People often comment, “Wow, I could never be that flexible.”
“I’m not good
Each time I hear this comment, I am fascinated by the misconception of yoga. I know there is a deeper reason for this, a reason I aim to explore every day.
Something inside me always told me I wanted to be a yoga teacher. For years, it was on my list of dream accomplishments, a calling that quietly pulsed from within. In 2014, everything fell into place and I traveled to India to study Hatha yoga with Rishikesh Yog Peeth
. I wanted to learn in the place where yoga originated thousands of years ago without really knowing why.
I was enthralled to study the body and learn how the way muscle groups work together, as well as how asanas could aid in the preventive care of the human system and how breath work can relax the mind.
However, what I truly began was a journey of self discovery.
In learning to teach yoga, I became a student of life.
I learned that yoga is more than exercise, it is a way of life; a philosophy in being human. A way to better understand our own existence. Yoga is much more than meets the eye. My teachers exclaimed bluntly in true Indian fashion, on day one of our teacher training: “We cannot make you a yoga teacher. We can merely give you a piece of paper that allows you to teach asana. If you want to become a yoga teacher, that will be your decision for the rest of your life.”
In India, in order to be a true yoga teacher you must dedicate your life to your practice, by either going deep into meditative trances that require you to be in solitary confinement for years, or by pursuing yoga academically and earning a Doctorate degree. In India it is agreed; yoga is the study of the mind, how the ego reacts, how your intuition guides you, and how your body responds to the breath that is life.
Another powerful saying I learned during my days in India, as our eager minds soaked up the teachings: “We are here not to bend the body, but to bend the mind.”
In yogic philosophy, this study takes lifetimes.
So, while I might never be a guru in this lifetime, I do try to look beyond the surface of things. I try to heighten my awareness each day by observing my emotions and the interactions of others.
I try to notice self-doubt when it comes up. I try to observe my emotions when I feel like I’m not good enough. I try to take struggles and turn them into fuel for my soul. I believe that yoga is not only asanas and inspirational messages; yoga is falling, struggling, crying, and beginning to look your fear in the face and instead choosing love.
Yoga, in the words of my teacher, is the fearless expression of self
. Therefore, yoga is Self and Self is love.
Yoga is Self-love
So I implore you. You are good at yoga. It’s inherent. You are inherently good at being human, therefore you are good at yoga. It’s not about being flexible in the body, it’s about being flexible in the mind. It’s not about looking good in leggings (although if you keep at it, people will marvel at your confidence.) I believe yoga, is really about living. As you study yoga, you will embark on a path to Self-ove. There is a distinct difference in the self that controls our ego, that same voice that tells us that we are not good enough and the higher Self of which we are all a part of.
This higher Self is more difficult to understand. It seems intangible
at first but manifests all around us. It’s the reason we feel so connected when we look at the stars or walk through the woods. It’s the reason certain music resonates with us and why sometimes we feel the urge to help strangers out of random compassion. It’s the reason we feel humbled in the presence of great beauty.
Photo: Ali Kaukas