Once you know the answer to this it can give you clarity about the Yoga you are doing and how to change it if it’s not taking you where you want to be going.
If you really don’t care and are completely happy with your yoga you may not even want to keep reading.
When we practice asana as it was designed to be practiced, infinite possibilities open up. It becomes an integral part of a bigger process, the path of self-transformation as laid out in yoga.
My interest in this exploration comes from 35 years of practice, which has transformed, and from teaching students who have done yoga before but found it to be “just exercise”.
For years I had a very physically driven practice. It was intense, engaging and I guess you could say hardcore.
I loved it. It brought me so many benefits, partially to my body, but I was younger and naturally quite healthy anyway, so it wasn't that so much.
It was the focus, the way nothing else existed while I practiced. It was my sanctuary. My place. As a single Mum with three children and freshly sober I needed it to be that. Safe, intense, dependable, silent, and a wall to keep the world at bay. It kept my life from falling apart and saved my sanity.
I am forever grateful for that practice and how it worked for me at that point in my life. I imagined I would practice it forever. I have always been a daily Yogi and easily snuggle into concepts of “the one true….”, fill in the blank with Yoga, diet, education system. Naivety and yearning for consistency entice me towards systems or structures that are fixed.
Then things changed. Damn it. I was challenged by a teacher, from a different Yoga background, with this single question “ where are you going ?”. This was in the middle of my intense practice, which had been ramped up even more by my desire to be seen as a “good” student in front of this teacher. That question completely stopped me in my tracks. It was the beginning of a slow and deep inquiry into my Yoga practice that eventually led to the conscious uncoupling from my original practice.
It was a tricky and at times painful process. Really, like the end of a relationship. I grieved, I doubted, I oscillated, I prayed, I surrendered then fought. It was epic.
At the heart of it, I confronted the tension between listening to my inner self or listening to the authority of “other”. I desperately wanted to have an external authority that would lead me to … where? I realized I was seeking a better me that was defined by the outside and meant a total abandonment and rejection of who I was. I naively imagined if I just kept trying harder, being “better” at Yoga somehow I would arrive at a golden destination where I was bright, shiny, and new.
The more I studied Yoga the more I understood the practices were aimed at bringing me closer to my true nature. This wasn't really happening in any tangible way despite 15 years of devoted practice. So was I doing the practice wrong or was it the wrong practice? Where was this personal transformation referred to in all the traditional texts?
What followed was a messy time of intense searching and inquiry. Of trying various styles of Yoga, mining tidbits from the internet and ultimately hobbling together my own practice. There were many dead ends, almost signing up for more training in new traditions. Always with an underlying deep feeling that I still haven’t found it. My search was not over.
Until one day, most unexpectedly, I met my Yoga teacher. She didn’t tick any of my boxes. She wasn’t exotic, she didn’t look athletic, she was just ordinary. Yet when I lay on the floor and heard her chant Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra my body just knew, so strong. I wept. This was what I had been looking for. Traditional Yoga.
And I haven’t been disappointed. That was 7 years ago and the transformation has begun and will continue.