With the 30 Day Yoga Challenge over, there is a lot to contemplate. Originally planned rather haphazardly to extend outwards into the wider London yoga community and to break myself out of my preferences for certain yoga classes and teachers, far more came up than I imagined. As a result I have learned both personally and professionally, and even made a couple of new friends along the way. Most valuable for me have been the themes that revealed themselves in my practice as well as my personal life during this past month.
SANTOSHA The word in sanskrit for contentment, or satisfaction is santosha. One of the niyamas, santosha is about being satisfied with things exactly as they are; not requiring any more or any less, instead, maintaining that everything is exactly as it should be. I’ve spent a lot of time speculating on this idea this month, as a yoga teacher and student, as a mother, as a human being. It’s so easy to find fault in ourselves and others, and often much more challenging to accept wholeheartedly what is. This is true whether contemplating the asana practice, assessing how well one has done one’s job, accepting the opportunities available at any given time, or one’s limitations. We are all doing the best we can given our current life situations, and, try as we may, it is impossible and debilitating to compare ourselves to anyone else. We are all unique.
VAIRAGYA The concept of santosha has a direct relationship with the word vairagya, meaning dispassionate or non attachment. When we are content with what is, it is far easier to practice non-judgement, to remain impartial. When engaged in a critique of a movie, a piece of art, a book, or a yoga studio, there are always aspects that are primarily subjective, based on our own preferences and aversions, but there are also aspects that are more objective. One of the challenges in this month has been discerning the difference between the two and trying to be as objective as possible. As time permits me to read back on these posts, I may well have to glue my jaw back on as I discover just how opinionated I actually was in my writings.
SAMSAYA The feeling of doubt is one of the nine obstacles to the practice of yoga as set forth in sutra 1.30 of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Samsaya means doubt, or indecision in Sanskrit. When we are uncertain about our path, who our teacher is, what we want to focus on in our lives, things become fuzzy, and we may end up floundering. For example, if you practice with two different yoga teachers and they each tell you how to practice a pose differently, this may lead to indecision and doubt about how to practice. This has come up often for me as a Jivamukti teacher and practitioner of several different styles of yoga. Lately I have had many doubts about my teaching and bodywork style, and have been indecisive about which way to evolve. This challenge has highlighted some of these doubts as I have practiced with such a variety of teachers and styles of yoga. One thing does seem to be clear, and that is which teachers and styles don’t appeal to me (or is that simply my preferences and aversions rearing their ugly head?).
SHRADDHA The antedote to samsaya, shraddha means faith; knowing without a shred of doubt that there is something bigger, more supreme than yourself behind the wheel. This is the ultimate form of surrender, enabling the doer to come back to contentment and joy at whatever presents itself. Raised agnostic, I never had any faith until I began practicing yoga regularly, and because of this, my faith is very much tied to my practice. When I have doubts, when I feel I’m slipping into the role of ‘victim’, I use my time on the mat or on the cushion to bring myself back to the many choices available. Knowing there is always a choice is empowering, and working through negative mental subtexts with the optin of letting go is perhaps the most powerful choice there is. This month I have felt frustrated, at times even disconnected from my faith due to the change in practice mode. I have spent more time ‘doing’ yoga than practicing yoga, and it’s time for me to reconnect to my personal guiding light.
There is so much more to write, but I’m not publishing a book, it’s just a little blog post. Having said this, its about to get a few words longer still because I wanted to also briefly mention ASMITA, the ego. We all have one, and more than once I felt mine flair in judgement mode about a teacher’s style or particular yoga studio. I have also spent time questioning ‘who am I’ to judge or critique another teacher’s class. I never intended this to be a critique, but it’s simply a natural progression when taking a yoga class a day at different studios with different teachers to have an opinion about them. Some will resonate, some won’t. Some will be inspiring and safe for the body, some won’t. I guess I feel ok in having published my experiences because I wasn’t doing anything out of ill intention, and at the end of the day we all entitled to our opinions and to have a voice.
I chose the classes For the challenge primarily due to my schedule and proximity, and for this reason I wanted to point out that there are a number of great teachers whose classes I really wanted to attend, but was simply unable to in the course of this month. As a result, I took a number of mediocre classes with teachers I had never heard of. I will continue to take as many classes with different teachers as I can manage, but perhaps I will go about choosing the teachers in a more strategic way, for example, visiting teachers I know and love a little more frequently, and finding new teachers based on recommendations rather than choosing names out of a hat. I would also like to return to the classes I didn’t love, knowing that we all have off days.
Signing off for now, thanks for following my little yoga adventure.