What is Yoga? (Hint: It’s not just Pretzel Posing)

And What does it mean to me?

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Disclaimers:

  1. I’m slightly cheating with this post, as my teacher training assignment is to write 500 words on what yoga is – to me … as a multi tasker, 2 birds & all that.
  2. Yoga changed my life. Fact. Not going to wait to the end to wrap it up in some neat, life affirming, happy ending revelation. This is what it is for me, so if you don’t want to read ‘one of those’ posts, avert your eyes, now.

I came to Yoga for exercise, I came to stretch my limbs & push my body. I didn’t want to rest at the end, I didn’t want to Om and I didn’t want to chit chat with everyone in the class.

And Now?

Yoga to me is a way of life. It knitted all these little bits of my personality together that I could feel, but never really knew how they fit or how to explore them as a part of who I was.

In the physical practice; because I sit at a desk all day and to get outside, to run or walk, is a freedom to me. The asana of Yoga added new depth for me, new joy in understanding how my body could move, what it is capable of.

In the silencing of the mind; I love when people call it the ‘monkey mind’ – it’s so true, how it jumps & swings from place to place, sometimes without destination determined, sometimes spurred by a thought that brings another thought that takes you down a different rabbit hole of a million other thoughts. Be they new or old, useful or distracting, worthless or priceless. They pinball around the brain in a hectic fashion.

To come to my mat and bring my brain to a complete standstill, a peaceful refreshing pause – has made a gear shift in my way of being off the mat. I stop and take in the moment, the time spent with friends, my first (& only caffeinated) coffee of the day, the sunrise, the birds singing, it’s a weird sensation to know that I have enjoyed them all this time, but never really stopped to appreciate them & be grateful for them.

I feel present in today, in moments, I never felt I ‘had the time for’ before.

In accepting life is as simple as: Be good & do good. A simple mantra I see repeated by Yogi’s & in Yogic texts. When you are not only motivated by the fruits of your labour, but take action, do good deeds, just to do them. To be kind, to act in kindness. Resonates with me so much.

Not having a goal, a vision of what success looks like on a certain path and wanting a certain outcome, is not necessarily something I think I will ever get away from – ‘achievement’ feels ingrained in me, whether that’s my own doing or societies. But materialistic gains have waned for me and simple pleasures give me so much more joy. From eating a freshly picked sweet September ripened apple, to walking through a field when a deer leaps in, to hearing the laughter of those closest … I can’t pay for any of them, I can’t plan for any of them to happen ‘just so’ – they can’t be my goal.

I’ve volunteered at different points in my life, from helping patients in day care at my local hospital, to being a Trustee at a wildlife rescue centre … the need in me to give something, to do good, is always there. I pick up other peoples litter, I hold doors open for people & I ask strangers if they are OK when they are crying – nothing that’s going to change the planet, but hopefully in some small little way, is of use somehow.

Funny story – I once saw a hedgehog out in daylight hours & thought maybe it was injured, after a little while I went back to see if it had moved & was OK, it had gone & so I assumed it was fine, but on the way home ‘found’ a lost cat from my estate. I captured it, took it home (much to the dismay of my own cat) and duly went off in search of the nearest lamp post with it’s picture on. Only it wasn’t there, or on the next lamp post … the cat had obviously already found it ‘s way home & I had now just stolen it. I quickly let it out the back door …

What I’m saying is – it’s like Yoga tells me this is OK. In a world of bad news stories, hateful people, selfish people, people who would see what I do as weird or intrusive maybe; that hey I’m just trying to be good & do good, and maybe the world could do with a little more of that.

So it’s all good right? In a word, no.

Yoga makes me more empathetic & every news breaking horrific act in the world saddens me. It makes me grateful, to be privileged, to live in the space I do, to have my health & to be loved. But first it makes me feel sad and small & that nothing I can personally do could ever be enough to help, for those that want it.

Yoga has changed the way I see things and my perception of the world, which means it also tests and changes the relationships I have with the people around me. I judge less, I analyse less and I ‘care’ less, but that means I have moved slightly in where I am in the world and some people won’t get me anymore, I’ve not lost any friends or anything, but it was only when I came to my YTT I found a space I could really explore this ‘new’ me without judgement ‘on’ me.

It hurts. Not in practice, as it never should. But the soreness & DOMS (Delayed onset muscle soreness) is real, you are doing things to your body that it is not used to & so it rebels a little! & It’s not just the body. In my 1st week of YTT on the penultimate morning, my sinuses were stuck and banging, I felt sick and the only thing I could do about it was cry – this is what Yoga does, it opens you up, both physically & mentally. Our bodies store all sorts of germs, gremlins, un-dealt with emotions … and Yoga brings them right up to the surface, for you to deal with & move past. Whether physical or mental – this is not an easy part of the journey.

So Yoga to me is a way of life, physical on the mat, but so, so, so, so much more off of it, the good, the great and the grounding. Yoga is Home to me, where I have found a place to put the jigsaw pieces of my world together and be proud to display it for everyone to see. I wouldn’t have it any other way … well maybe the DOMS could do one.

Namaste 🙂

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