I recall standing in the kitchen of my old house, my boyfriend at the time and I clearly not seeing eye-to-eye on something probably so trivial that today, it would make me shake my head at how silly we were. I looked at him and said, “This is your yoga practice,” and proceeded to walk away. He grabbed my arm so gently that I looked up at him, our eyes locking. I can remember the blue crisp colours of his eyes and how in that moment, I could sense that he had no idea what I meant…. “What does that even mean,” he says? I remember it perfectly, the way his eyes had this bewildered look of both confusion and slight irritation. It was a moment that really stuck out for me. I started to think about what was missing from his yoga practice that steered him down a path where he didn’t understand what I was saying. But also, what had I learned that led me to say something so bold with the assumption that everyone should understand what I mean by it.
That moment dictated much of my growth as a teacher over the years. Since then, I have spent equal measure teaching students that yoga isn’t so much about what you look like, or how perfect your alignment is as much as it is about who you are as a person. How you communicate in fights, how you own your choices, and learn from your mistakes. How to celebrate your victories without just shuffling them aside. “This is your yoga practice,” is essentially a connection to how we respond to the world around us.
Lululemon recently came out with a new campaign called, “This is Yoga.” I love it so much as it is a reflection of the teachings that have inspired me since that day in the kitchen. When you watch the videos they unveiled, they have both incredible athletes, artists, and dancers displaying the moments when as human beings they transform themselves into breathing, moving creatures. They aren’t thinking about their debt in these moments, or whether or not the luggage they lost at the airport will ever return. They aren’t ruminating a past lover, or anxiously worrying about their kids college funds. In those moments, all that matters is the present. This is yoga.
Regardless of all the fluff and the fun, and the amazing teachers you might be attached to. Regardless of what is happening in the political world, or your family’s world. The moment you step away from all the worries and all the excitements of your life, and replace the past and future with the present, you are practicing yoga. You do not need to be on a rectangular piece of material to practice yoga. You do not need to send prayers to a particular deity or be able to touch your toes. You can be a dancer, you can be a writer, or a film maker, or a stay-at-home mother. You can be a bit overweight, or even a bit underweight. You can have visible scars from your life and you can have invisible wounds that you are still licking, months or even years later. How you connect with each moment is your yoga practice.
And we can’t connect to each moment if we don’t pay attention to how we use our brain and how we listen to our body. You can’t have one relationship and not the other. They need to work in synchronicity.
We often think that our brain is this wild horse that roams the wide open fields, with no real destination in mind. If we have a negative thought, we feed it. If we have an intrusive thought, we avoid it. When we feel frustrated in our bodies, we try to over-analyze it, compartmentalize it, and then we know who to blame. As if just saying, I feel sad today isn’t enough in our culture. We have to say, I feel sad because of X, Y, Z. In those moments we are quick to project that it is somebody else’s wrongdoing that has caused us to react and feel what we feel. And when resentment builds over a lifetime of people pleasing, we give in and say that we have anxiety and there is nothing we can do about it. So how do we tame this wild mind of ours? How do we control it in such a way that we can be free of the citta vritti (scattered thoughts spinning in our heads) it unintentionally causes, and instead feel a sense of intimacy with ourselves and our lives so that we can be better parents, lovers, children, co-workers and activists?
And then there is our body. This moving, living, breathing creature that is so separate from our thoughts. We consistently shame our bodies, force our bodies into yoga shapes that harm and hurt hours or years later. We ignore our body’s messages because we think our body is like that of an annoying friend, always telling us stuff we don’t want to hear. We starve our bodies, we don’t move our bodies enough or worse yet, we push our bodies so far past our capabilities that it gains weight as a point of defence and defiance. Our culture has taught us that our brain is far superior than our body. That we should push our body past its limits in order to reach a goal we set. That we should shove our emotions deep down inside of our body so that we can be more professional, more mature, more masculine. As a consequence, we lose a closeness with the animal instincts that are still ours to tap into. This is the part of us that catches that ball thrown so fast that we had no idea we could even move that quickly. This same part of our body that senses when a dear friend is hurt or angry without them even saying anything. This same part of us that knows deep down inside if the person you are dating is the right one or not. But when we spend so much of our life ignoring these messages, it’s hard to trust what our body tells us.
The answer to all of this is multi-layered. Our circumstances and environment will dictate how we perceive any situation, which means we all have a varying pivot point to see the world from. I encourage you to write, to get still, to look at the things you systematically do that doesn’t jive with your life. It might mean breaking up with a girlfriend, or telling your toxic friend that you can’t have them in your life anymore. It might mean saying you are sorry for something you did long ago that still floats around in your head. It might mean slipping away on retreat and learning tools to keep your focus on the present moment rather than time travelling. It might also mean getting on your yoga mat! Whatever your decision, it’s not going to be easy. Nothing in life worth having is worth ignoring. The one small advice that I will give you is that whenever possible, give yourself more space. More space to get a task complete, more space when you feel angry, more space after you check something off your to do list. We could all use a little more space so that we can slow down, connect to our breath, feel our body and then make our move. This is your yoga practice, This is Yoga.
Thanks Lulu for the incredible work you do in the Victoria Yoga Community. Your staff, your ambassadors, your teachers, they all have this great passion that burns deep within them, and every time I am interlaced in your community I am reminded of why I started teaching in the first place.
Darci is an avid student and teacher who feels that yoga doesn’t stop once you get off your mat. It’s a lifestyle, a way of living, and a way of taking care of those around you. With an unwavering attention to detail and an innate curiosity about the human body, Darci is a dedicated student of the Moksha Yoga community, both as a studio owner, a teacher and a student. Raised in a flow based community, Darci has studied Moksha, Moksha Flow, Moksha Level Two and Yin under the guidance of Angela Zawada and the greater Moksha Yoga faculty. She is always inspired by the teachings of Michael Stone and that to live a life that is full and supported, you have to engage in conversation and take care of each other and yourself. She is humbled by each member of this community (sangha), and their love for life!