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3 Things I Learned From Practicing Ashtanga Yoga Blind Folded

Yesterday I had one of those “don’t feel like practicing” moments.  I know, I even wrote the post on kicking your butt when you don’t feel like practicing, but life has a way with irony and so there I was, facing the mat with no desire or inspiration.

I knew of course, that this was just a mind trick, designed to test that famous quote by Jois “body is not stiff, mind is“, because when the mind gets on the way in hard-core way, when it crosses the arms like that and says:  “No!” as if it was five years old, THAT is the moment to recognize its inflexibility.

Don’t fall for the mind trick!

Somehow I came to a truce with it that I would get on the mat without changing into the usual yoga clothes, we would practice in the t-shirt we had slept in and underwear, no need to do fancy stuff.

Literally I was treating the mind as if it was a child. And that is when I heard her protesting, again, that it would not like to see me, never mind the drishti (or pre-determined eye focus point for each point) without my usual shorts!  – Can you believe that?

We will do it blindfolded! I blurted – That shut it up.   I was only able to do the standing sequence with the blinders, by the end of which I was too sweaty and they came off, but while they were on I learned that:

What it feels like to talk to my mind sometimes

The eyes are a limb:  No kidding, Utitta Hastha was impossible.  I remembered loud and clear what it was like in the beginning, in those first couple of practices where balance was nowhere to be found!  Not only there but also in the following pose, ardha badha padmotanasana, gosh!

How difficult it is to retain the balance when the eyes are not there to anchor you, as if they were another limb.  And that is when I realized that they are.  A dance teacher used to tell me to  “use the eyes to grab the wall” back in the 90s.  She was not speaking metaphorically.

Noticing where the little distractions go:  Even though when I practice with open eyes my drishti is, by now, pretty good, there are still little distractions that I don’t even notice.  Being blind-folded allowed me to notice those moments, the places where I go “unconscious” and look out, or escape from the awareness of what is happening in the body at that moment.

Pardon the irony, but it was indeed a big eye-opener to notice that it is possible to go from one warrior side to the other keeping the internal focus and not wondering to find the Hudson River as it seems I am in the habit of.

Slowing down and gratitude:  I don’t quite know how John Scott gets aware of how to center himself on the mat (below).  All I know is that it was hard.  I had to stop and feel the corners of the mat about 6 times, and that was just the standing sequence!  I ended the standing sequence in deep gratitude to have eyes to see, to anchor me, to balance me.  What a gift!


I have no idea where the blind-folded idea came from, perhaps was from talking to Mikko (a fantastic authorized level II teacher from Finland and fellow student at the Thailand TT in 2009)  in Mysore and him reminding me of John Scott’s demo at Yoga Oslo. Perhaps it was just universal intelligence gathering anything that would help me get on the mat and get over the hurdle.

Anyways, here is the YouTube of John Scott, he is much better than me!

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7 Responses to 3 Things I Learned From Practicing Ashtanga Yoga Blind Folded

  1. Tara March 1, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    One of the teachers from my teacher training had us do this! Though only Surya A and B. I loved it. I practiced a lot of Forrest yoga when I first started and closing your eyes was encouraged (because it helps you feel what's going on in your body), so I still have a tendency to do that during my Mysore practice. I know, bad lady 😉 On a fun note, I've also had to practice semi

    • Claudia March 1, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

      Amazing how much you got out of it! Sorry to hear about the issue ofof your contact lenses… then again who cares about the letter E … hee hee 🙂 enjoyed reading about your experience 🙂

    • Tara March 2, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

      Thanks! I was able to put my contacts back in a couple of days ago and it was pretty amusing to notice the differences. I had been looking forward to being able to see again during my drop backs but found that I actually did them better semi-blind because I couldn't see completely clearly and just had to trust myself (and the teacher when it was time to do them with her). Once I could see

  2. Priscilla Wood March 1, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    Interesting post, I've never tried blind folded yoga but I've tried naked yoga (in the privacy of my home) I feel my mind is more aware, more vulnerable and able to focus and stay in the present moment longer. Also I saw your videos, the headstand is excellent, I'm glad to see you struggling a little bit as I'm struggling a lot with my own headstand. I've always practiced it

    • Claudia March 1, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

      Wow, you go Priscila, be careful with that, but it sounds like you are feeling confident already to face being a bit further from the wall, that is great progress! Sharath always says: Dont fall… a good reminder…<br /><br />So naked yoga ha? oh dear, I am not sure I would be up for that one, too distracting for me, even if alone, I think I would start judging things…but I guess in the

  3. Grimmly March 1, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    You reminded me of my &#39;How to jump through blindfolded&#39; back in 2009,( later ( came across that john Scott video, didn&#39;t feel so nuts then). Love the idea of doing the whole practice blindfolded, in fact in the spirit of pratyahara we could go with some earplugs too and try and focus on the internal sound throughout

    • Claudia March 1, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

      Hm, ear-plugs! then we get the whole airplane experience in place, yes, I think Emirates put some of those in that little handout they give you, could work! although they do tend to come ouf of the ear, wonder if it would be distracting… It was, with the blind fold, a good pratyahara approximation… indeed and I DID remember you and your jump throughs when the idea came to me! I totally did