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🇺🇸 Blindfolded Yoga

In my school in Rishikesh I was known as “the one of the Blindfolded yoga”, especially from the second part of the course onwards.


I open a parenthesis to tell you an anecdote.


{I arrived in Rishikesh in the middle of winter. It was February. An incredible cold.

Of course I had only warm clothes with me. Then the lockdown came. In that part of the world the summer starts very early.


Lockdown = Shops closed = No summer clothes = What to do?


I improvised myself fashion designer!

I cut everything I could cut to create my new “summer collection”. Many yoga pants - better known as leggings - have become comfortable shorts. And their "legs"? With the top I made tops, with the knee down part I made headbands and bandanas for eyes and hair that I shared with my classmates and students, especially during my first class as a Blindfolded Yoga teacher.}


Driving my friends and "students" with my new limited edition bandanas, with the help of my voice, the right atmosphere and a bit of mantra's background, was an incredible emotion.




Simply, I was a blindfolded yogi too and, from the first moment, Blindfolded Yoga literally won me over. To my surprise, that blindfolded yogini yoga class was one of the most powerful lessons of my life.


Ah, if you love to wear your mascara, know that you should practice without or with a nice waterproof one otherwise at the end of the lesson you will be a very cute panda. A bit like what happens during Bikram Yoga.



My experience

After many years of practice, I thought that my body and mind were now totally involved in my lessons. I thought I could hear my breath deeply and feel every single part of me involved in the asanas and flows.


Until I blindfolded my eyes, eliminating one of the most important organs: sight.


Never before have I been able to "watch" myself so deeply.

I listened to my breathing as I had never done before and I felt every single part of me involved in the practice. It was also very nice to don't understand if my feet were on the line drawn on my yoga mat or if my partner was safe if I lost my balance during my tree pose, for example.



Why bandage yoga?

Think when you go to bed, ready to sleep. You use to close your eyes to connect with your inner consciousness and to recharge every cell in your body. You use to close your eyes to listen to yourself. You use to close your eyes to completely relax yourself.


Yes, the sense of discipline is strong, but the relaxation of the facial muscles for the joy of practicing something non-ordinary is also really strong.


Also think when something bad happens to you or when you have to deal with a heavy thought. Or when you need to lighten the boulders on your heart. Don't you close your eyes to calm down and to breathe better?


Similarly, practicing Blindfolded Yoga calms you, allows you to hear your breath better, allows you to be alert. It out you on a journey that takes you from the outside to the inside. An extraordinary journey in search of and listening to the inner Self.



What's a blindfolded yoga lesson like?

The practice itself is nothing out of the ordinary. Blindfolded Yoga is just like a traditional yoga class, but with a bandana, headband, or eye mask. It is you, your blindfold, the focus on the breath, the usual solid ground under your feet and all the other senses amplified.


Regarding the ground beneath your feet, you will never test your balance before this practice. That's why it will be crucial to go beyond the daily visual references you have. However, you will get used to it very quickly. It is a bit like after an eye operation. At the beginning it seems impossible to stay in the dark but then, you get used to it.


I also like to think of all those people who for different reasons cannot see. This practice will be something extremely simple and familiar and very, very introspective. ✨🤍


And here I want to connect the attention to the sense of gratitude.


Too often we take for granted things that are apparently simple and labeled as "normal". Like the ability to appreciate beautiful images or the light or the face, eyes and smile of the people we love, or the ability to move made easier and safer thanks to sight.


Yes, just be always grateful for what you have.



Blindfolded Yoga: Beneficts

But what makes the Blindfolded Yoga so different from any other yoga class?


The pace, slower and more aware. Your mood, the air that surrounds you, the space that fills the room. The awareness and the application of all other sense organs.



. Connection:: "Here and now"

The present moment is literally magnified. You will truly be "here and now".

You will be tuned more deeply to your breath and you will feel all the sensations that your body gives you in motion.


You will notice that if your mind changes or moves away from the present moment, you will feel lost. This is why it is important to stay connected.


Repeat with me: Here and now.


. Improve the "focus"

Remember that the focus is inside you, not outside.


The removal of external and visual stimuli gives no choice but to turn the attention inwards and focus on oneself, without ego. This is particularly beneficial for those who wish to embark on an inner journey. Our sight is the most reliable of the senses. As you are taken out of your comfort zone, your self and inner dialogue will become stronger and deeper.


In general, the main purpose of yoga practice is to connect with your deepest Self.


Yoga is not just strength or elasticity. Yoga is not just a beautiful picture on Instagram.

Yoga is first of all listening, it is trusting yourself, it is realizing that the answers are within you. Yoga is gratitude, it is being here and now, without judgment or distractions.


Yoga is listening to yourself.

Yoga is loving yourself.



. Remove distractions, judgement and ego

When your eyes are covered, there is less chance of distraction.


During a normal practice, for example, one often tends to look around, compare, judge or compare postures, convinced that watching your friend's asana you can improve yours.

And if you do that, you are probably aware that others may be doing the same with you and this can make you feel uncomfortable, especially if you are new to the practice.


If your body is telling you to practice an asana as it is best for you, that's okay. That's exactly how it should be, even during a regular yoga class.


Remember: it's your practice.


The great thing about Blindfolded Yoga is that no one can see you.

Just you and your teacher of course. And if you like, that teacher could be me. 🥰



. Amplify the other senses

We have repeated it several times. The great thing about Blindfolded Yoga is that without sight, the other senses are intensified.

Why?

To stabilize you.


It is extremely interesting to observe how our body reacts to help keeping us alive or to compensate when something is missing. Lacking sight, the body will react with an increase in hearing, taste, smell and touch.


For example, feeling the edges of your mat to regain orientation will be the most particular and funny action ever but also much more intense and aware.



. Focus on the asanas

If like me you usually love to practice with your eyes closed, you will probably find Blindfolded Yoga a little easier and more familiar.


In reality, when you practice with your eyes closed but without the aid of a blindfold you always tend to take a peek, especially in the transition between one asana and another or to make sure that the knee is above the ankle and does not exceed the toes during Warrior I and II, for example.


With a radical elimination of visual stimuli, the Blindfolded Yoga practice "forces" you to focus completely on yourself and your postures.

Even during transitions. Especially during transitions.


In general, when you are confident in a position, you focus less naturally as you practice it. For some yogis this is fine. In terms of correctness in the execution, with this practice you will feel the postures better and you will improve the alignments and muscles to be involved. Once you have memorized your position, in fact, you can improve it more and more and, not least, you can finally reflect on your emotional reaction to the asana.


What does it mean? It mean that if you can't see, you have to listen and feel. And this inability to see will allow you to observe your mind and its reactions and feel how you feel.



. Strengthens the proprioceptive system

Sight plays an important role in helping us understand where our body is in space, but vision isn't the only sensory system involved in the body awareness.


Proprioception also plays an important role. The receptors in our skin and muscles are able to tell to our brain where our body is and what it is doing. A healthy proprioceptive system is important for a high level of body awareness and, like most things, it becomes more solid with practice.


Practicing yoga blindfolded helps strengthen one's proprioception and become more intimately connected with the way our body feels and moves.


Now imagine that you are blindfolded and that you have to put one foot between your hands from a downward facing dog. Sounds easy doesn't it? Believe me, it is not at all.


And what if I miss a position or if my foot is where it shouldn't be?

Don't worry, you will always have an attentive teacher who will guide you in achieving the right position until you have gained awareness of your joints and body position.



Blindfolded Yoga and Pratyahara: a bit of yogic philosophy

According to the ancient yogic philosophy, Pratyahara is the "withdrawal of the senses, the attention of the sense organs turned to the interior" and is the fifth of the 8 limbs of Yoga described by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras.


2.54– Svavishaya-asamprayogé chitta-svarupa-anukâra iva indryânâm pratyâhârah
the attention of the sense organs detached from the outside turns inside
2.55 - Tatah paramâ vashyatâ indriyânâm
It follows the mastery of the sense organs

By nature, our mind is always looking for new experiences and continually receives countless sensory perceptions. These perceptions produce sensations, emotions, thoughts and, ultimately, actions and / or reactions.


Ok, Pratyahara is the opposite.


The ancient yogic philosophy teaches that, gradually and through regular practice, the attention is directed inward. Only in this way will the mind stop being influenced by sensory perceptions, by the mental reactions that follow one another and by the continuous mental chatter.


The mind becomes quiet.


This introversion of the senses is an advanced stage of Yoga and leads to a state of deep concentration.



Yoga says that within us there is something important, exciting and that it is possible to really notice it only when all the senses and the mind are stilled.

What does Blindfolded Yoga have to do with this?


The practice with eyes closed is a first practical approach towards Pratyahara.

Blindfolded Yoga helps the mind to empty itself of constant chatter and too many thoughts. Furthermore, the state of mental lightness conferred by this practice is very close to meditation. Time flies, the positions become more and more simple and natural, the mind rests and the body regenerates.


What happens when the blindfold is removed?

When the blindfold is removed, the feeling of calmness and inner peace remains for a long time, the face is bright and relaxed.


During my Blindfolded Yoga practice, I saw a hint of that yogic stillness. Without the distractions that come with looking around the room, I was able to really start moving inside. I felt I could follow the movement of the breath as it traveled through my body. Even during my beloved savasana, I let the flow of thoughts and breath move freely within me.


This increased awareness of my body actually helped me get out of my body and connect with something much deeper.


Namasté

G.

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