Browse the internet, social media or certain yoga publications and you might get the impression that a mastered practice requires specific physical ability or certain clothes, beads or candles. You might think you have not gotten “there” unless you study with a revered teacher, practice hours a day or can do a challenging pose. But something yogis, especially teachers, come up against is how to show yoga without giving the impression that the show is the thing. The truth of yoga can not be shown, it must be experienced. What we show (even this blog in words and picture) is a metaphor that attempts to hint at the truth that yoga points us to, the truth that is in us. Yoga and healing are not about the props or crystals or candles or clothes. Beautiful symbols, inspiring icons and our teachers can help us focus and enrich our surroundings or they can become crutches in the pursuit of self care and self realization. One of my intentions as a teacher is to equip students with the ability to free themselves by discerning between externals that support the journey inward and externals that distract or create dependence. I am in it (this work) to share ideas and ways to practice that have freed and empowered me. I teach to help others learn to teach (and free) themselves.
Like an invisible turtle shell, yoga provides safe refuge from the pitfalls of life: self doubt, worry, anxiety, aggravation, illness, addiction, grief.…and like invisible wings, yoga lifts us to the joys of life: peace of mind, health in body, love in heart. The philosophy and physicality of the practice can be used anywhere whether or not the right teacher or accessory is there, whether or not you can form a pose, because rather than showing a way out, yoga shows a way in… where the magic is.
It was a blessing that I found yoga when I did, almost two decades ago suffering from Crohn’s disease. I was too sick to make it through a class so I did my yoga at home in bits and pieces, in pjs, morning or night; in gas station bathrooms or in doctors’ offices. I did what I could, where I could, to survive moment to moment. The moments of opportunity to practice were small and there was no time to get everything right. On occasion I had my mat, or some quiet or could light a candle or play soothing music. But usually, day to day, I needed a safety net QUICK; noise all around, no time for beautiful trimmings or teachers or cute yoga outfits. I was forced by illness to strip the practice down to the essential: simple stretches, conscious breath, accessible meditation.
If I had waited for the perfect ambiance I’d still be sick. I trained myself to heal and to access healing in the most raw and un-accessorized way possible, with pure intention and energy. I trained myself to practice anywhere, anytime, anyway because I wanted to feel better and had agreed with myself to pursue health even if everything was not in its place, even if it didn’t look good. I was sick, it didn’t look good! Had smart phones or social media been around, snapshots of my practice would have been a real downer from the outside. But from the inside it was real and uplifting! AND it was liberating because the perfect situation was not required. The practice as I knew it was (and is) portable. At the end of the day it was just me and my body, my pain, my comfort and eventually my healing. I had found the internal tools and a foolproof, self sustaining way to access those tools and healing anytime so I could feel better, so I could live. The ability to tap into myself anytime/ anyway/ anywhere with or without stuff is one of the best gifts I’ve learned from practicing.
I share the tools I’ve learned and cultivated so that those who study with me will learn to create an entry into their own personal wellspring of internal source. For me it came through a health struggle, but that does not need to be the case. A simple sense of curiosity and desire to give self care is enough to enrich your path inward. Like any path we come to with an open heart, we get to decide if we fall into its trappings or float with its wings.
So while ideally we establish a routine in practice and cultivate steadiness we hold close the understanding that the heart of the practice is with us no matter where we are and even if the routine is upended. We cultivate the care to maintain that practice even if the accessories drop away or we come up against a physical limitation. If you think you NEED a mat or a cushion or a candle to do yoga I am here to encourage you to liberate yourself. If you feel your practice won’t be just right without your favorite spot in the room or with your preferred teacher or at the right time of day, I encourage you to do it anyway and liberate your practice. If it creates beauty and love to wear your favorite mala beads so be it, but on the day you forget them at home, rest in the knowingness that you can harness your meditation and your healing even without them. The love and the routine that is symbolized by your accessories floats with you like magic. It is your eternal and internal light and authenticity. Empower yourself to lighten up. Return, repeat, refine and if you want to really master your practice remember it’s not about being able to stand on one hand or put your leg behind your head. It is not about looking perfect in the right yoga pants. Instead, welcome the chances to shed the extra. Rather than waiting for that class at the end of the day, fold forward in your chair, belly on thighs, let your head hang and feel stress flow off your body. Stand up and reach for the sky when you feel confined. Stand your ground when you’re up and rest easy when you’re down. It’s not rocket science. It’s common sense magic. It is available to you anytime, anywhere. All that matters is the fact that you can pull your practice from inside. All that matters is that little by little you practice stepping into your independence. Draw upon what you have learned or read or practiced with teachers and prioritize the voice within. Listen to your body and give it care. This is your healing path. This is your personal journey. You carry your magic inside you.
If you are reading this blog upon its release, there is still time to register for 8 Limbs in 8 Weeks my 8 week course of yoga study beginning March 6th. We will explore the bones of yoga and cultivate a more nuanced sense of self exploration. Find out more and register under the workshops tab at centralmassyoga.com or email me at SE.BreatheHere@gmail.com.