After a temporary abandonment of teaching yoga, I am back. And Wahe Guru, does it feel good.
I was in full yoga-teacher swing until the moment arrived where I just stopped.
I put down my teaching mask and rolled up my mat.
There was something tapping gently on my heart, and I knew the language well enough to know that if I left it unattended, the tapping would gradually increase into a heart-wrenching scream.
Something was up.
Deep down, I knew that one of my greatest unveilings lay in the release of my yoga identity that I had unwittingly adopted over the few years of sharing classes with my students. My image was that of a traveling yoga teacher/surfer, and I was damn good at living up to the label. To make the decision to stop teaching, with just as much feeling and just as little logic as I had made the choice to start, was like breathing in an icicle.
I retracted into a shell that seemed like an innocent place at first—until I realized that eyes newly awake see consolation prizes differently. I didn’t know what to do or why I was here.
My yoga teaching had been my sole purpose in life and I was passionately committed to being both pure student and teacher.
It was a terrifying concept. As a little girl, I had had exchanges with myself about my mission on this planet. And I was so certain that being a yoga teacher was paramount, if not critical, to my survival.
After a year on autopilot—skimming over the surface of many things that appeared too painful to investigate, I saw myself and the fight I was on. Typing in the word ‘yoga’ into the YouTube search engine delivered videos which displayed hot women in sexy yoga positions, legs splayed and butt cheeks being kissed by the camera, promising the viewer a stimulating experience.
This was one thing symbolic of how I felt about yoga in its post-secretive manner. I found it disturbing—an inflamed anger seemed to ignite in the pits of my bowels.
In being so zoned in to how I thought yoga should be portrayed in the media, I closed myself off to the true nature of yoga. I didn’t want to be associated with what I was perceiving to be the latest fashion fad in the consumer jungle. A little fear inside me told me that I didn’t have what it would take, in that sense, to continue realizing my dream.
I wanted to uphold the highest core values of yoga. Or so I thought.
Mr. Iyenger came to the rescue.
“Yoga is for everyone.”
One sentence. That was all it took to wipe the veils from my fearful doe eyes.
I realized that in my search and fretting to release into freedom, I had encased myself with the free-spirit image. This in turn, became my cage.
I had alienated the very essence that holds unity at its core.
Placing down the shield of the yoga image was painful. The thought seemed to burn my heart—yet I knew that my ego was getting busted.
I was busting a burn that had seemed to sneak up on me amidst all my success. Sitting in the earthy soil of a veggie patch with a book by Mr. Iyengar one afternoon revealed a few truths—and the burden I was carrying immediately lightened. The harsh voice within subsided, lulled out of existence by the light of truth that rang the cymbals of my heart loud and clear.
I saw with clarity that the harsh view I had of the yoga world around me was such a direct reflection of how I felt about myself in relation to yoga. I recognized the thoughts that seemed so subtle; but proved monumental in constructing how I felt about being a yogi.
I was so critical of the way I taught, my lifestyle, how I felt, what influence I had on people around me and that I was born in South Africa and not India. Yoga is sacred and should not be treated in any other way. Round and round I’d go.
Yoga is for everyone. Including me, in all my African glory. So now I teach, and I teach from a space that was untapped prior to my yoga visage meltdown.
I see the perfection in the blemishes, understanding that yoga is not just a blanket term used for some interesting body postures. Yoga is a like a flowing river, it’s shape can transform and it’s color may tint. But it’s always the water.
Ma Ganga, the Ganges River, in India is host to decaying flesh, excrement and other human waste. Yet still every year millions of bodies and hearts are bathed in Ma Ganga. Why? Because no matter what a human being may say or do, to those making the sacred pilgrimage to wash in the water, it is still Ma Ganga.
And so it is with yoga.
The truth is, my mental sphere doesn’t know the name of every muscle, joint and Sanskrit asana (pose) —yet. I am, however, in a focused and clear space to receive and communicate the teachings, in whatever shape, way or form they are manifested.
So, chin up yogi buttercup and you will find your groove, no matter the shoes—the way is still the way.
And that’s how I rediscovered the purity in my yoga practice and throughout the worldwide yoga community.
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Assistant Ed: Tawny Sanabria/Ed: Bryonie Wise