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I am over halfway over through my 30 day #makeshifturbanretreat and it is proving to be both challenging and enlightening. Last week I was contemplating why I do yoga and in what way that affects how I yoga. This has been playing on my mind as I went through another week of varying classes and experiences.
At the same time I hit the mid retreat hump (when you get tired and the reality of the task sets in) - and boy did I feel it - the turbulence, reluctance, the aches, pains and all my old baggage coming up. Including that rebellious teenager who always wanted to bunk class!
I was reminded of the poem by Rumi 'The Guesthouse' where he writes about welcoming in all the guests that come in every day, these feelings and everything coming up are part of the process of life, and of opening up to life.
The poem has been a balm for me, and another lesson that kept coming to me - which I have heard from various teachers is to use yoga as medicine. Yoga can be a transformational elixir for when we feel in emotional/mental/physical pain and reminds us that we have potential for feeling free. Yoga can be nourishing and revitalising, rather than another opportunity to self-flagellate (mentally or physically!)
I am luckily in good health but like many of us I have had my share of life's little knocks and yoga helps me process and dissolve them quicker. Yoga, for me, can be a blissful time to reflect on the wonder of the body and beauty of life but also can be about meeting challenging situations with grace and compassion. Sometimes it feels really great, sometimes really icky. Just like medicine. And you have to learn to find the right medicine for the right wound.
Which yoga do you need when? As we deepen our practice we need to work out what we really need and this is a gradual process of deepening our ability to listen to our bodies. Sometimes it is breathing exercises, sometimes lying on a bolster, sometimes core work, sometimes inversions ... every day is different because our bodies constantly shift and change! With a good teacher we can learn how to gage what is needed to discover our deep wellspring of prana (energy) which can nourish and restore us through our practice. So we feel ... our self again.
When I remember that yoga can be a medicine that changes my attitude to why I practice which shifts how I practice (and teach). If I slip into a superficial ego place - it feels off and someone always ends up getting hurt - normally me! I need to keep remembering that true yoga isn't making crazy shapes but rather seeking the space in and around those shapes. The ancient yogis didn't necessarily do 108 sun-salutes a day, in fact historians don't think they did any sun-salutes (or if they did they didn't bother to record it) - but more vitally they sat and listened and had great insights about mankind and the universe. Now that is a kick-butt yogi.
Yip, I know sometimes after a stress filled day we need to move and sweat first to find our meditative seat, but let's not kid ourselves into thinking that impressing people with our perfect backdrop makes us some kind of awakened being. If only.
Now when I attend a class I am looking for a medicinal quality and a space for nourishment. Sometimes through movement, sometimes stillness, remembering that a true yogin is a healer who intuits what is needed. This week I came across a few teachers/healers that reminded me of that and really inspired me. I was really happy to see busy classes with teachers who have a deep sadhana (subtle practice) and are truly vulnerable and open. So I thank all the brave teachers in London who are offering their healing hands, wise words and whole heart to their wonderful classes and the studios who open the space for them. When I started this challenge I was genuinely worried that I would find a dearth of depth but I have found the opposite. Londoners want to reconnect to their spirit, they want to feel better and are on a quest for appreciating life. Hooray! Good thing I got out of my little bubble to recognise that.
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Bridget, the yogi spy x