Day 5 : Dare: Atithi Devo Bhava

Image result for atithi devo bhava meaning

As I read and experience the effects of colonization & decolonizing yoga, a few things come up for me. I realize that for the most part, I am unaffected by who practices yoga because I come from a place of knowing that yoga is for everyone – it is a universal teaching. At the same time, I realize that I can say, without a sense of ‘overt pride’, that Indian culture has been largely giving, especially to ‘guests’ – where there is a treatment of guests as gods ‘atithi devo bhava‘…. However, as I pause to see how that sentiment has been abused through the generations and when I notice how the culture of wisdom, of Hindu culture and/or yoga, is often treated as a product/service then it is painful and I do get affected.

I think what attracts Indian students to learning from western teachers is the gloss & shine of a well-presented (well-packaged) systematic approach whereas in India, the practices and mode of delivery are usually very earthy, raw, unpolished and in a state of chaotic order. We do have a few schools where the curriculum is structured and ordered, but many schools have taken to unregulated methods to ‘just teach’ – (sometimes at the risk of being unethical or even half-baked knowledge). So, the structure & aesthetics are a big lure. Just looking at instagram at well-sculpted, lycra covered bodies demonstrating, splits, hard-cut abs and twists that one usually doesn’t see in Indian bodies (because Indian bodies have a slightly different physique, naturally speaking.)

Yet, the lure exists. To get a degree from Oxford is a matter of prestige as compared to studying at an Indian institution, even if it is Nalanda. And the parallels exist even with teacher trainings and experiential programs. I agree that I prefer the structure in wester curricula, but I do appreciate learning with academic rigor as well – and that is the Indian in me speaking.

However, the financial bias of big dollar transactions for Indian students to pay to learn from yoga teachers in the west is often a major road block – exclusive, expensive and well, sometimes humiliating. I often wonder at the lack of resources for these institutions in the western world who have so much of researched yoga education to offer – researched education that can really help Indian yogis and yoga teachers to elevate their practice & teaching style, understanding etc.. I wonder because there is so much that Indian teachers can reabsorb & learn back – especially after such open-hearted giving to the west, it is now difficult to get anything in return from them – not even at a subsidized cost. Would it be a step towards decolonization if I, as an Indian teacher, would be allowed to access what fellow yoga teachers in the west have to teach and share from their experiences, without have to struggle with the cost of paying to learn back?

I shall share at this point, one such organisation, (without naming them, though), who responded to me so openly that I was taken aback at his generosity. I had shared that it would be difficult for me to travel to the US or Europe in the near future, but that I really wanted to understand and learn how his organization taught yoga the way they did. He didn’t think twice about sharing his entire teaching manual with me. His generosity stumped me.

This is a real situation, the exclusivity experienced by many Indian teachers who hold back or simply disregard the opportunity because of the financial exclusion and lack of access to yoga – even if it is repackaged 🙂 ❤

What would it take to really shift the power balance of cultural appropriation in yoga? To give back some of what we have received? Would it really be that hard to support yoga teachers and the yoga community back in India? .. especially if they stand to gain a little of the privilege a certain section of the western world have gained from yoga itself?

This isn’t a vilification – it is as much an eye-opener for me as I stand to make a conscious choice about what makes me a yogi, a teacher of grounded choice-making.


 

This blog is a part of a very unique yoga challenge led by my dear friend and fellow yogi, Susanna Barkataki – the Dare to Discuss Yoga Challenge. Both of us feel quite deeply about cultural appropriation and bring an authentic purpose to shine through constructive discussion, dialogue and education to make people (yogis & non-yogis) aware – to ‘lessen the appropriation and up the honor’, in Susanna’s words. In support of the challenge and the work, I shall be blogging my introspection and reflection here to share the conversation and build the cumulative effect.

 

Day 4: Truth: The Harm of Just-Asana Yoga

Like many others, I started my yoga journey through asana. It was about pushing my body and getting it ‘somewhere’ – from wherever it was – wherever I was then. It was a physical practice with a tangible goal.

And it served its purpose too. That is what gripped me in the first place – that it worked.

But through the practice, when I figured that asana was opening up other doors, I realized that the integrity of the practice was multi-fold in expression – so when I embarked on teaching, I knew it would be an extension of my practice too.

My earliest shifts when teaching yoga was when my classes made it a mind-body practice…. so asana was not just asana – it was the energy behind the asana, the influence of what the asana does for you and your personality. It was still about energy but on a more individual level. As a yoga anatomy teacher, my focus was on helping my students, teachers in training, to be able to integrate the asana along with the energy and keep the practice safe. Again, focus was on preventing harm at the individual level.

Until I slowly allowed my thoughts to shift to a more historical & heritage-based thinking – one with the socio-cultural and socio-political filter.

I chanced upon a mini video clip this morning on Instagram of a teacher speaking to other teachers about the history & origin of yoga. To yoga practitioners, she said, ” take what you need from yoga & leave the rest..” and then went on to say, “… but if you’re a teacher, you can’t deny that yoga has its roots deep, deep, deep in another culture…”

That is when a tiny voice deep, deep, deep within me stirred…. So many teachers today teach yoga as an asana practice without honoring the tradition or even completely sidelining the culture that it comes from. I see this not only in the Western yoga world, this commodification of the practice, but sadly, also in India yoga spaces. And I think to myself, so much of socio-political power dynamics went into retaining yoga and its wisdom for us to explore and be inspired from, and yet, to teach and learn just a portion of it that suits your culture and ignore or be ‘turned off‘ by the larger element of where it comes from because that history is too sticky to handle??

Not cool… not done…

As part of history, yogic practices were outlawed by the British colonization, just as other spiritual practices, including Ayurveda. Why do you think Ayurveda, with it’s deep roots in India is still looked upon as witchcraft by some in it’s own birthplace? There is room for many of us to reconnect with our heritage and really ground ourselves in that space. This isn’t a call for any yogic revolution – but a personal connection with where the practice stems from.

Even as an Indian, or especially as an Indian yogi, I feel it is time we acknowledge the resilience of the wisdom as it has stood the test of time to reach us where we are. To take only asana or only pranayama or meditation and ignore the rest, denying it the acknowledgement of bringing to us what we need is just as harmful as practicing without awareness to how an asana may cause injury if you ignore the structure of your body. The hurt here isn’t always physical, sometimes it runs deeper than that…

 


 

This blog is a part of a very unique yoga challenge led by my dear friend and fellow yogi, Susanna Barkataki – the Dare to Discuss Yoga Challenge. Both of us feel quite deeply about cultural appropriation and bring an authentic purpose to shine through constructive discussion, dialogue and education to make people (yogis & non-yogis) aware – to ‘lessen the appropriation and up the honor’, in Susanna’s words. In support of the challenge and the work, I shall be blogging my introspection and reflection here to share the conversation and build the cumulative effect.

Day 2: Truth: Honoring The Heritage of Yoga

Image result for yoga as indian heritage culture
The basic fabric of Indian tradition is largely based on connection, family and trust. Despite being a vast subcontinent, a lot of our culture and practices – regardless of faith – are steeped in values and cultural norms handed down to us from our ancestors. Some of these traditions are spiritual, others are cultural, yet, within India, there often is an overlap of both or more factors. Yet, to the Indian community, there is an existential level of trust in accepting these traditions.
Today, a lot of yoga that we see, especially in urban India, is one that has been repackaged and reintroduced from the Western world. And to me, that seems disheartening at times…. many times, if I were to be totally honest. So what is the connection with the ancient practice to what is done today? For a very large part, very little. So little, that a yogic practice is a handful of asanas that can be squeezed into an hour before or after work, after the kid have gone to school or before they get back. That is definitely a relevant consideration for practitioners to make time for yoga, but by saying this, I mean to say that yoga today is largely reassigned an equivalent of a body practice – a physical workout.
And even if that were a sufficient start, in many ways, the culture behind the practice is largely lost. What is missing is that shraddha – a word that has no English translation that fully justifies it’s meaning, but could loosely be translated as ‘faithful devotion’ – not in a religious sense – but faith & devotion to the practice, to the ethos, to the culture.
So when I see a ‘commodification’ of yoga – where the culture is adulterated to suit the ‘market needs’, it pains me – deeply… so deeply that it sometimes brinks on offense. I get that yoga meets us where we are, and all that is good. It’s like electricity in a way, that was discovered in Europe but is now a basic utility for all of humanity.
Yoga is for all of humanity too, but it comes from a culture, a people, a sentiment & a faith… and  dragging yoga and forcing it to comply with a lesser ethic is offensive & well, soliciting even. It is as if yoga is being used to justify social and personal imbalances and moral discrepancies and misbehavior… and in the process existing misconceptions about  yoga are further intensified. Naked yoga, beer yoga, ganja yoga… orgasmic yoga? Or even the objectification of women through asana, sexualized yoga-wear and accessories, in the name of yoga, body acceptance and being comfortable in your skin. All those are good attributes & yoga may have helped people get to that level, but no, sorry, please do not use yoga to connect it with a personal journey and make it all about that. It is not – and it is so much more than that.
In doing so, you humiliate me and the thousands of yogis who hold this practice and its wisdom in a place of sanctity. We appreciate and acknowledge the courage and the exponential growth as an individual working with boundaries, abuse, body shaming, victimizing (I work with these groups myself!)…. but that is not yoga…. that is not where it comes from.
And all the while, in India, we’re  awaiting the return of the prodigal child – but consuming the repackaged version and questioning our own culture because, well, science has not proven anything and there is the tendency to fit into and blindly follow another culture that, well, is more powerful than the original culture of yoga from India.
In other words, cultural appropriation.
How can I honor my roots, ancestral heritage & tradition of yoga?
Simple. By being true to who I am. As a yoga teacher, an Indian yoga teacher coming from a multicultural background, I really attempt to make yoga relevant to my students and practitioners. I bring in the wow factor that this ancient wisdom and knowledge is capable of producing – especially to my Indian students who have lost touch with this wealth of wisdom that is their heritage – their rightful inheritance. I cater to their logic by connecting the dots and integrating the wisdom of yoga & Ayurveda to scientific and experiential analogies, examples and stories and make it relevant to them. I share a bit of wisdom in every class I teach – studio as well as YTT.
My hope is that whether they choose to dive deep on their own or not, at least in that one hour of practice with me, I have the opportunity to give away a nugget of ownership and reconnection to their roots and to the vast glory of wisdom, philosophy and alignment with their native truth.
Relevance, Integration & Reconnection is the key – especially here in India.

 

This blog is a part of a very unique yoga challenge led by my dear friend and fellow yogi, Susanna Barkataki – the Dare to Discuss Yoga Challenge. Both of us feel quite deeply about cultural appropriation and bring an authentic purpose to shine through constructive discussion, dialogue and education to make people (yogis & non-yogis) aware – to ‘lessen the appropriation and up the honor’, in Susanna’s words. In support of the challenge and the work, I shall be blogging my introspection and reflection here to share the conversation and build the cumulative effect.

Day 1: Truth: Yoga is So Much More Than Just Poses

Image result for yoga is so much more than asana

I practiced yoga for about 15 years from a book I found in my house (no idea how it got there) when I was about 10. We had no yoga teachers in Kuwait when I was growing up, and honestly, I don’t think I even felt the need for a yoga teacher back then.

More than a decade later, yoga came to me as an answer to a desperate health situation – a severely compromising spinal injury and a thyroid that was completely bust. At the point I thought I was playing into the hands of a marketing gimmick because ‘wasn’t yoga a lazy man’s exercise?

Anyway, it was the only thing available to me at the time – plus the advertisement said, ‘Yoga for Weight Loss‘ – I was hooked – lazy exercise + weight loss sounded really good.

6 months into my practice, I was regular, dedicated, started loving yoga, had lost 25 kgs and was feeling really good about myself. I didn’t question the practice, didn’t question the postures – I just followed. It was also a time when I was delving into spiritual texts and books, so my instructor and I had a lot to talk about. My back felt wonderful, I knew yoga was working.

Then I had a repetitive stress injury to my knee.

And I started becoming aware of what I was doing in my yoga sessions.

That was when yoga really came to me.

I was training to be a meditation instructor under the Vedic Mastery program. and I was opening myself up to the immense vastness of the practice….

Slowly and steadily I started embodying the practice and the philosophy… one step at a time. Until one day it dawned on me – I wanted to really learn, live, feel and be yoga – the practice, the philosophy, the experience… and in the process, help others to get a feel of it in their own way – the unique way they could experience yoga in their own lives.

So I started with where I was and where yoga found me – in my pain, in my body. I chose to bring yoga and work with other people who were in that place too. I chose to work with individuals with spine and thyroid issues.

That’s when I was doubly certain of my chosen path to understand the various aspects of Vedic wisdom. My journey to learn yoga was set.

And then I went about looking for a teaching school like a 21st century seeker – online!!

I’m not sure how much I learnt in that teacher training – it was quite a sham, to be honest – the school used a lot of false credentials, used a lot of ‘us v/s them‘ philosophies, didn’t do one single class on Anatomy & Physiology, didn’t get me to practice teaching even once, in short… didn’t deliver. However, they got me to practice ‘boot camp style’, subtly body shamed me by including me in every class but saying that I would need to ‘lose weight’ & fix my body’ so that I could teach in the next few months, and got me to stay away from every chakrasana, halasana and other asanas by saying, “you don’t do this”….

There was no history, no lineage, nothing… but

I learnt my yoga from there.

I was re-introduced to the Bhagvad Gita in Sanskrit and was inspired to take it in my stride. I learnt everything that a yoga teacher should not be from my first YTT of over 400 hours and promptly re-enrolled in another RYT200 program at another school after I had done some solid research. I didn’t mind the investment because this time, I felt a resonance as soon as I had stepped into the studio.

I had found my yoga home.

It was in this teaching program, that I learnt my yoga from. It was here that I connected with my lineage, with a teacher, with the history and origin of the practice and the scope of the yoga culture and what I could bring to it. As a Hatha Yogi, I had found my flow and connection drawing back to the origin of teachers, steeped in tradition, and reaching outwards to what it meant to my practice and what I would teach.

Over the years, my yoga education has reconditioned me as a yogi and as a teacher. The teachings and values that the curriculum and mentoring has offered has really allowed me to introspect and look into who I am and what I am here to do.

Today, yoga is never just an asana to me… or to my students, for that matter. Yoga met me where I was at a time when there was very little asana I could do, yet as long as I showed up on the mat, yoga showed up for me.

So what is yoga for me today? It is what I live – the way I live. Yoga reminds me of being a woman, a human, a spirit, an influence and an influencer. Yoga allows me to embody my authenticity even on those days when I feel differently, reminds me to love myself when I don’t feel very loving or loveable, connects me to ME when I feel disjointed, helps me to get back into my body & heart when life drags me towards being stuck in my head and the worries of everyday existence….

Yoga sustains me, yoga nourishes me. Today, yoga is what brings food on my table when other providers have turned away. Yoga is my gift from the Universe that is conspiring to make things work for me. And above all, yoga is my legacy, my inheritance from my roots, my culture – it is native to me – as native as my own heritage – and I am grateful to be who I am.

Just a pose, just an asana?

Uh-huh

It goes far deeper than that – perhaps deeper than words can do justice to. It is an expression – it is a sense of being.


This blog is a part of a very unique yoga challenge led by my dear friend and fellow yogi, Susanna Barkataki – the Dare to Discuss Yoga Challenge. Both of us feel quite deeply about cultural appropriation and bring an authentic purpose to shine through constructive discussion, dialogue and education to make people (yogis & non-yogis) aware – to ‘lessen the appropriation and up the honor’, in Susanna’s words. In support of the challenge and the work, I shall be blogging my introspection and reflection here to share the conversation and build the cumulative effect.

When the breath wanders

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When the breath wanders, the mind is also unsteady… Hatha Yoga Pradipika 4.6-28

And there we go again, me & my love of scriptures! Of course, this whole month I have been thinking and reading about the breath & prana (leading up to my workshop this Wednesday, but today I came across this quote that referenced the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (HYP). So I pulled out my copy and dug deep into finding the reference for myself.

As with such scriptures, the paraphrased and succinctly positioned quote online is a summary of many verses within the HYP and the relevance of every verse builds upon the previous and lays the foundation for the next sutra. But the breath, and through the breath, prana, is that entity, that energy, that sustains everything. The movement of thought, including the very generation of thought requires prana. So, as the breath wanders aimlessly, the mind likewise follows suit & generates the millions of thoughts and amplifies a mental ‘busy-ness’ or chatter.

Food for thought, then, about taking long, deep calming and cleansing breaths…. We’ll explore more in the coming days…

Namaste

I Teach Yoga – with Electric Blue Hair

whatsapp-image-2018-09-28-at-10-42-27.jpegYesterday I streaked my hair an electric blue and magenta.

It was a deviation from my erstwhile choices of red, pink, purple – yes, still a bit outrageous, but in a sedate kind of way.

This time, it was blue (and magenta).

And not just blue (and magenta) – it was also a neat uber close crop on one side – a neat woman undercut to compete with my son’s from just the day before complete with sexy long fringe side swept and splashed with panels of electric blue (and magenta).

My mother loved it. My brother loved it. My kids love it. I love it.

So why this blog?

This blog, because I triggered a reaction – in some others and then, as I noticed it, in myself.

The reaction questioned my choice – the looks ranged from surprise, to appreciation, to a second-look and wow… and at the other end of the spectrum brinking on envy, nonchalance, refusal to meet my eye, or a quick look to my hair followed by an uncomfortable silence.

And these reactions were from other men and women alike.

Honestly, I was amused – really, I was. I was amused at the stark discomfort that some people felt at my extreme comfort I had in being me.

But more than amusement, it was the realization that stereotypes are always going to challenge a shift. And what exactly was the shift here?

3 panels of blue streaks?

So let’s see…. Did that make me any more or less of – a mom? or a mother of teens? a mother of three?? an Indian woman/ mother? a yogi? a yoga ‘teacher‘??

Or was it just that it was incomprehensible for a woman who ‘supposedly‘ facing so many challenges in life, to go out and have her hair done… and colored in an outrageously, wild and defiant color? Ermm… or was it just not fair for her to be unapologetically herself, happy, in-charge of her life, taking each day as it arrived every morning, fixing the fu*k-ups and still showing up to life – on and off the mat? With that 100-watt smile that is her trademark and a laughter more infectious that the viral that seems to be doing the rounds?

So what gives?

Either way, I don’t think my yoga mat disapproved. I don’t think my asana faltered any more in my arm balances than they were wont to. I don’t think my practice judged.

But I guess, somewhere in being triggered by the unspoken judgments where breaking free from preconceived ideas and stereotypes simply because of me being me, I had fallen prey to it.

And, well, it stirs the pot of upset and inner frustration. (Even yogis get upset and frustrated, in case you were wondering – at least contemporary yogis who can still call a spade a spade!)

But, well, operating from values mean a whole lot more than the trigger that upsets and frustrates. So, The Curvy Yogi still shows up – every day, every moment. She shows up with her flaws, with her imperfect perfection and her perfect imperfections…. she shows up with her mat and without, with her smile and her laugh and her gathered wisdom and learnt knowledge… and she shows up with that authenticity and integrity that form the crux of her being.

And yes, of course, she shows up as the Indian mom who teaches yoga and trains yoga instructors in electric blue & magenta hair!

Namaste

From the student’s heart

shiva
PC: Isha – Sadhguru

Today is Guru Poornima – a festival widely celebrated in India and Nepal, signifying the expression of reverence towards the Guru. Indian culture has always upheld the guru’s place – socially as well as in mythology. Growing up, and not coming from the essential Hindu culture, I was a bit removed from the concept of subscribing to a teacher, let alone a guru. However, the Indian fabric of culture did instill in us, a sense of respect towards our teachers and educators.

Over the years and through my yoga and spiritual journey, I had the opportunity to meet and interact with many teachers and thought leaders – people of significance who helped shaped my personality, my beliefs and my sense of integrity, values and purpose. Not all of them directly influenced this transformation, but some of them did. Some teachers were a glaring example of what I chose not to do in life and others were grounding examples of purpose, compassion and mission.

The days leading to this Guru Purnima I was contemplating on far I had come in my own journey as a  yoga student and as a teacher. I saw growth spurts as well as moments of inertia – I saw traction as as well as propulsion. I saw a line that I was following and I also noticed the hand that I was offering my students when they were stuck. There was this sense of give and take.

And in that moment, I realised that even without being directly in touch with my  teachers of significance, I was living my life on purpose with what I had learnt from them – and through them, from a lineage that goes back to significant source of grounded wisdom, energy and wholeness. Through my teacher, my lineage and that of my students was being moulded and strengthened. The power of that lineage had the tendency to spill over into my personal life has a householder, a mother, a woman, a friend, a civilian – an individual – an individual on purpose.

Omg! I’m getting the shivers as I share this now – this organic, in-the-moment, straight-from-the-heart sharing…

So here goes…

Today, I offer my heartfelt gratitude to my teachers. My teachers – my parents and grandparents who made me who I am, to my children who teach me every single day of how much more I have to work on to get there, my teachers in school, in college & University, trainers who have given me the tools to reach out to do the work that I do, to my students who see the light in me that I would see in my teachers, and to my mentors and teachers at The Chopra Center, Dr. Deepak Chopra. Dr. David Simon, Pandit Vamadev Shastri, Yogini Shambhavi…. thank you for your guidance and support.

But on the path of the yogi, my teacher, who was the first one to bring to me the teaching that definitively makes me the teacher who I am today, who has given me the numerous opportunities and freedom to be who I am and bring my skills to the fore, to establish myself in who I am meant to be and who was with me when we had the collective vision to build community in Bangalore. We’ve shared deep discussions, silly laughs and spent weeks and months over events, programs and courses. He invited me into the fold when I needed that space and he allowed me the space to leave when I felt I had to move on. He’s been a friend, a sounding board and my source of frustration when I needed to work my way through a challenge. He was with me when I had the biggest accident of my life so far, his comforting smile was the last I saw as they wheeled me away to the Operating Theatre and he gave me the gift of my lineage.

Pradeep Sattwamaya – forever in gratitude. Thank you!

The Harshest Critic

I love Ayurveda.

I love it because it is so intuitive and customisable. I love it because it has been a flashlight showing up my personality, quality and traits… as well as my eccentricities, biases and not-to-favourable attributes.

As a pitta-kapha, I get to enjoy my spirited personality as well as diplomatic tact – I take my natural courage and spearhead through life, taking charge and moving forward headfirst into whatever I need to address- and then sit back and think about ‘what just happened‘ later.. Oh wait, that’s my Aries nature, I think.

Regardless, Ayurveda has taught me to understand myself much better. I’ve come to learn what I’m naturally good at and what I tremendously suck at.

Last week, was the time for reflection – no, it was time for some traits to reflect back on me…. and the week was brutal.

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I’m not sure what exactly had caused the imbalance, but I was in a heightened mood of volatility – not angry or raging, but hot and intense. I was exacting, scrupulous and feverishly meticulous. And that was just the pitta speaking. When it came to flex, I was at my kapha best for being bull-headed and stubborn – reluctant to let go and angry at myself for being so.

My body rebelled by retaining a stubborn inflammation in my feet, that surprisingly would completely disappear during my asana time…. and the doctor’s question, “How is your stress life?” just about validated my suspicion that the inflammation was because of the stress that I was subjecting myself to.

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I didn’t realise how harshly I was berating myself until I found myself, in the dumps of a bad day, speaking with a friend over some common work, rushing to save a sheet we were working on… but not before making sure all the alignments were proper and the bold & italics were in their rightful cells.

I was unwell, I was angry (at the blood report, at the doctor, at the suspected blood culprit, at the prospect of endless other tests…), and other appointments going for a toss,…. I was furious at being out of control… that I was ferociously and vehemently being stubborn to not give up until I had the mere Excel sheet under my control.

PHEW!

Was not a joke, no it wasn’t.

Imbalances are real – and even if you don’t subscribe to Ayurveda, our personalities are even more real. Our thoughts really do make up our reality and I realised that my thoughts were being critical – hypercritcal …

Of myself.

I realised that while yoga was helping me this week physically, I had skimped on the deeper aspect of yoga that I was not paying heed to.

While I was called to being compassionate and yogic as a principle, I was not applying it to me.

Oh, the kind of self-depreciation, self-doubting and self-criticising words I kept repeating in my head. Even my acceptance felt like it was just to challenge my own self. I was fighting with myself.

And I wasn’t going to back down.

Until that reflection really caught me like a deer caught in the headlights.

I caught myself.

And it was time to get down into the much to disentangle myself from this mesh of self-reproach and castigation.

I turned back to the mat – my confidante, my ally.

And I turned towards the philosophy of yoga – my yoga…. for that solace that comes from knowing it is a source of comfort and faith.

I chose to work through my imbalance and really allow the yama & niyama to work through me. I chose to allow myself to be kinder and more compassionate to myself – to soften my heart towards myself just as I would to others.

I’m reconnecting with myself this coming week – through the yama.

And I’ll be reminding myself to just be a little more gentle with me – this is a lot, this is work… Just let me be kind to myself as I go through this.

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Overcoming Excuses

Sometime last year as I was working through my goals and projects, I found a tip in one of my resources to note down the possible and potential obstacles that could come in the way of the project’s success. Over the months, I’ve applied this tip in most of my goals and projects – both personal and professional.

Especially in my yoga sadhana – because getting back to practice on the mat was potentially like getting on to the battleground with excuses, ‘not-todays‘ and ‘maybe tomorrows‘. And that’s true for many of us… and the funny thing is that most of the excuses are, well, just that – excuses – sometimes quite flimsy ones too!

I’ll share my asana project ‘planning guide’ next week because today I just want to acknowledge and validate the ‘excuses‘.

My potential obstacles to not following up on my asana goals (to practice 5 to 7 days a week to achieve my target asana) were these:

  • feeling lazy
  • no time
  • falling sick
  • getting my period

Yes, at first glance they seem innocuous or even logical, but these ‘reasons’ have the capacity to snowball into weeks and months of no practice.

So I decided to nip the matter in the bud.

My favorite piece of advice to my students has always been to ‘Just Show Up‘ – that was what I decided to do in the face of my pitfalls.

I was going to show up on the mat anyway.

I was going to show up for myself.

So here’s what I did:

I planned for these eventualities… and decided what I would do if and when they’d crop up.

And guess what happened? All 4 of these potential threats launched themselves at me within 2 weeks of my project. All 4! No kidding! Even my ovaries decided to test me! And I even managed to fall a wee bit ill at the same time!

But… the prep worked.

I showed up…. on the mat! Every single day.

I felt lazy on one particular day. I showed up and ended up with a gorgeous 90 minute practice.

The day I had a packed schedule, I showed up and ensured my hour of practice was crisp. I also pushed back all future meetings to after my sadhana time. I other words, I put me first.

When the period arrived, I’d planned to stick to pranayama and meditation – but on the mat. So that’s where I headed. And ended up, instead, with a 15 minute gentle detox restorative set of asanas that made my back feel better and hips open up. At this time, more than ever, I listened to my body’s wisdom.

2 days later, I picked up a mild stomach bug – ending up in a fitful night with nausea and the chills – I didn’t want to get on the mat.

But I did.

I just sat there – then lay down on my mat. I guess Shavasana was the need of the hour and my mat understood.

I guess excuses and reasons are real and valid – temporarily – but preparing for them by acknowledging their presence is one step over the hurdle. Knowing that it is Ok to fall back sometimes and still get back on track is better yet.

After all, the only time we have is now. We’re not running out of it – we’re living in it.

What’s your excuse?

Feel your yoga

Forget about the pretzelasanas! Yes, I’m telling you that – just forget about them. One of the biggest misconceptions people have about yoga is that it involves twisting the body into ridiculously impossible positions. Well, some postures may do that, but they are not your average starting point.

For most of us simplicity is key – and that is where it helps to begin.

I keep my classes fun and engaged – I challenge the practitioners when I feel they need it and yes, sometimes it also depends on how I feel on that particular day. If most teachers were to share their thoughts, they would agree with that. Of course, many of also go with a basic class plan in mind (or paper), but again, it may be one of those days when the class is just not meant to have that planned session and the teacher has got no choice but to think on her feet!

So here’s one of my keys for beginner classes – I accept that many of us come in with an inbuilt idea of how and where our  bodies are positioned. I also understand that many of us exhibit varying shades of distorted body image. While we can address those issues over time, we start by offering simple tools right from the first ever class.

My pet cue in class is to feel.

feelings_wordcloud

I haven’t yet closed a class where people have not felt different from what they started off with. This is not a self-pat-on-the-back moment, thought it might as well be one, but it is a cue that I feel many teachers would do well to incorporate into their classes.

Why?

Because many practitioners, including some long-time ones, have simply bought in to the idea that a good yoga session is similar to a good workout. Well, it is, in a way, but it is also much more with a scope of going even deeper – at all levels. Most people, yogi or non, have lost touch with how they feel. I know this because although I have a very strong sense of knowing what is happening in my body and any changes – I had, over time, and as a defense mechanism, shut down some very deep parts of myself – the parts that felt the feelings!

And still, it was not that difficult to reconnect – but it took dedication and showing up. In other words, to make my classes authentic enough for my students to walk away with a feeling of difference, I should have walked the talk. Right? Right!

So here’s a tip to try when you practice next time (and don’t worry about what level of challenge you are in):

Part I

Whenever you remember, mid asana, and no matter what state of ‘alignment’ you are in, think a part of your body – any part. Think about what the part feels like. Don’t try to correct or shift it – unless that is what you need to do to avoid any injury. But just stay with it.

Part II

Practice Part I when you are off your mat – on your way to work (not unless you are driving or operating machinery!), before / after you have a bath, before / after a meal.. in other words, any time!

What we’re looking at here is reconnecting our mind to our feelings through our body… Reconnection is the word and best way to make that happen is to begin by relearning how to feel.

Let me know how it goes!