• Congratulations, Kostas Aretos!

    Kostas, please tell us how you came to find yoga and what inspired you to extend your practice into teaching?

    I first found yoga on a trip to Spain in 2004; I was getting certified as a freefall skydiver, and noticed some experienced skydivers practicing yoga poses before getting on the plane, and some pranayama while on the plane. I said to myself 'I want to be as calm as they are no matter what the circumstance!' When I returned to Greece I went to my first yoga class.

    One of my teachers, Melanie August, saw goodness in me and a great energy that could be supportive to others. She planted the seed in me to go out and share this with the community as a teacher.

    Over the last few months, we have been working our way through the Eight Limbs of Yoga. Last month, we focused on the more abstract limbs of Pratyahara (withdrawal or sensory transcendence) and Dharana (concentration). These limbs, along with the final two - Dhyana and Samadhi - are very difficult to teach (and learn) as they take time and patience, and strength and stamina of the mind. Please share with us how you have been able to attain these practices and how they have affected your practice, and/or day-to-day life.

    These two limbs are the first in what we call in yoga 'the inner practices'. Though hard to attain, there are tools we can use to have a glimpse of their profound impact in our lives. Pratyahara refers to the withdrawal of our senses. According to the yoga tradition, we perceive external stimuli through the five senses: hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting and touching. From those, the eye sense is the one that receives the largest stimuli everyday. So, the easiest way to practice Pratyahara is by closing the eyes—even for 5 minutes—or unplug from social media platforms for half or whole day once a week.

    I take 5 minute breaks to close my eyes three times a day. That helps me quiet my busy mind. And I try to logout of social media, like Facebook, on Sundays.

    Dharana (one-pointed mind concentration) is very difficult because the mind likes to wander, unless we create a relaxed 'container'. The easiest tool is to focus our attention to our breath and how it flows in and out of our body (the container). This creates the one-pointedness and relaxes the body for the mind to return to. I take 10 minute breaks to bring my attention to my breath at least two times a day: in the morning, after I wake up, and at night, before I go to sleep.

    What is your personal philosophy about where yoga fits in along your path to self-realization?

    Yoga keeps me connected with my body—what goes in as food affects my practice right away and I can be aware of it right away. Yoga keeps me present as I am paying attention to my breath and how it is affected by external factors like stressful situations. Yoga keeps me focused to what makes me happy through meditation: SatCitAnanda, TrueConsciousness(is)Bliss!

    Please tell us more about yourself outside of the studio - career, family, background and/or anything else interesting you would like us to know.

    An electrical engineer by training, I moved to the States 10 years ago to continue being creative with my work. Five years ago, I switched from a highly-paid stressful corp centric lifestyle to a more balanced one where happiness has highest priority, with work and relations support, not driving, that state!