So, I’ve been rather confused about yoga and my place in the world as a yoga teacher of late.
Increasingly, yoga seems to be about challenging poses, contortions, arm balances, headstands and pushing through your fears – at least that’s how it’s represented and how many teachers teach it.
But to me, practising yoga has always been about “stilling the thought waves of the mind” (as Patanjali, the sage behind the ancient Yoga Sutras states). A practice of becoming aware and alive to the subtleties of my body, emotions and mind and to connect to my inner self and inner peace.
The yoga path most travelled?
So I’m left wondering what Down Dog after Down Dog into Planks and Chaturanga and Crows, Wheels, Hand Stands and Headstands, and articles about “perfecting” poses, has to do with this.
Obviously for some (*many*) people yoga is about the physical side: pushing your body to its limits and getting into gravity-defying postures. And perhaps that leads to a sense of achievement and in doing so quietens the self-doubting mind.
But that’s not my path – when I’ve been in such classes I find myself sitting and watching and wondering what’s going on and why on earth you’d want to risk hurting yourself by continuously pushing your body to its limits.
The subtle path
My practice is about what I feel and learn about my body – but more importantly what I learn about my mind and emotions as I practise.
With yoga I create an oasis of me-time away from external demands and stimuli. A way to joyfully fill up the tank so I have the energy to be active in the world.
This quote sums that up:
“Yoga is not about touching your toes… it’s about what you learn on the way down.”
Over the years my yoga practice has taught me awareness of my body and where emotional tensions and mental frustrations get lodged so I can mindfully move and breathe into those areas and release the tension.
It has taught me to watch my emotions and thoughts rather than getting pulled about by them this way and that (although I’m definitely still working on that one!).
But then again, a yoga practice to me has always been about working with body, the breath, relaxation, meditation, and mindful awareness not just the Yoga Poses.
And to be frank, I believe that working with this honest awareness is more challenging and fearless than attempting to stand on your head!
Why I step onto my yoga mat
So, I step onto my yoga mat to give myself a respite from the demands and busy-ness of modern life, from the over-stimulation of our loud and pushing culture, and to create an oasis of calm to watch my mind and emotions.
I don’t step onto my mat to add more even pressure to my over-taxed nervous system and my busy mind.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying yoga which is physically demanding is somehow wrong (although if it’s taught without a focus on the breath and calming the mind I would question whether it’s yoga or just a fitness routine).
Yoga which breaks my heart
But it absolutely breaks my heart that it’s this physically focused, demanding, push-through-your-fears kind of yoga which seems to be so prevalent at the moment – in yoga magazines and at yoga shows and representations of yoga in the mass media and in so many classes.
I know that it puts a lot of people off from even thinking about trying yoga.
How I practise and teach yoga
So, that’s why I practise and teach mindful yoga.
Movement with awareness of how your body feels. Movement which shows kindness to where you are today rather encouraging you to punish yourself for your perceived physical limitations if tiredness, stiffness, confusion, aches and pains are present.
I practise and teach yoga which encourages you to look within: to learn about how you hold your breath if you’re tense. And how you can feel so much more enlivened, present, energised and calm by breathing deeply and smoothly.
I practise and teach yoga which enables deep relaxation – to let those tense muscles really relax. To calm your nervous system to bring it back into balance: to rest, digest and heal.
I practise and teach meditation to give the body and mind permission to be still – but also to give the mind permission to do its crazy whirlwind of jumping around all over the place and to watch it and smile and find freedom in that observation.
I practise and teach yoga which works with the mind with visualisations and affirmations to create new neural pathways to encourage me and those I teach to live the highest, brightest, most wonderful version of ourselves.
Above all I practise and teach yoga to reconnect to the inner peace which is my birthright and yours.
Yoga reveals us to ourselves
Yoga can still the thoughts waves of the mind to reveal your true self and your soul.
Yoga helps you to hear the quiet whispering of your intuition which will lead you on the right path in life.
Yoga enables you to live with truth, joy, contentment and love.
Yoga stills the ego-based, fear-filled mind to reveal the inner strength, stillness and joy which has always been within you and always will be.
So I vow to make it my life’s purpose to share that yoga is food for the soul (not a form of gymnastics).
I vow to enable as many sensitive souls as possible to come home to their spirit, their soul, their intuitive inner wisdom, their inner strength, stillness and joy through the gentle but deep power of mindful movement, connecting to the breath, relaxation, mindfulness and meditation.
And I will do this by sharing the gentle, transformational, heart-filled power of Dru Yoga and Meditation.
Would you like to join me?
Over to you
Do you agree? Do you disagree? Why do YOU practise yoga? I’d love to hear.
Please leave your thoughts in the comments box below.
In the Southampton area? Come to a weekly class for regular calming mindful movement and relaxation in a supportive atmosphere. I teach several public classes a week and monthly workshops – check out my yoga class timetable and workshops schedule to find out more and make a booking enquiry.
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