Why do I practice yoga? The answer is simple—it makes me feel good.
I find yoga difficult to talk about.
I can wax lyrical on history and politics. Begin a conversation about religion or music and you’ll wonder how to shut me up.
But yoga is different. I do it, but I can’t talk about it. I practice every morning, and on the days when I don’t, I feel, for want of a better word, beige.
This essay then is a good chance for me to attempt to articulate my passion for and dedication to, something that has shaped my life for the past decade: yoga. Union.
I can barely remember how I got started. I think it was in a school hall in a small town in the south of England with some ladies who lunch and a couple of ex-rugby players who had troublesome hamstrings. I was a student commuting into and out of London every day, and no matter how tired I felt, yoga classes gave me energy.
I liked it!
Since then, I’ve tried many different styles of yoga and been to many different classes.
However, given the fact that I’ve lived in various countries where yoga simply hasn’t been available, I have predominantly practiced alone. Alone and in the morning. That’s what I do.
Yes, I’ve done it on tropical beaches in Thailand, Sri Lanka and on retreats on tiny Greek islands. I spent over a year doing it in Gadaffi’s Libya and then in ultra-conservative Yemen.
I’ve done it in the Sahara, by the Mediterranean, in the ancient Nabataean city of Petra, overlooking Jerusalem, and gazing out over the Red Sea from Dahab.
How spectacular, how earthy, how profound.
How impossible in the real world for someone who leads a modern life where ends have to be met, because in all honesty where have I practiced most? My bedroom, my living room and my kitchen.
I don’t always have a spectacular view, the warm glow of the sun is definitely not always gently caressing my shoulder blades and I certainly don’t always want to wake up extra early to fit in my practice before teaching a class of surly teenagers a language their parents’ want them to learn (but they don’t!) at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning.
But, nine times out of 10, I do. And I feel much better for it.
People have different reactions to the word “yoga.” Some imagine me in a cross-legged meditation pose oming my way through the day with my head in the clouds.
Others (usually male) inquire as to exactly how flexible I am, and whether or not I can put my feet behind my head. Some wonder whether a chatterbox with a penchant for 1980s clothing is an entirely serious candidate for a yoga class.
Others ask me which gym I “play” yoga at, and how many calories I burn per session.
People make assumptions about what I eat, what music I listen to, what (or who) I believe in and whether or not I have a sense of humor. Yoga, it seems, is a loaded word.
Yoga is a daily reminder of who I am, forcing me to bump into myself every morning before I go to work and greet my students, check my emails, look at my Facebook account and generally allow myself to be bombarded by other people. Being bombarded by other people is something I love too, but today I’m writing about yoga.
Yoga is a luxury I indulge in to provide focus for my day. It grounds me, relaxes me or provides me with energy, depending on what I want.
Yoga is something that gives me strength and makes me feel empowered. It’s something that calls to me when I neglect it, and richly rewards me when I return.
Yoga has been there when I’ve felt most alone, and yet has also helped forge some of my strongest friendships.
Yoga encompasses both spirituality and plain old common sense—both my body and my mind work better when they’re working together. It’s literally that simple. No matter your background or faith, you too have a body and a mind that love being unified.
Yoga is a science that can balance, heal and energize your body and improve your quality of life by doing the same to your mind.
This is why I practice yoga. Not because I want “long, lean yoga muscles” or because I’m filled with a particular type of religious fervour.
Not because I want to live with my head in the clouds or wear fishermen’s pants.
Am I a poster-girl for new-age spirituality? No. Does my stomach resemble a washboard? Certainly not. If you want those things, you won’t find them here.
However, am I on a journey? Of course. We all are—I’m definitely not special in that respect.
What I know is that yoga has given me strength, a sense of self, and the time and clarity to think about the directions I take.
I want to teach Agama yoga because the first time I tried it (four years ago on Koh Samui with a wonderful teacher called Paola), a big, bright cartoon light bulb clicked on inside my head and chest.
Agama was exactly the kind of yoga I love—focused yet playful, spiritual and yet not steeped in religious doctrine, physical but not competitive. Above all, it gave me a feeling of contentment.
I haven’t had the chance to participate in many classes since as I haven’t been in Thailand. For the most part, I’ve been in the Middle East carrying on with my life as normal.
I’m a language teacher, a job that takes up a lot of energy, both physically and emotionally. I’m social and I love eating and dancing with friends, however I also value time alone reading books about history, politics, linguistics and pretty much anything else I can get my hands on.
Sometimes that cartoon light inside is so bright that others can see it, and sometimes the dimmer switch is played around with and it becomes more of a dull glow. Learning the science behind Agama will give me the tools to keep the light bright and, more importantly, to spread it to others in places where yoga is misunderstood but would be extremely helpful.
It will also give me the words to better justify why I do yoga, and why you should too.
A teacher through and through, this proverb best sums up why I should be selected to win an Agama yoga teacher training course: Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.
Melanie is currently taking part in the Yoga Teacher Training Challenge, which gives aspiring yoga teachers an opportunity to earn a scholarship to train as an instructor with Agama Yoga, Purna Yoga East, Tribe Yoga, Pranashama Yoga Institute or Himalaya Valley Yoga.
An English language teacher, Melanie is from London, England but lives in Amman, Jordan. Her close contact with different people of all ages, religions and cultures over the years has given her a great window on life, and as natural communicator, she has a genuine love of teaching and working with people to help them discover their own unique gifts. Having practiced yoga for almost a decade, Melanie is keen to share her passion with others, especially those who are studying, are unaware of yoga or those who are experiencing personal upheaval due to civil war or revolution in neighboring countries. Yoga brings Melanie strength, a sense of self, time and clarity, and she feels that everyone deserves all of these things.
Editor: Lara Chassin
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July’s Full Moon in Capricorn: The Heart wants what it Wants. The 4 Stages of a Good Divorce. How to Love a Woman who Scares You. Our Soulmates are Rarely Who We Expect. I Still Think of You. Men, Let’s Stop Fooling Ourselves: Size Matters. To the One Who Tried to Break Me. An Open Letter to the Fixers. How your Stored Memories in the Amygdala can lead to PTSD. How My Sister’s Death Transformed my Self-Perception.