What is yoga to me?
I'm making changes to the blog. I'm going to keep the tarot and oracle card reading blogs but will do these for the new and full moons. On the in-between weeks I am going to write a blog which shares my thoughts, experiences, views on aspects related to yoga. This is less educational in terms of explaining something and more a sharing of my truths, which will very likely change over time.
The new moon in Scorpio is on Sunday so next week's blog will be a reading for the new moon. Today, I am sharing my thoughts about what yoga is to me.
I'm writing this partly in response to the bombardment of images of yoga on social media, advertising, and in yoga studios that yoga is for young, white, skinny, bendy, rich women. And anyone who doesn't fit this profile is excluded. For starters, the image of someone doing some impossibly bendy posture in a beautiful location isn't yoga. It is a performance, a piece of art, imagery - provided to you, for your consumption. Yoga is a practice, its a devotion and commitment to yourself, on your journey of self-healing, self-discovery, self-awareness. It is not what it looks like on the outside, but how you connect to you on the inside.
But we are so inundated with these images we aspire to become these young, skinny, bendy, white women, almost unconsciously. We start to believe this is yoga. As a society we are so obsessed with the external and what people think of us. It's not our fault, we're born into this and indoctrinated in it from day 1 with messages given to us over and over and over again, minute by minute. We start to believe the messages that we aren't good enough as we are and we must be slimmer, prettier (whiter, younger), more able, to be happy. In the process we become disconnected from ourselves, our truth, our wild, untameable, vast, powerful essences. We hate ourselves, and we stop listening to the messages our bodies and hearts are giving to us every moment of every day. In this process to be happy through being younger, thinner, whiter, bendier, more physically or mentally able, straight...we forget who we are. We cannot remember our magnificence, our beauty, our limitlessness, our wildness, our fierceness whilst consuming all that corporations want us to believe in order to buy the products, and feed the money hungry beast. We only buy the products because we believe we will be good enough with them, we believe they will make us happy. Instead, they make us more unhappy because we become more disconnected to ourselves.
So then to post photos which are photoshopped, and probably taken a million times to find the perfect posture, remind us that we're not good enough. They reinforce our sense of disconnection from ourselves. Which is the total opposite of yoga.
Yoga is a practice. It's a devotion to yourself. A commitment to spending time with yourself regularly. I have a daily practice or Sadhana which has been invaluable to me this year especially. It is time for me with me. In closing my eyes I am less concerned with what I look like and more concerned with how I feel. Even in strong postures which challenge me (and yes there are many times I want to give up the posture and come out of it and sometimes I do, and that's ok too) - what keeps me going is how I'll feel at the end. How I connect to my vastness, my magnificence, my truth so that whatever messages the outside world is sending me are much less important than honouring myself. I notice how I feel each day, I notice how my body is - what messages it is sending me, I allow my emotions to arise, I allow my thoughts to pass like clouds. I reflect on what has shown up in my world and how I wish to respond from a place of my truth. I remember my boundaries which enable me to be me. This gives me the strength to keep going, to keep showing up, to keep being me regardless of what shows up in my day. Which is a huge transformation from the person who hated herself for not being thin enough, young enough, together enough, well enough, bendy enough. Yoga brings me home. It returns me back to me. I reminds me of who I am, and what is important to me, what I value and what world I want to live in.
Do the poses of legs behind the head or headstands convey this? Do they look like they are comfortable in themselves and at home in themselves? More often than not - no. Because it a piece of performance art, it is not a practice, it is not a daily devotion to themselves. I am not disparaging the people who create these pictures because they are creating art, they are creating performance, and that is still beautiful. But it is not yoga for me.
So, is yoga for you? If you want to devote yourself to yourself, if you want to commit to your growth, if you want to return home to yourself, remember who you are, if you want to face your fears, your shadows and realise that actually what lurks is much less scary than you thought, if you want to start showing up from your truth, your authentic self - then yes, yoga is for you. If you want to feel less stressed, less anxious, depressed then yoga is for you. If you want a space where you can safely handle difficult emotions like anger, rage, grief, guilt, shame...then yoga is for you. If you want some time for you, to stop the constant running of your ego mind, then yoga is for you. If you want to see what your body can do each day, how it changes and evolves and how it talks to you, then yoga is for you. If you want to find ways to accept yourself as you are, however you're showing up that day, then yoga is for you.
If you want to do headstands on instagram there are yoga classes which cater to this. Mine won't however. For starters, we don't do headstands in Kundalini Yoga because it is unneccessarily dangerous for what it is achieving and the same results can be achieved in other, safer postures. You'll also be practicing with your eyes closed so you won't have any idea how you look or how others look (because, shocker - it doesn't matter!). And my classes will help you to remember who you are and how to connect to you, and this won't serve the instagram pose, because you'll find you won't care so much about it.
My classes encourage ease and comfort in the body over pushing ourselves. We use props, cushions, blankets, chairs, whatever we have to support our postures. We don't try to over extend the body, but gently working with it to find a little more space, a little more ease. We check in with where the body is at each day and work with it, not against it. If we need to rest, we do. If our practice that day is to lie down and sleep, then we do, because that is listening to the body. We connect to our breath and use it to change the mind, the body, our emotions. We learn to master our minds, our egos so we can connect to our truth. We allow all emotions to flow, to be released as they need to be, in class or outside of class. I am not a teacher in the sense of one at school, who tells you things and informs you. I am here to guide you to remember who you are. So that you connect to your own inner teacher. This is what "Ong Namo, Guru Dev Namo" means - we are connecting to the infinite teacher, our own inner teacher. And we chant this every time we start a practice.
Every day I bow to my inner teacher, my infinite, vast, wild self. Every day I remember who I am, I remember my truth. Every day I return home to me. This is my yoga.