The Hard and Soft of Yoga

Many of my great teachers have told me that if you have a connection to yoga in your current life, you were probably a yogi in a former life and are simply continuing on your journey. I was certainly a yogini in a former life but there are some parts of my yogic journey I haven’t quite reconciled with yet and who knows for how many life times I have carried them given their depth. This is a difficult post and one of honesty and confusion. 

Firstly, this is by no means a post bashing yoga or any of the teachers I’ve had, yoga is quite simply my love and passion and I believe in the science of yoga with my whole heart. As I have previously written yoga has had a profound effect on my life and although, I have always been quite interested in health and well-being various stints of vegetarianism and a slight herbal tea obsession. Yoga was a natural progression from my love of dance although, I understand they are fundamentally different, dancers are often used to being ‘in’ their bodies, I found a sense of familiarity with my classical dance training and this is possibly the root of where my practices of self-loathing began.

My life was quickly revolutionised by yoga, I was aware of my health, mind and body. To begin with I cried a lot with yoga; during class, after class, practicing at home I know that the crying yogi isn’t an unusual phenomenon especially someone like me who naturally sensitive and empathetic- I cry often anyway. (my mother says she will title her memoir I had a daughter who wept) 

Here in lies the problem; yogi’s are held in such high regard- disciplined, calm, navigating and negotiating problems with a rational poise and ease or not having any attachment to the problem to begin with. Right? So when I’m melting down, screaming at my husband or reaching for a bottle of wine at the end of a hard day am I still a yogi? When I don’t have the discipline to roll out my mat two days in a row? Or feel as though I would trade my first born for some hot chips? Often, I find I berate myself planting seeds of hate of how I think I should be behaving, eating, speaking, practicing yoga and dealing with problems.

Awareness and mindfulness are one thing, self destruction is something completely different and I feel that my evolution is teetering on the edge of self-destruction.  I spoke of my sensitivity, yoga makes us more sensitive not only on a physical level, but, we tune into our bodies, mind and energies with a different clarity. I have read articles on how yoga isn’t for everyone as it increases this sensitivity (although, I’d still say yoga is for everyone 🙂 ) . 

These seeds of hate increasingly, make me lose the ability to see the times I roll out my mat, the wonderful nourishing things I do for my body and mind everyday. I often hear my friends saying horrible things about themselves and I wince at the harshness. I often say “would you speak to a child like that?” or “would you say that to Buddha?” But, my internal dialogue spits harshness and hatefulness in varying degrees to me everyday.

My yoga practice allows me to identify with the child inside me and hate it at the same time and then judge myself for doing it. The hard and soft of yoga. Yoga teaches us to not judge, yet i have become an extremist at self-judgement, the scariest part is I have become so good at explaining, or even ‘preaching’ a message of the importance of self-love and acceptance to others. 

Lately, I have had a few headaches which is very uncommon for me and pain in my left jaw joint, it is sensitive to the touch and substantially worse when I’m self-loathing. This is tension caused through the hate I feel about myself I hold my mouth hard, often biting the inside of my mouth until it bleeds and then I get angry at myself for doing it!

This is a physical response and a great example of how negativity impacts us physically. A bad thought is not dissimilar to slapping yourself in the face or periodically holding your finger over a naked flame. While physical self- harm seems outrageous to me, it is exactly what I am practicing and it certainly has no place in my yoga practice or life. 

So how do I fix this? Practice self-love? 

Sounds easier than I think it is but, today I start. I start celebrating the small stuff and letting go of my own harsh expectations. I will begin melting the hate and finding the love. If you identify with anything I have written I urge you to do the same thing. 

 

With namaste and love

xxxxx

 

 

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The magic of a Sunday

ImageSunday is one day of the week when wonderful things happen, yesterday was one of those days (till I got sick). In the morning Tom finally decided he was ready to do some yoga but we are still negotiating how exactly that is going to work. I go into most physical activities with an element of steely determination, this is not necessarily a good thing, I’m constantly looking for a softness in my practice and years of practicing without that softness and overworking requires retraining of my brain and body, healing of hardened muscles and allowing flexibility. My initial response to his  pained ‘facial yoga’ and lack of flexibility is that its laziness and a personal insult. I know I sound incredibly uncompassionate, but I’m not, with all physical exertion there are sensations of discomfort, even pain and these feelings tell us things are normal and theses parts of the body could do with a bit of one on one attention. In most circumstances if you listen to your body, it will tell you when things are not right, when you are using too much force, when you are going beyond your boundaries and range of motion. To increase strength and flexibility there will be some discomfort and the more you do it the easier it becomes. Part of the discipline that comes with a yoga practice is acknowledging, things will hurt, but there is a glimpse of freedom next time you do it.

Anyway, we still had a lovely time and I felt so strong in my inversions, Tom confessed to me this morning that he had felt really nice after yoga 🙂

All morning I had something on my mind, I had very long hair and I loved my long hair, lately it was getting me down a little. At my last trip to the hairdressers she had mentioned a program called Beautiful Lengths where you could donate a minimum of 20cm ponytail to be made into real human hair wigs for those undergoing cancer treatment. At the time, though impressed with the program, I was too vain to part with my ponytail. Although, on the magical Sunday morning, I woke up pretty sure I would chop off my ponytail at some point throughout the day.

I washed my hair, and looked at how long it was wet in the mirror, doing my best Brooke Shields Blue Lagoon impression. The morning came and went; yoga, then brunch, reading, a movie, all the while I twirled my hair and contemplated parting with it. I thought about how long I had been growing it and how, I was almost defined by it in lots of ways. In the late afternoon Tom had to go out. Before Tom left he suggested to perhaps wait and get a hairdresser to cut it off, I but I really wanted to do it myself. I tied my hair into a low pony and awkwardly measured the 20cm minimum and began hacking away. I say hacking because my scissors were rubbish and half way through I had to switch to my good embroidery scissors. (This was a very pensive moment when I wasn’t sure if I could actually finish the job, I was having heart palpitations looking for scissors stopping in front of every mirror in the house to assess the hacked at messy half a ponytail!)

Eventually I got through and smiled at my ponytail, my measuring hadn’t been great I had actually cut off 25cm, but i still have plenty. I thought about how attached i had been to such impermanent part of my body. I’m certainly not attached to the hair I pull from the drain or have to unravel from the vacuum cleaner head, it is always growing!

Attachment is a key issue in my life and I am trying to live more simply and learn to ‘unattach’ myself from thoughts, things and behaviors and I think starting with my ponytail was a good beginning.

ImageI can remember so many magical things that have happened on Sundays. Sundays come with a sense of impermanence and can teach us a lot about attachment- throughout my teens I never enjoyed Sunday’s because I kept thinking that Monday was just around the corner. Now they are my most favourite day. Tom and I said we loved each other for the first time on a drizzly Sunday morning, Sundays are for swimming and lounging around, they are for watching Soccer matches at friends houses, afternoon beers, and morning yoga classes and always a special breakfast or brunch.

Namaste

xxxx

2013

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2012 was such a great year, so many wonderful things have happened; I’m now half way through yoga teacher training, married, have given the house 2 mega spring cleans, am a year older but most importantly I made it through and that is a wonderful achievement all in itself, if you’re reading this- you too made it through- well done!

I used to go over the top every New Year and set myself up for feeling pretty shitty about myself, by making up complicated New Year resolutions that even by my own admission, a few were quite crazy.

For 2013, the wonderful first year of marriage and our first overseas travels and the end of yoga teacher training I’m focusing my attention on the Yama’s and Niyama’s , the Yama’s and Niyama’s are the first two petals of the 8 petal system we know as yoga, and they are basically observances and restraints for skillful living.

The yamas are; ahimsa/non violence, satya/honesty, asteya/non stealing, brahmacharya/ continence, aparigraha/ non greed

The niyamas are; saucha/ cleanliness of body and mind (inside and out!), santosha/contentment, tapas/heat fire- this is interpreted as the fire we build up inside through asana, pranayama and meditation helping us to become the best we can be. Svadhyaya/self study, Ishvara- Pranidhara/ is acting the best way we can, and relinquishing all attachment to the outcome of our actions.

They are blissfully easy and things we practice daily, to certain extent, you can see how their meanings also represent an opposite for example if you are practicing ahimsa or non-violence you are at the same time practicing compassion. Someone practicing santosha/contentment is also working hard to let go of things which do not serve them.

In 2013 I will try to be more aware of my observances and restraints, praise myself for doing something positive for myself and judge myself less when I do something less than perfect.

(I have also vowed to juice each day, get in the garden and master some sirsasana variations and I’m sure ahimsa and santosha will help me if it happens or not :))

I would like to leave you with the beautiful words of gorgeous yogini, Elena Brower

‘My intentions for the new year: Say less, listen more. Work less, sleep more. Judge less, love more’

May your 2013 be simple, inspiring, filled with happiness and health.

Namaste xx

Evangelical Yogi

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Last week I got married, it was the greatest day of my life and I cannot be happier. 🙂 🙂 🙂

This week as I slowly slip back into a routine and have had two wonderful practices in the past day I realise how much an effect not doing yoga has on my body. The feelings and sensations much stronger then that of doing yoga, go figure! My body was stiff and tightly wound, my brain foggy and when I laid down in savasana at the end of my first solid practice in over a week i thought to myself , that’s the shit.

My body has felt s much  beautiful emotion, love, anxiety, nervousness and happiness over the past month to get back on the mat and be completely in my body was such relief. The familiar soreness I carry to remind me that I’m getting stronger, the smooth breath cultivated through pranayama and the unusually quiet mind, remind me of why I love yoga. When I first started doing yoga I wondered why everyone didn’t do yoga, I was righteous and to borrow my fellow yogi, Tricia’s words, ‘evangelical’! Yoga makes sense to me in a way that perhaps swimming or cycling does to someone else, but its also for me, it suits my body and my mind. It is unrealistic when I believe in my heart that we are all so individual, that yoga asana is for everyone. It is also incredibly egotistical and ridiculous to think that yoga will prevent disease, aging or other.

My new husband is not a yogi, that is however his beautiful supta baddha konasana in the photo above, he has a job that is hard on his body and works long, unusual hours and would benefit greatly from an asana practice. The few times I have managed to be so ‘evangelical’ about the benefits of yoga, he has agreed to do some* he does beautiful yoga, his is blessed with a naturally athletic, strong body, he walks lighter and seems more centered afterwards. He also agreed in his wedding vows to take some yoga classes. ( man after my heart, I know)

But tonight sitting here feeling my yoga buzz probably combined with the sugar high from the chai shortbread I am devouring, I don’t mind if he ever steps on the mat. I know it would be of course of benefit, therapeutic even, helping to combat some of the impact his work has on his body, help him unwind, maybe even inspire him to quit smoking and eat better but he probably knows this too. If he wanted to do yoga or more importantly, if there was something about his life he wanted to change and yoga could help, all he has to do is ask his wife she is a yoga teacher after all!

I think, potentially…actually probably, I’m projecting my own desire of wanting Tom to enjoy yoga with me, than Tom just enjoying yoga so from now on I will stop. Who knows, maybe one day he may step on the mat of his own accord and maybe he won’t, I’ll love him just as much either way. I will however continue to tell him of the benefits of lying with legs up the wall after a long shift, nag him about smoking and tell him to not be so terrified of vegetable juice.

I promise to stop pushing yoga on people and just love it all to myself!

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Namaste

xxxx

* When I say does yoga only poses that are either supine/lying down or sitting, and his face probably does more yoga wincing and complaining then he does!