This is an illustration based roughly on a picture of yours truly…rockin’ the crow!
I remember my first yoga class. It was an Ashtanga practice. I didn’t know what it meant, but I tip toed in…and with as little noise as possible lay down my mattress. The instructor was a strict elderly lady. Dressed in black. She recited the poses in a flat voice with an exotic accent I couldn’t place. I did my best to get it right without making a fool of my self. I looked at the other students who knew the poses by heart. They giggled and danced from one pose to the other in elegance, while my muscles screamed and shook. They were more flexible than I was. They were stronger than I was. But I kept coming back. I saw it as an opportunity to get in shape. It fit my time schedule. But the thing I remember most about the experience was that after the class. I could do one particular human task better than I could before.
I could breath.
The practice was about breath driving motion and it was the first time I was conscious of how flat my everyday breathing was. I spent a whole day at work in the doing and fussing and stressing and did very little breathing and very little being.
Being? what are you talking about?
I’m talking about taking a pause to notice where I am. I’m talking about listening to birds. Looking at a tree. Feeling the wind. I’m talking about paying attention to the current moment instead of hurrying off to the next moment or thinking back on a moment which is already gone. Eckhart Tolley explains it better than I do.
Fast forward to ten years later. After a mini midlife crisis, I signed up to a course to become…drums please. A yoga teacher. Specializing in Ashtanga.
Well It grew on me. I haven’t been a diligent yogi for years. I did other stuff.
I ran. I walked. I jogged. I swam. I did Pilates. I even indulged in Aerobics. On occasion I randevued with yoga. And I tried them all. Almost!
Hata yoga. Power yoga. Iyengar yoga. I met a fit muscular male instructor who demonstrated impossible poses in beginner classes in front of a drooling group of girls. I met a loving female teacher who talked for an hour about femininity before beginning a short ten minute practice. I met a serious Igenger teacher who made me use any and every prop in the storage room to reach the perfect pose. They were all good. But I always came back to Ashtanga. The fast paced yoga worked best for me. It was centered on breath and when ever I came out of an Ashtanga yoga class I was in awe at how light I felt afterward. I thought I came for the workout but I stayed for the air. And It dawned on me that there was something about Yoga, There was something about it I needed desperately in my life.
I loved the year long course and it gave me a few new aspects to ponder, which were previously missing from my life.
1. Could I actually become a yoga teacher?
I gave it a try and it felt amazing. I volunteered to teach an adult special needs class. I taught children’s yoga at a center for troubled teens. There was great energy and uplifting in it, but the enthusiasm which was sparked like a flame died out very quickly. I decided it wasn’t for me just yet. Maybe later.
2. Is yoga more than a breathing hack for me?
Yoga is so much more than a “how to”. Yoga is a way to be in touch with the physical machine which is my body. It’s a way to become completely present at the current moment, if I allowed it. I put my feet flat on the mattress and placed my mind aside for the hour and a half of the practice. I used breathing to bring my attention to center, and if my mind found it’s way back to me. And it always did. I just tried again by utilizing my breathing. Or in yogi tongue – ujjayi breath. (It’s a deep loud focusing inhale and exhale to get you back on track(. Two main things happen if you keep doing that. One – you get focused on the NOW and calm down. The day goes away. You and your trouble goes away. The second thing that happens is that you oxygenise your whole system in the process. There are many more things which occur and I’m not even talking about reprogramming your nervous system. But These two were key for me.
3. What’s the connection between yoga and spirituality?
Well heck. I came to deepen my understanding of the practice, not indulge in Buddhism. But as the days went by I was hooked. I studied Indian philosophy and meditation techniques. Introducing meditation to my mornings coated my life in a shield of calmness. I read books and listened to lectures and talks about Oneness, Ananda, Brahaman and deep consciousness. I listened in fascination to the story of Prakriti and Porusha and coming out of suffering through yoga. I read Patanjali and the eight Sutra’s. And more and more and more. I’m still learning. I begin almost every morning with standing yoga asanas and a ten minute meditation. Not every practice is perfect. I’m not always focused enough, or strong enough or flexible enough. Sometimes I miss a day or two or even a week around the holidays. But I always come back, Like a stubborn salesman. I know It’s a never ending practice. I know I’ll never get it all done.
I love it.