By Kassandra Prus

In my classes, I teach a simple yoga. A therapeutic yoga.

But simple doesn’t mean easy.

The Yoga Sūtras are a guide to yoga practice that were codified around 400CE. The step-by-step guidelines, originally written in Sanskrit, include a powerful and descriptive aphorism that my practice and teaching follow:

2.46 sthira sukham āsanam.

This roughly translates to mean that āsana, or our physical posture practice, needs sthira (stability) and sukha (ease or comfort) to qualify as āsana. That’s not just in your body–it’s also in your breath AND in your mind.

To help students find that place in themselves, my classes begin by guiding students to the slowest and smoothest breath they can find that day. By beginning here, the yoga becomes very simple– students work to find the versions of a posture that allow the breath to stay at that same pace and strength. The focus is on the function of the shape over the form of the shape.

Simple, but incredibly challenging. It takes a bit of practice, but it’s a powerful mind shift that can teach you a lot about yourself very quickly.

What’s the value of practicing like this? Well, what’s the point of your yoga to you? Would you like to become less reactive? More resilient to life’s ups and downs? More empathetic? A better listener? Less self-abusive? If any of these sound appealing, bringing your breath and mind to the forefront of your yoga practice will give you many tools to take off your mat with you.

Take these examples and reflect if they sound familiar:

• Is sinking so deep in your warrior making your body shake and your muscles brace? Would easing to a less Instagram-worthy version allow you to feel stable AND at ease? The body can be your teacher.
• Is binding in a posture making your breath stutter? Will not binding allow you to breathe freely? The breath can be your teacher.
• Is balancing in tree with your foot at your groin making you curse how unbalanced you are? Will putting your foot down put your mind at ease and back in the present moment? The mind can be your teacher.

I’m just giving a rough structure as the teacher, YOU choose where you’ll be and at what pace you’ll move. If I’m not telling you what to look like, but instead what direction to move in or what to feel, where can you turn? INWARDS. You have to stay in the present moment to listen to your body, to your breath, to your mind, as they are giving you the real cues, not me at the front of the room.

Now none of this means you can’t do your headstand or arm balances, or can’t always practice restorative. But can you do them and not be cursing and silently abusing yourself? Can you stay soft while being strong? The better you become at reading your body’s cues, and being aware of the present moment, you will begin to learn what will make you feel better and what hurts you.

When to push a little and when to be soft.
What is yours and what is mine.
Where your boundaries are.

And this won’t just happen on your mat, it’ll start to happen in your conversations and relationships too, without you forcing them. Your breath teaches your body and your mind.

Now that’s a lifelong yoga practice. And that’s my goal when I teach.

 

Kassandra is committed to making learning about the body, mind, and emotions accessible and enjoyable, and spreading awareness of the 24-hour applicability of yoga’s teachings. This practice and its many limbs—asana (physical postures), pranayama (breathwork), meditation, chanting/song/sounding, readings, working with the energy body, as well as social and personal observances (yama and niyama)—has surprised her by supporting her mental health and resiliency by allowing her to witness, admit to, and begin to accept all of her own darkness and light. This has had the pretty swell unplanned benefit of expanding her compassion for others by admitting that they are also in perpetual process, just like her. Now, in her teaching practice, Kassandra is committed to allowing her students the space and time to engage in their own process and self-activate their own healing by encouraging autonomy, insight, and self-acceptance.

Kassandra has a 300+ hour yoga teacher training from Yoga Therapy Toronto, a 50+ hour Yin Yoga training from Tracey Soghrati Yoga, Chair Yoga and Trauma Sensitive Yoga certifications, in addition 10+ years of arts-based facilitation and teaching experience and 23+ years of contemporary and folk dance practice.

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