and yoga therapy). He is a multi-international certified yoga teacher (for many years he studied with the students of Professor Krishnamacharya, TKV Desikachar, BKS Iyengar, Swami Kuvalayande, Yogananananda, and Swami Kryananda). He is also the first internationally certified Slovenian yoga therapist and somatics teacher (Hana somatics and Feldenkrais method).
Blaž is the author of various audio and video courses (accessible on the web: e-vadba.parinama.si) and the book Yoga - The Transformation of Body and Mind. He is currently writing a new book on yoga therapy (Healthy and vital spine).
For many years, he has also been working with various organizations and companies for which he prepares stress and health management programs through his own organization Paarin Institute.