What is yoga to you?
This blog was prompted after a conversation with a few of my lovely ladies after yoga this morning. So what is yoga? More importantly, what is yoga for you and what do you get from it?
We can google "what is yoga" and we will receive various answer, about it being an ancient mind body system, about yoga meaning union and the union of breath with movement, and we may see lots of images of basic and advanced yoga asanas or poses.
I am a yoga teacher and a lifetime student of yoga. Yoga is now part of my life. I absolutely love being part of amazing trainings with the fabulous teachers that I have in my life and I think the greatest teachings are in what happens every day and how I chose to lead my life and how I react (or not) to the things that life throws at me. My yoga is in the heart based decisions I make, my yoga is in the conversations I chose to have, my yoga is in the connections I make, in the stories I laugh at and cry with, in the way I admire the beauty in nature and the planet we live on. My yoga is also in noticing what triggers me, what makes me angry, what makes me return to unresourceful thoughts. It is in noticing the patterns I create in my life and how at times, I am still repeating the same ones even though they may not be serving me and cause me pain....
Yoga for me is not just what happens on the mat - it is what happens in my life in the spaces between my physical yoga asana practice. For me, this is when I believe we move into the deeper transformational effects of yoga.
It is an oft used phrase: "off the mat and into the world" and this is where my passion lies. Sadly with instagram, there is a glamourising of yoga as being like a form of acrobatics and gymnastics. There maybe many posts for example of someone in an amazing urdhva dhanurasana (upward bow) or eka pada rajakapotasana (one legged king pigeon)....visually they look amazing, but what about the journey that person took on their journey towards that pose and what about the journey they took as they unravelled and came out of it. Was it simply a "warm up" - do the aesthetically pleasing pose, take photo and come out - or was there a journey, many layers, noticing the emotions that arise, noticing the places where there was tightness, tenderness, restriction or compression.......were there days where a simple (!!) psoas stretch revealed a hidden spot of unresolved emotion that had been buried deep? Was there an internal dialogue that was going on that was positive and encouraging or was there one that was shame, blame and resentful?
In my experience both for myself personally and the students I am fortunate enough to work with, when we start yoga, it is something we may do in a class setting, once, twice or more per week. It may start that we go for a stretch, and a bit of a relaxation at the end and initially we just "do yoga" for the duration of the class and then pick up where we were when we return to life and not much changes, then we start going to yoga for the whole mind, body experience of the class and how great it makes us feel on every level.......and then, after a while, with consistent, regular, mindful practice we start to notice the "real yoga" that happens in our everyday life, outside of the classes. I feel when someone has really "got yoga" is when they notice their life outside of the studio starts to change. Real life yoga is what happens in the gaps and spaces between the classes.
For those of you who have a consistent practice - and it doesn't matter if you have only being do yoga for a month or for 30 years or more......what changes do you notice take place in your actions, reactions, beliefs, values and behaviours? Maybe you see life through a different lens, maybe you practise more compassion towards yourself, maybe you are less stressed, maybe you are more tolerant of some things, maybe less tolerant of others.
I was reminded of the changes last week when my laptop (newish) suddenly stopped working - I was rather frustrated as I had so much to do, and was bemused when someone said to me - ahhh... you are a good advert for yoga as you are so calm....and it made me think how things have changed. In the past, especially in my previous life working in the City, I was typically the hot-headed Aries ram - quick to anger, needing to be in control and needing thanks to happen NOW.
I would love to hear from you? Where are you at with your yoga? What does it give you? What changes do you notice, both on the mat and off the mat?
If you haven't paused to notice, maybe take some time to do so.......what has changed?
Next time you are practising yoga, either your self practice or in a class, be mindful and notice what is going on for you, what is your internal dialogue, what are you feeling, what sensations are in your body. I would love to hear from you.