Yogi ceasefire


On Saturday, my Thai massage teacher pointed out that the difference between being in your head and being in your heart is about 10 inches, depending on the size of your body. I love Kira. She is such a wonderful teacher and model of loving-kindness. She’s down to earth and playful but wise and connected. During our opening mediation, she often reminds us that no one is better or worse, bigger or smaller, greater or lesser than the next person. That we should treat everyone as our equal and I really feel like that as her student. I often get awkward and a bit awe-struck by my teachers but not with Kira. It’s a very settling feeling and something I aspire to with my own students.

Comparing ourselves to others is a common trap and comparing our yoga practice, poses, styles, teachers, influences, experiences happens all too easily. I’ve recently come across a few articles that have not only compared yoga styles with reproach but have compared the whole of the modern yoga movement to a colossal failure. I feel like, thus far, I have been measured in my introduction of this subject but, quite frankly, these articles really pissed me off.

Holding the whole is something I strive for in all aspects of my life and holding yoga whole is surely something we should all try to do. Whether you think yoga should be deep and slow or strong and taking you to your edge, we all have different needs. I know that my own body likes to move. I’m drawn to spiritual teachers and meditative practices but I also like having my ass kicked by my buddy Helena who’s strapline is ‘all strong and no om’. Yoga is the ‘direct, systematic, and careful personal investigation of experience’, to quote the marvellous Mr Stephen Cope, so who are we to judge someone else’s investigation into their own body and experience? Granted, it might take a lot longer to even become aware of your awareness if you’re not being led by a teacher who holds that intention but, if you truly believe in the power of yoga, transformation will occur.

We are all finding our way and doing our work, whatever you perceive that to be. And sure, there are mind-blowing teachers who are firmly rooted in the yogic tradition but that doesn’t make those ‘other’ teachers, who haven’t had that background, worthy of derision. I sometimes wince at a badly put together sequence that doesn’t take care of the students but those students will go on to discover another teacher, another way, a new experience. It’s not for me to judge the teacher of that sequence. Maybe they are yet to find their own true teacher. Maybe they just qualified. Maybe it’s not that important.

And, as for the modern yoga movement being a colossal failure, is it not a huge achievement to bring yoga into the mainstream? To make it more accessible? Even if it’s just to work the body, the patternings of consciousness will become more still. Asana is a path to pure awareness. It’s a stepping-stone and those stones might come in different shapes and sizes but they form a path, nonetheless. As a teacher in Leeds, I have had to tune into what is needed at this point in time for these people in this part of the world. Yoga is starting to be a big deal round here but saying ‘namaste’ at the end of a class can still be borderline esoteric.

It takes time to access these mysterious practices and we mustn’t forget the origins of our own expansions. My best friend and I used to practice at home for years and neither of us could ‘om’ without doing a little laugh wee in our pants. These days I incorporate mantra, mudra, pranayama, asana and meditation into my daily saddhana. And now I get to be amused by other people who get the giggles when we chant. Step by step, teacher by teacher, experience by experience, breakthrough by breakthrough. It all counts, in my book. Let’s look for the best in people and move beyond our own obscurations and aversions and separations. Call me a lunatic, but is that not the point?

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