October 10, 2013

The Girl Who Gave Up Yoga to Go to War. ~ Sanja Cloete-Jones

I was the girl who went through labor in a headstand.

I talked yoga, I wrote yoga, I practiced yoga, I preached yoga and I taught yoga—I was in perpetual motion.

Then life decided to rearrange my priorities for me.

I became sick.

The kind of sick that swoops in without warning and takes over the ‘all day every day’ of an entire life with stunning matter-of-fact-ness. The kind of sick that had me fighting for some semblance of an existence.

It’s a damn shame to use military talk to discuss disease but:

I was violently ill from chemicals.

I found myself in another country from where I could only occasionally visit friends and family—a country not even those closest to me could fully comprehend.

I had to blindly follow instructions from people I barely knew, who spoke a language that was uncomfortably foreign.

I had to resort to a uniform consisting of soft, easy clothes offering easy access for pipes and ports and allowed my gruesomely besieged tummy the space it suddenly demanded.

It was exhausting—mentally, physically, emotionally.

Seeing other people, healthy people, out on a run even made me fantasize about killing innocent civilians.

That’s war no?

And I was badly prepared. Because with every bone in my aching body I was a hippy,veggie, lefty, yogi.

Raised by a father who taught me to take the ants outside one by one, not wash them down the drain (my poor Mama confessed years later that she would wait for us all to leave before doing a little surreptitious ‘family planning’ among the insect population threatening to take over the household).

Yoga was one of the first casualties in this badly fought, wrought with tactical errors, battle.

I had set ideas about what constitutes a practice and as my new body could not comply, my set practice was chucked on the heap of other stuff that I needed to burn and mourn (just as soon as I could get together the energy for the great big self-pity party that would entail).

Which brings us to Perez Hilton.

Because when I relinquished the territory of movement I found myself suddenly spending my days leopard crawling through the squelchy, muddy underbelly of the net.

As you do.

And that was where I found this:


I had always been a very focused Seane Corn—90 minute practice, Sanskrit chanting, heavy on the spirituality, hold the rock, serious yoga practitioner. I would consider Bikram and dabble in Duncan Wong but I could not understand why anyone would think they could get something out of a 30 minute yoga class.

Things chez Sadie were all new. The über cool hair, the open talk about yoga and weight-loss, the chanting of Bon Jovi! Way back in the day she came complete with an alternate universe filled with free yoga teaching videos on Youtube and a Facebook page.

It was the beginning of a new journey for me…a little attack of the spiritual shopaholics.

Through the internet, Sadie single-handedly restored yoga to my day to day existence without me having to move, much less having to leave my bed… most days would bring small yogic updates, inspiration for mindful living, energizing recipes and practical advice.

As one would come back to the breath repeatedly during physical practice, it brought me back into yogic consciousness. It felt a little silly pitching up at a real yoga class only to sit in the corner and watch while you waited for your intravenous drip to finish (also known as ‘how to make a Bikram instructor really sweat’ but what can I say, life can take the yoga out of the girl but occasionally she will kick over the traces and not allow it to take the girl out of the yoga)—in a virtual class or conversation however, anything is, quite literally, possible.

The transference of responsibility can be fabulously freeing

Whether you find yourself flat on your back and out of commission or flat out running through this crazy busy period in your life, you will not need to find time for yoga… it will find you.

And I’m so happy I was given the gift of pain and mind-blowing fatigue.

Because I could have lived an entire lifetime addicted to performance, thinking I was tolerant without ever truly learning the lesson of acceptance and being open to other ways of doing things… especially new ways of doing ancient things.

Three years after I first started following her I had the opportunity to chat to Sadie and she told me the tale of how she ended up in my bedroom.

Waking up from a nap one day she thought ‘I should stop waiting around for more studios to hire me and just offer to yogis everywhere by putting a couple of videos on that crazy YouTube thingy.’  She considers her great success an accident. First to admit that there is too much information out there, Sadie also believes that people who take responsibility and make clever connections with like-minded people have instant access to personal growth.

Also, the feedback from a community of daily followers benefits the teacher.

Purists might argue that a social network can’t take the place of your regular yoga teacher–but I think it can give you perpetual access to the very best yoga has to offer globally… and from this select group you can handpick people whose philosophy gels best with yours, or spend time thinking about stuff you would never have considered before.

Stretching (your mind, your preconceived beliefs) is what yoga is about after all.

These days I’ve started doing yoga with Seane Corn again. It turns out that she is far more accepting of limitations than I allowed myself to notice. And when I talk to people about yoga I find myself telling them to check out Sadie’s video’s for Wake up and Go to sleep yoga that you basically do in bed.

As Albert Einstein noted:

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice.”

Because here’s the thing.

I found that being open to strange new ideas (even when it comes to ancient practices like yoga or the very strong instincts about how I should live my life that seem ingrained in my very DNA) taught me that war is sometimes simply a spineless escape from the challenges of peace.

Five years on, I’m no closer to any long term cure but I am getting slightly better (and I’d like to think even a little more elegant) at lurching between catastrophe and retreat.

Yesterday I managed 9.33 minutes of a very gentle practice.

I’m ok with it.

Let’s chant  to that!

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Ed: Bryonie Wise


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