When I first started practicing Yoga, I used to think that just showing up to yoga class was enough, a step forwards in the right direction towards what a Yoga practice was advertised as being able to offer.
I started going to Yoga classes when I was still training to become a professional dancer and found that the strength and flexibility I’d developed over the years made the yoga class a very pleasurable and easy experience for me. It reassured me I was strong and flexible, looked good in a leotard and meant I was the one who could do the ‘advanced postures!’ Technically I was hitting all the poses so was taking a step towards yoga right? a step in the right direction right? Not really, more of a stumble to be honest! I fell into yoga postures without thought or care and what I was bringing into the class was actually getting in the way of what was on offer, which was definately more than shape making for 90mins! Looking back, I see my step into Yoga practice was not as beneficial as it could have been. I would put my attention on how bendy I could make myself, how high I could get my leg, I’d eat before class as I was rushing from another class just before and had not scheduled in a lunch break, or sometimes dinner, and sometimes would have to rush off when it was time to corpse/svashana. In terms of the Patanjali’s-the great Yogis definition of Yoga, there was no ‘sthira sukham Asanam’ or a steady easiness that made me vigilient of any ego that was driving and thriving throughout my yoga practice.
Even until recently I’d teach too many classes, not schedule in eating as I’d need to do my self practice on an empty stomach, and end up arriving late to classes or teaching well but being unable to construct a sentence with my friends after class had ended, or have any energy for a social life.
Its only quite recently that I have begun to look at my life and see the active power I have to make changes that allow to live with more ease and a kinder expression towards myself. When I started teaching, teaching alot was good. I had constant support from my teacher and a strong self practice, my young energy was allowing me to learn via many different students, abilities, venues and interactions. Over time, I began to see what environments were most condusive to teach in, and at what times of the day worked best for all in terms of energy and attentiveness. Years on, I am now in the place that has given me a wealth of experience that can be offered best in retreat environments and I have arranged these to meet the advanced level of my students and the sincerity they ve expressed to go deeper into their practice.
In terms of practicing asana yoga, I now see its not making the shape that defines a good yoga practice but what one discovers, by paying attention, about themselves on the Journey. The destination is the ride, that steady easiness we see advanced practioners demonstrate with, can be found within the most basic postures as we learn how to sit in the middle of the push and pull ego mind, become steady, and in this find ease of existence. Just like a smile, it comes from finding the emotion inside it and not from practicing a smiling expression.
It’s not simply stepping forwards but stepping in a way that has a hint of the essence we are looking for, stepping slowly enough to feel the tracks pre laid by the wise yogis and slow enough to smell the roses that accompany the path.