Think Explore Feel, breaking YOGA down, keeping it REAL
My father is very much rooted into philosophy while my mother, is more hands on and practical in her outlook. Creating a balanced vision for the family. Both their beliefs have influenced my life, decision making and teaching style. My grandparents were Arya Samajhis (a movement that promotes values and practices based on the Vedas) and were strong influences during my pre-teen years.
Yoga came into my life while living in the South bay and yes it was a heavy dose of vinyasa flows and asanas only! Taught by white yoga teachers and I was the only Indian in a sea of white bodies. I did not mind being the only brown body, what did bother me was the language that the teachers used. It left me guessing if what I was doing was in line or even close to the instructions, the use of abstract examples that confused me and metaphors that were not relatable especially to a brown person!
My first YTT helped me understand how to teach a pose technically and my second training helped me understand the philosophy behind this ancient practice. My teaching skills combines both aspects and has evolved with time and maturity.
Now fast forward to the present yoga scene and sadly nothing has really changed. Classes are still heavily asana based with focus on ‘doing’ rather than ‘being’, use of highfalutin language, lacking diversity in teachers and most importantly the essence of yoga is missing leaving the practice dry. Having said all that, there is one change that is happening... more of a shift and its coming from South Asian teachers.
Yoga was banned during the British Raj. When history is forgotten, it either erases or makes our ancestors insignificant to those that practice yoga. Take the example of the Jewish community, they work to keep their stories and history of the holocaust alive for future generations to know. It is their foundation just like yoga is mine, my children and their children. Therefore, honouring yoga’s tradition and its roots is vital and should be introduced into yoga trainings as history of Yoga.
There is so much out there about decolonizing yoga and cultural appropriation. Returning to its roots, while these are important subjects that need to be addressed, it still does not give me the hands-on tools to implement it into everyday living. We speak about the yamas, niyamas, positives that yoga brings (grounding, supportive, connecting to one’s inner self) but how do we explain these to others, especially those that have never practiced yoga and want to.
Social media is being flooded with words like, yoga transforms, yoga sadhana, samadhi, ahimsa, tapas yoga liberates, yoga is self-enquiry (you get my drift) but none explains how or why and without the appropriate directions these words have no meaning.
The more I immerse myself into the practice the more challenging simple postures become and it is here where my practical side kicks in. I begin to communicate with myself using simple and easy language that helps me to understand and grasp the process. I become both teacher and student. Allowing the process of self-enquiry to begin.
Self-enquiry is an attitude of curiosity, honesty and is the bridge between that tiny voice in your head and your essence (that part within that you relate to). It is here where I encourage questions relating to a posture.
· How am I feeling in a particular pose?
· Where in the body am I feeling it?
· Is it comfortable or uncomfortable?
· What movements or adjustments can I make to find ease and steadiness?
Questions like these help me be more in tune with my physical body and gives me the freedom to adjust my asana when necessary. It invites compassion and heightens my self awareness.
Now to put it into my life.
· How am I feeling about my move to Brussels? (mixed emotions)
· Where in my body am I feeling it the most? (in my chest and mind)
· Is it comfortable or uncomfortable? (mixed and a bit all of the place)
· What can I do to find balance? (seek support/get on my mat)
Reflective practice is reflecting about what I did which is linked to the concept of learning from experience. I would practice balancing postures and using the insight from the practice transfer it into my daily life! Let’s take an example:
Standing balance postures
· Thinking: just the idea of balancing can be shaky and scary
· Exploring: grounding through my big toe, wall for support, where is my gaze/focus
· Feeling: steady, balanced, ease
The move to Brussels
· Thinking: chaos, apprehensive, bit all over the place
· Exploring: get support/help, organise
· Feeling: steady, ease, better mood, grounded
As a yoga teacher it is important to create an environment where the students have the ability to explore at their own pace. Creating a space for mutual respect between teacher and students and building an environment where learning, practicing is accessible to all. Using language that is easy to follow and grasp but most importantly encouraging students to grow within their practice both on and off the mat.