Ten years later, I had just returned from a two months art study in Europe, and after having eaten rich and delicious desserts daily, my body had puffed out past my comfort zone. Our local gym offered yoga classes at the time, which aligned well with my schedule, so there I was again on the mat. This time I was surrounded by mirrors, fluorescent lighting, and a hard-edged instructor who made us hold poses for what felt like forever. I felt judged by her and the mirrors around me. However, I kept coming back, because as much as I was hating on myself during each pose, and wondering why I couldn’t touch my toes at only 18, I felt the pain would pay off. I committed, and I felt stronger. I kept using the routine I learned for years after to help me stay fit when I was travelling.
The years passed and, like many, I had an “on again off again” relationship with yoga.
I explored many styles of both traditional and modern practice, taking a little bit of what I liked in each experience, but I was often disconnected from the deeper lessons that could have been learned, or in outright disbelief at the differing and what appeared to be sometimes even dangerous practices in yoga. There was usually something in the studio or the teacher that didn’t feel quite right. I know now that these were my triggers, and had nothing to do with the teacher.
Then I stopped looking for the right class and started exploring other resources that shared this moving meditation. Books and videos in my own study invited me to reflect on the information in my own time, and as I practised more in my own space I started to release from the need to ‘do’ it as instructed, and began to feel into each asana (pose) for myself.
I listened to my self judgment, fears, and hesitations as I broke down the barriers against working towards more advanced asanas. I started to question what called me to this practice? What did I need to work on? What made me feel connected to be committed to this work? These questions led me to my teacher training, where I dived deeply into the essence of this ancient practice, and felt into the elements.
This connection opened my heart to feel the power and depth of yoga.
The translation of yoga, the Sanskrit root word yuj, is “to unite” or “to yoke”. Many will focus on this translation as a tool to connect body, breath, and mind, practising yoga, pranayama (breath exercises) and meditations to feel this connection. However, if you were to ask yourself, what supports your experience to commit to this practice, what are some of the responses that stir up for you?
Perhaps your mind is drawing a blank…..so here are a few things to consider to help you find “your yoga”.
Your teacher. How does your teacher feel to you? Does her voice resonate with you? Your teacher’s cadence may have a tone which drops you into meditations easily, or may grate on your eardrums. If it is the latter, can you use that irritation as a reminder to let go of your judgments, or is this part of your sensory experience important to feel at ease in the session? Do you feel supported by your teacher through the physical practice? Can you understand his instruction to align clearly, and does he assist your asana with adjustments when needed? Have you found a teacher who has a strong message of her own translation of this ancient practice, which invites you to go beyond the physical and helps sharpen your tools to take the “practice of presence” beyond the mat?
Your intentions. Are you going to a class just for the physical benefits, or have you been called to explore a more conscious reconnection to yourself? If you are like many who have been recommended to try yoga to support and strengthen the body, can you let go of the need to “do” the asana in a way that is matched to those around you, and release the attachment “to look a certain way”? Can you be patient with yourself and be guided more by feeling, anchored in the wisdom that yoga is a very personal experience, and tune into intelligent adjustments and alignment guided by your breath to the “edge” that is right for you? Can you invite self observance, honesty, and integrity to be at the forefront of your practice to sharpen these tools and use them off the mat?
Your yoga. There is now a wonderful and wild variety of conventional and unconventional styles of yoga. Have a play with what feels right for you, and perhaps what may not, and explore how yoga can be experienced in the many modern ways of sharing the lessons we can be guided into through these different translations and environments.
What do you enjoy in your shalla (studio)? Do you feel most connected inside or outside? How do the elements in that space affect your sensory awakening through sound, scent, light, or do you prefer more sensory release with a space that keeps it as simple as possible? When you feel into your preferred style and environment, can you most importantly ask yourself why? What can you learn about yourself by asking these questions?
Yoga has evolved over centuries, as have we. This rich practice is now more than ever an alchemy of interpretations and applications where you are invited to find your yoga.