Don’t get me wrong, I bloody love yoga. But sometimes I find myself talking about yoga more than actually doing yoga... This then leads to feelings of guilt and anger at myself for being “lazy:” for falling below the expectations that I set myself in my mind.
These feelings of “not enough” are driven by the ego and desire: fuelling comparison instead of presence; competition instead of acceptance, and being harsh on myself instead of having a playful curiosity as I explore myself and reality through my practice. These principles relate to practicing yoga or any form of spiritual movement, but are also invaluable off the mat in our everyday lives too as we relate to ourselves, others and the world around us, becoming more in harmony with our universe.
It is totally normal and okay to feel negative sometimes, take our time and have days off. We all have our good days and bad days and it is totally okay to take our time and have days, or even weeks, off. But by cultivating a good and balanced approach to our practice, through commitment and kindness, the effects of yoga or whatever activities we explore will be more beneficial and sustainable in the long run. Here’s my top tips for finding peace in your personal yoga practice, both on and off the mat!
1) Routine and consistence are key. Transformation takes time.
Often, we see something and we want it. Instagram certainly doesn’t help. We want to achieve that pose, to be able to do something that looks spectacular and capture it to share with the world. We want to push ourselves to grasp this or that, to be the most flexible in the class or to be able to do what everyone else is doing. But the truth is, transformation takes time. Rushing to "be ahead" or be something different to what we are now can make us unbalanced, vulnerable and, in the case of yoga, prone to injury.
In fact, yoga is really about the cultivation of balance between opposites such as strength and flexibility, extension and contraction, and on an energetic level principles such as Shiva (masculine energy) and Shakti (feminine energies). Our digitised world has to often come to see us value image over content; snapshot (or snapchat) over complex and multifaceted experience and journey.
My tip to tackle this truth- be kind to yourself and your journey. If you have particular goals, cultivate routine and consistency in your practice around what you want to achieve in a playful and explorative manner. By not just seeking an end goal- that perfect photo for social media or that "ideal weight," you are much more likely to see results. But also, you are also going to learn more about yourself and your practice on a deeper level by embodying and experiencing your growth and transformation in a holistic way.
2) Deeper than posture.
My next tip: Yoga is more than the physical asana practice!
When we refer to the physical poses in yoga as “asana,” what we are actually referring to translates in Sanskrit as “comfortable seat for meditation.” Thus, the roots of yoga originating in Ancient India show it to be a technique of “cleanse” and “pure”(ification): from the most material and physical to the deepest and subtlest energetic levels. The end goal- spiritual enlightenment and liberation- ultimately to become one with the infinite.
After all, “yoga” itself roughly translates as “union” or “yolk,” reflecting the coming together of opposites and becoming of one with the infinite.
This anti-dualist philosophy that we find in yoga comes from Ancient Hindu religion, traditions, Gods and mythology. Ancient Yogic texts such as the Bhagavad Gita (Song of God) and Das Mahavidas (Ten forms of The Goddess) talk about Gods and Goddesses such as Shiva, Krishna, Shakti, Durga, Kali and Vishnu through great stories which signify a deeper cosmological reality: anthropocentric forms of universal, cosmic energies which exist in every aspect of our life from Time and Transformation (Kali Ma) to Electricity and Thunder (Chinnamasta Ma).
Exploring Traditional Tantra in my Yoga Teacher Training course. Rishikesh, India. (Satya Loka. March 2019)