“ Live with awareness for the sake of ourselves and others.” – Sarah Powers
So far it’s been a yin yang summer.
This summer marks a year of leaving the ‘security’ of my old job and beginning the journey of yoga teaching. I’d known long before that I wanted to take this leap and share my love of yoga, but I held myself back for a number of reasons (i.e. excuses) – my postures not being Cirque du Soleil enough, not looking the way a yoga teacher is ‘supposed’ to, worrying other people might think I’d gone ‘la-la-woo-woo’, and a teeny matter of being terrified of speaking in front of groups… Then along came my mate Redundancy to give me the firm kick in the posterior I needed.
Judith Hanson Lasater, when I trained with her earlier this year, joked that yoga teachers are the most “go-go-go” people she knows, often scheduled to the hilt.
I relate to this. I have always had workaholic tendencies, though I’ve increasingly spent the past months being all go-go-go. Working seven days a week most weeks (not only teaching, admittedly), out of necessity to make ends meet. I believed. But when your mind believes one thing it’s funny how the wisdom of the body tells you very clearly not to believe your thoughts!
A number of physical signs stopped me in my tracks, telling me I had to start doing things differently. (Like actually taking a day off occasionally.) So, I followed my gut instinct and did something that seemed illogical. I gave up a part-time job.
But I have faith that when you let go of one thing you clear the way for something new. And funnily enough… I’ve been having a number of serendipitous experiences.
In June I did a wonderful intensive training with Shiva Rea. The timing, though I did not realise it then, could not have been more perfect. One thing that particularly struck me, within learning about the essentials of teaching vinyasa flow, were the reminders about moving with the flow of life off the mat too.
Then this month I was lucky enough to attend a workshop with Sarah Powers – yin yang yoga and mindfulness meditation. This was certainly not my first experience of a yin practice, though it was my first (and hopefully not last) experience of practicing with Sarah Powers, and the timing seemed pertinent. On the mat we were invited to meet our limitations during our yin practice. To see where we resist and, to recognise the resistance rather than resisting resistance. Sarah talked about ‘implicit resistance’ and how we may manipulate a situation to tell ourselves, “I’m fine”. And she also talked about compassion (karuna) towards our habits of aversion towards the uncomfortable situations in our lives. In turn, this allowed me to think about where I resist off the mat too and how, indeed, I had ignored my own internal signals over the past months. I recognised how little compassion I had been showing myself in that time.
For our mindfulness meditation practice, using the breath (observing it rather than controlling it) as a tool to anchor to the present moment, Sarah talked about developing the observing mind, seeing what happens when we observe resistance, pleasure and so on.
“If you can’t listen to the breath, then you can’t listen to the subtle internal messages.”
It was in paying attention to my internal messages rather than listening to my ‘logical’ thoughts that I realised I had to change what I was doing and how I was doing it.
All of these things were reminders of what I already knew deep down, internally. But how often do we push these kinds of feelings aside in favour of what seems logical?
In talking about her own practice Sarah mentioned how it is amazing to notice when you don’t practice for a few days that everything turns into ‘thoughts’ and assuming that our thoughts are reality. Again I was reminded of Judith’s words during training – “Watch your thoughts but don’t believe them.”
So, in paying more attention to those internal messages and becoming more aware I’ve been finding some more clarity. That is not to say it is always comfortable, but I am practicing showing myself compassion along the way. It is a continual practice – usually compassion for myself has seemed to come last on the list. For how many of us has showing compassion towards ourselves seemed challenging or selfish? But it’s a little bit like the oxygen mask analogy. You know, when airplane cabin crew take you through the safety procedure and the little film tells you to put your oxygen mask on before assisting others with their masks? Self-compassion is not selfish. This applies whether it’s during our asana practice or our day-to-day life. Yes, all this may seem obvious, yet I feel grateful for the good and the ‘bad’ over the past months, which has led me to this point.
Related to this, where I have decided to move with the flow – to let go of worrying about what may or may not happen in the future and focussed on the present, unexpected opportunities have somehow appeared just when I’ve least expected it. And again, at every turn, I am incredibly grateful!
One such opportunity is officially joining the retreat teaching team at Sally Parkes Yoga. I am excited to be hosting a retreat in October at the wonderful Marsh Farm House in Sussex. Why not take a break from your frenetic pace and join me in feeling the joy of moving with the flow. But in the meantime, don’t forget to enjoy the present moment!
For retreat details please visit www.sallyparkesyoga.co.uk.