My yoga journey, isn’t yours

I regularly think about where my yoga journey has taken me. It has been one filled with twists and turns, the good and the bad.

I started out practicing yoga in my late teens. The first video I watche of it was a woman in white who was just moving her body in different ways. It was calming, relaxing and I felt good when I had finished practicing.

I started going to classes in my 20’s. I was such an active person that calming my mind was not what I thought I needed, so of course I did power yoga. Power yoga -sometimes known as power vinyasa- is a fast moving practice. Vinyasa means ‘to place in a special way’. In our western construct of yoga we usually take this to mean that you connect your breath to the movement. It can also mean the act of setting an intention and taking steps to reach it.

Now I’m not ‘bagging’ on power yoga however this practice in our context is often taken to be a workout rather than a practice of breath and movement. It’s often a practice that you’ll see in gym based studios. One intention of the class is to get a sweat on and to leave as quickly as possible after. Don’t get me wrong, through my 20’s this was what I practiced and I loved every minute of it. I missed out on having a better understanding of what this was doing for my body, my mind and my breath. Instead success was measured by how much I sweated!.

While pregnant with my third child, I developed a heart condition that meant yoga was pretty much my physical exercise. This was a turning point for me in my yoga journey. Yoga became more of a practice for my mind to slow down rather than for my body to speed up. I noticed that I wasn’t so frustrated in poses and was able to take deep breaths and settle into the asana that I was being taught. This had a freeing aspect to it and a deep learning of what yoga was to be for me.

When I started my teacher training I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to take these incredible learnings of breath and movement to everyone. While training I learnt more about the philosophy of yoga, those who created this ancient practice and how we have westernised it to suit us. I didn’t think about it too much then but now, I understand how as a collective we have watered yoga down to make it more palatable to the masses (but that’s for another blog). I decided that teaching was what I wanted to do and more importantly I wanted to host retreats so that people could immerse themselves in new experiences, rest, rejuvenation and movement.

I’ve been teaching now for over 5 years. Not long in the scheme of things. Last year I decided that I wasn’t going to teach anymore. I was exhausted from writing classes, from organising the practicalities of venue and hire, from keeping the peace at retreats and of zoom.

But do you know what got me the most?

I had spent years practicing yoga -on and off – and I no longer enjoyed it. I was giving all the energy that I once held for myself and my practice to everyone else that I was teaching. I had run dry. My creativity had gone, my desire to teach was disappearing. I felt like I had lost my yoga mojo.

I tried the things you’d think would be a good idea like taking a break from teaching. But still I wasn’t into it.

It wasn’t until I sat down in quiet and really thought about why I practiced that I realised I wasn’t practicing…at all. I didn’t go to classes at a studio, I was barely using my online membership and the thought of spending time on my mat was an exhausting thought..

I needed to come back to my own practice. I contemplated this for quite a while, having many a conversation with some yoga teacher friends. What I came up with was profound for me.

I practice yoga because I love how it makes my body feel.

I love the stillness.

I love how the gentle, yet challenging asana allows for me to be me on any given day.

I enjoy the challenge.

I feel at peace with the practice of pranayama (breath practices).

I love how the movement treats my body and explores new areas of it in ways I may not have considered.

I love knowing that for the time I am practicing all I am doing is one thing.

I enjoy the connection it has given me to the womb, the chakras, to gratitude..

I am grateful for the understanding I now have of intention.

I am grateful for the grace it has permitted me for my body to heal.

I am grateful for the freedom it has given me, to explore it in my own way.

I am grateful for the people I have been able to share it with.

When I prepare for classes or retreats I am always considering what would make people leave the class feeling good? 

The more I think about this the more I realise though that it’s not about me.

As a teacher I am here to guide you in your practice. I am here to help keep you safe in the pose physically and to feel comfortable mentally and emotionally in the space. I am not here to dictate your journey. My explanations may spark something in you that brings you joy or gives you a thought to ponder. The physical asana may challenge you or make you sweat. But-

That’s not the purpose.

The purpose is for you to find the reason you practice. It is for you to have your own journey into the depths of an asana or the beauty of a meditation. 

It is for you to find your way.

What I have learnt is that your yoga journey is not linear. There will be peaks and troughs. 

What I also know to be true is that yoga is not a destination. It is a practice that opens the body, heart and mind to possibility. 

It is a start point, not an end point.

And as for teaching – I’m loving it. Some tweaks and some time for my own practice has served me well. I even have a new retreat lined up and workshops at the ready. 

I have always believed that yoga was pertinent to how I guide people who I work with and it seems that is exactly what it has been – a catalyst so to speak.

I am open to wherever it takes me next.

What has your yoga journey been so far? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Tanya

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