Posted on

What is Yoga?

I have been teaching yoga for almost half my life and I trained first with the Sivananda Vedanta Centre in Venice beach LA.

Yes LA! This was the place for yoga, but I didn’t go there for that, I just happened on it and when I did I knew this was something I had to inquire into. I was lucky, LA had every style of yoga Hatha , Power, Ashtanga, Kundalini, Yin and I tried them all over my 13yrs living there, so I have a very eclectic way of teaching, which suits my spontaneous personality.

I qualified in 1996 through the Sivananda TTC and so began my journey as a yoga teacher. I was already eating a vegan diet, something else I happened on whilst inquiring into prevention rather than cure as you cannot just walk in to the doc’s for free in the States and I was kind of living hand to mouth, money was scarce. This led me on the whole road of healing through foods which is probably a story for another day. So now we have yoga and nutrition, then I studied shiatsu massage, Chinese five elements, then Swedish massage and Reiki energy. So Body work and alternative therapies i.e. how people live, move, eat and think and how that affects their health, became how I earned a living and I loved it.

So let’s fast forward to present time, 24yrs in with body work (including yoga), still love it, that’s good, I have learnt so much, not just about people but me too. You see I have a very inquiring mind, I am constantly evolving, growing and changing ,so my approach to my work has changed so much over the years, and I feel we all should be changing and growing. As we take down the false only the truth remains, and there are alot of charlatans out there who play on folks vulnerability, and just want your cash.

Yoga has become so mainstream, so trendy, all about who can do the best poses, who has the best yoga gear, holding the latest super food smoothie, mala beads to hand, a lot of hash tags (#yogamummy #veganwarrior, #namastebitches – you get my drift). It has become another panacea, a distraction, if I have the perfect moves, know all the chants, meditate and look the part, then I can tick the box “know self” sorted, awakened!! Yeah right, if only it was that easy!

I see so much of this, and I might add I was one of them , my first years into yoga , I was all blissed out , I forgive you, I love you , so much compassion!!!!!! Just a big sticky band aid covering all the shit I did not want to face. Jeung said that people will do almost anything not to face the self and he is so right. I woke up to that and got down and dirty. As Michael Tsarion says it’s one thing to be shaken awake, but to stay awake means to continue down into the work of shadow, the inquiry into the self.

So what is yoga really? To me it’s a way to let go, to get on the mat and just start to move and breath, and through focus on breath OSHO would say this will take you “from thinking to feeling ,feeling to being” . It’s about being consistent with this approach and appreciating the moments in between the poses, not just consistently doing the poses focussing on the end goal. You see there is no quick fix, but just think of the days the months the years we have been in avoidance. We don’t have to have all the answers, how would it feel to just do the ground work then step back and trust that it will unfold. The American philosopher, Robert M. Pirsig, said “to live only for some future goal is shallow, it’s the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top”.

That’s yoga to me. Focus on the grounding, the connection to your roots, your sense of belonging. Layer by layer you peel away the facade, the mask, the armour so once again you can feel. We take it for granted that we feel ,when in fact we have become so suppressed, so detached, comfortably numb, that we have Michael Tsarion refers to as “somatic amnesia”, we have learnt how to just go through the motions, when to smile when to laugh, but none of it real , just auto pilot, we have ADHD, everything in snap shots, quick, fast, life is instant, a constant rampage of meaningless shit. All by design to keep you in a state of fear on constant fight or flight.

Each time I teach yoga it’s totally different, I am spontaneous by nature, my natural tendency is to tap in to the present energy in that moment, it’s always different. As a teacher I see myself as an instrument, my job is to centre myself so that I can connect and facilitate the group, to guide them back in to the somatic, the feeling body, so they are feeling emotions pains, aches, anger, fear frustration, and it’s not to push them back down but to fall into the feelings through the fluid of movement, breath and sweat. In the busy lives we lead most of us have no time to feel, or heal, what do you suppose happens to all the trauma and emotional stuff that we put on hold, it would be nice to think it floats away on a fluffy pink cloud, sorry it doesn’t , it gets stored in the cells, soft tissue, the joints, the fluids of the body, congesting, blocking the ability for information to be carried through the body, sitting on your full potential, so we in fact receive a distorted message, distorted picture of reality, leaving us without a sense of deep knowing so then we are easily controlled, lost in the crowd mentality, “going along to get along”. It’s not your truth which is actually the root of shame and guilt because you are not being your authentic self.

So yoga to me is to bring people on a vision quest of their own. No big fancy poses, just to breathe, but mostly to fall back and let the body’s intelligence take the wheel, to guide you and show you how amazingly it can breathe, how amazing it can let go and flow if you would just let go of the HOW and the aesthetics. Mostly I try not to give constant adjustments, just creating a safe space and enough direction, but my intent is for people to figure out what way their body works. That means them having to go deep into somatic body, feeling every layer, gaining a deeper understanding of self. That my friends is shadow work , the body is shadow, by dismissing the body and the ego, you dismiss the very thing that will bring you knowledge of “where did I come from, where am I going, who am I?”

The answers to these questions can only come from constant inquiry into self, constant cleansing of the psyche, to keep you balanced in a society that gains from you being unbalanced. Whether through my personal practice or through teaching, yoga is a journey in to self inquiry, understanding your rhythm your beat, your flow, so yoga is not just the asanas (the poses) it’s a way of life and discovery into knowledge of self, to live your truth. Within each of us it is said we have our own moon, stars, planets, oceans i.e. we are each a mini universe wouldn’t it make sense to start there, heal our inner world, gain great knowledge of our self, before we try to heal and change the world we live in. Or maybe if we healed our self there would be no need to change the world, for that too would be healed. Is this world not a reflection of the level of our health on a physical, emotional and mental level?