How to 'do' yoga
After thinking about it for over a year I signed up for yoga teacher training. I’ve practised yoga on and off for years but not really approached it with commitment and discipline or an understanding of what yoga is all about.
My interest in yoga has been one of the many versions of exercise obsessions I’ve had over the years. I’ve done it all and in the gear to go with it- 80’s aerobics in the hot pink leotard and Reebok high tops, kick boxing classes in army greens, pump weight classes with the black fingerless gloves, running in 2XU compression tights, 12 week body transformation programs in Lorna Jane. I even had a go at swimming but the swimming cap look wasn’t really working for me (and I don’t like to get my hair wet!). Now I’m more of a Lululemon kind of girl.
I think I’m sticking with this yoga business though. As I learn more about it I understand it is not about the poses that we see on Instagram. The poses are only one part of the magic of yoga.
Early in 2016 I went to Bali to a women’s yoga retreat. It was after some tough times and I was looking for some recovery and a reset. I took a month off work and had the yoga retreat in the middle of it and kept a journal for the month. I wrote in my journal about all sorts of things and noted how I was feeling and thinking and how my yoga was going.
I wrote a list of me at my worst and a list of myself at my best. Reading those lists again now the truth of the dark side of me stings and I’m still aspiring to play more to my strengths. Like a good self-helper, I set myself some goals:
- be more easygoing - ride through the bumps, let the small things wash over me
- be more consistent - makea commitment, be more even in my thoughts, responses and reactions
- know what matters - sort and sift through the crap
- be more accepting - of things I can’t change, of myself, of others
- be more respectful - not just on the surface but in ways that change my thoughts, expectations and behaviours.
I can still very much relate to those goals though like many things in my life, I give it energy at the time and then it slowly fades as the reality of life overwhelms me or the next great idea is brewing. What I realise now is that beyond a heartfelt but (evidently) temporary aspiration, was a hook to keep me focussed on these goals. I think yoga can help me to pay attention to myself, and to what I’m thinking and feeling in my body and my mind.
The yoga classes I go to at Power Living and my own practice at home have focussed entirely on the practical side of yoga - the postures. I’m naturally quite flexible so, if i’m honest, in part what I like about yoga is that I can ‘do’ many of the poses that require flexibility and I like being ‘good’ at them. I’m not strong though, particularly in the upper body, and I find poses like arm balances physically challenging so I don’t really like doing them so much.
But it’s not only physically challenging. What I have come to know is that I am fearful of the challenging poses. I’m scared of tipping over and face planting, I’m scared of losing my balance and crashing to the floor and I’m scared of not being able to do it well. As yoga attends to both the mind and the body I am working through these fears by having confidence in both.
In the past I haven't really been interested in the spiritual side of yoga. I soon dropped out of any classes that had too much relaxation time or chanting or any of that crazy stuff. I especially wasn’t interested in anything like meditation. I’d lay there, face screwed up, waiting for the torture to be over. Now I’m learning to slow my mind, my thinking and just be in it. Just like learning the poses with my body, it takes time to learn to look inside and be comfortable with just being. It takes practice to let go of self-talk, to let go of judgement, to let go of the mental busyness that, at times, overwhelms my mind and it’s very much a work in progress.
For me the teacher training is not about doing the poses better or being the best or satisfying my ego. It is an opportunity to learn more about yoga, to try to understand its principles and philosophy, to have more knowledge about my own body and how it works, and through all this, to understand more about myself. But mostly it's about un-learning how to 'do' yoga, and to just be.