What is my yoga? What does it mean to me? Why am I writing about it?
I am about the take my yoga practice of many years to another level by starting a teacher training. I didn't think that when the time came (I knew it would happen as a natural next step for me at some point), there would be so much anxiety involved.
Why does something you love and desire, turn out to be accompanied with so much fear? That's a headline for a whole other train of thought and blog post but it made me sit down and think about what yoga is, and why this training is important, to me. I felt that it would be helpful to put it in words, both for my own process and for the sake of others. You may gain a perspective and see how the physical and spiritual path of yoga can be a life changer, a support in everything you do, an opener of doors to parts of your mind, body and soul that lead to possibilities you never thought possible for yourself.
How It Started
I grew up with my parents practicing a form of spiritual practice called 'Latihan'. It just means 'practice' in Bahasa Indonesia and is just another way to silence your thoughts and emotions to allow for your soul to speak (that's my personal experience of this practice). When I began to practice yoga, I did this without spirituality in mind. I basically took the classes as a physical workout. I soon fell in love with it as I learned that yoga was a connection of the mind and body. I was introduced to various yogic meditation techniques and the combination of mind and body just made so much sense. My previous spiritual practice seemed to slot right into that as well and it felt like the most natural way for me to combine mind, body and soul into one discipline and indeed, way of life.
Yoga and I Today
Today, when I say 'I do yoga', I mean that I take the time to create space, to be silent, to breath consciously. I weave a thread with my breath, to connect my body and mind. Sometimes this silence even allows me to disconnect from the physical world and briefly touch the spirit dimension. The one where all desires and fears disappear. Some call it the 'ultimate bliss'. But for me, 'bliss' still has a connotation of pleasure. And pleasure is somehow connected to desire and emotion. I am not sure what word I can ascribe to the sensation of touching the spirit dimension. It feels like being emptied out of all my burdens but I don't feel empty. It feels like being filled up with anything and everything I could possibly need but I don't feel 'full'. Also, any form of 'need' is entirely absent. Yes, the experience is blissful, but so is a warm day on the beach and a glass of wine by candle light. The difference is that the latter experiences are somehow connected with emotions. Our desires are being fed and we feel happy. But in the absence of all of that the blissful state of the spirit is something else. Your whole self just IS. It isn't sad, happy, blissful, angry, afraid, warm, cold...all of that just falls away. And when all that makes us human-beings falls away and we connect with an otherworldly part of ourselves, we are almost divine. It's the ultimate peace.
How Yoga Supports My Life
There are so many ways in which this practice has benefited me. The conscious practice began when I was hit with constant anxiety in the process of my marriage breaking down. I couldn't breath most mornings and it felt like I needed to manage my survival. I began with regular breath work and meditation practices each morning followed by movement. After a few weeks my anxiety disappeared and every day I grew calmer and was able to face any conflict with a more reflective and less reactive demeanour. I noticed that I had more patience and really began 'witnessing' my own mind at work. Like an additional part of me came alive that had the ability to observe my thoughts and behaviour as it was happening, allowing me to be more 'objective' about myself. This part of me isn't emotional and unaffected by my personal conditioning. The more I practice, the stronger that part of me becomes though it also comes in phases. Sometimes I have more capacity for the practice and sometimes less. It is a discipline that, like any discipline, doesn't always come easy. But over the years I have become increasingly sensitive to this practice. This means that when I skip one I immediately notice the difference in how I function. The need to create moments of stillness is greater than it was before, simply because my whole being is becoming more familiar with what it feels like.
Having this deep connection with my inner world has supported me through difficult times. But more than that it has shown me parts of myself that I wouldn't have seen due to layers of fear and conditioning. Then I am given the strength to pursue desires that take me out of my comfort zone and into new adventures. I'm quite certain that without this strength I may have just sat on the sidelines and admired others doing things that I would feel too small and scared to do myself. In short, the awareness of the depths of my mind and the connection to my spirit has allowed me to break down walls and obstacles that lead to so much beauty and abundance that this life has to offer.
The Minor Downside
Quite honestly, the 'spirit coming alive', as I call it, also has its disadvantages. Have you ever heard anyone speaking about the disadvantages of the awakening of the spirit? Well, let me tell you, it's really quite an inconvenience sometimes, when your common humanity just wants to wallow in pleasure or give in to the guilty pleasures of addictions, desires, emotions of all kinds (anger, jealousy, vindictiveness..and all the others). Sometimes I don't want to know better. But ever since I woke up that part of myself, I can't do that anymore without feeling the effects immediately. All my senses, the five and all the ones beyond, are heightened and the consequences of going against the spirit are felt strongly. When you know, you know! I can't bullshit myself anymore and sometimes that's annoying. But obviously, the benefits outweigh this minor inconvenience ;). And to be clear, I don't know anything! But when I speak about 'knowing' in this case, it is knowing myself. Or at least, getting to know myself and using my instincts to guide me.
Now, yoga, as a physical, mental and spiritual practice, is just part of my life. Once it's turned on, you can't really turn it off. You can stop developing it but it'll always be there guiding you along. The more you practice the clearer the guidance becomes. And who doesn't need some guidance in this world of human insanity.