Just Dance – Life is Well Enough as it is

When I went to yoga teacher school, part of the process was self-study. In fact the niyamas, part of the eight limbs of yoga includes the practice of svadhyaya which is a study of your inner realm. Yoga, after all is more than a physical practice. It is the life long practice of looking at yourself, finding your issues and working on them in the quest to becoming an enlightened being. With practice and time, the layers are peeled back to find our atma or higher self.


Now, as a teacher, I find myself in constant self-study and to add to it, I am surrounded by healers. It is great in a way, but in another, not so much. You see healers can sometimes see problems everywhere. There is always something that deserves a deeper look at, always something that needs to be fixed. Sometimes, it can go too far, like a person who enrols you in dance classes in a style you hate because you can’t get your steps in time with everyone else. It creates pressure and you end up resenting the dance even more. The thing too is that healers can be broken, and sometimes, in not wanting to be broken alone, there is projection, making their stories the stories of others, but it is not the case. It is never the same.


Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, and one of the things I decided in my 30s was that I would only surround myself with people I actually like, but some days, I grow wary of the digging. Being female, I am good enough at breaking myself down so having an army of people turning every action or non-action into an issue doesn’t really help matters. Sometimes all the digging is a bit like reading those useless ‘how to’ articles in female magazines, you know the ones, ‘how to meet prince charming,’ ‘how to live an awesome life,’ and ‘how to make a man love you,’ etc. If you actually just put the articles down, you might realise that your life is pretty awesome and that you are, in fact a shining star.  All these things that are there to ‘help’ sometimes just creates is this sense of not being enough or not doing enough.


The thing is, not everything needs to become an issue and every issue should definitely not be made into an excuse. We all carry scars from our childhoods and our youths. In their own way, they not only shape who we are but have also brought us to this space here and now. My heart carries the scratches and bruises of being my father’s daughter and the unhealthy relationships I have had in my life, with self, with people, with addictions. My heart might always wear these scars and perhaps, although she may never fully heal, it is fine, she can move forward and with time, she will get where she’s going.


All this poking and prodding and digging, how much does it really help? The emotional body is not quite like the physical body. My right hip flexor is sore and that can directly be traced back to my torn hamstring and how I compensated for that by doing things differently. The emotional things however, the deeper things, well, perhaps they are fine as they are. Perhaps, although there is a deeper story it is not for us to know yet. I am tired of how my being single becomes a dissection of how I am either not manifesting, setting intentions, putting it our there or the opposite, putting it out there too much. I am tired of how caring for someone means that I am not taking care of myself while they get what they want.


Life and yoga to me, is this great amazing dance. You dance on your own, figuring out your own steps, you dance in a group, finding ways of how that works and you dance with a single other at different times, in different ways, friend, sister, lover. You can help someone if they’re dancing with an injured foot, but who are we to say that people are not dancing the right way or to question their steps.


You might see two people dancing at opposite ends of the room with this amazing chemistry between them – she with just the right amount of softness to compliment his strength. Occasionally they dance close to each other but they move away again. Sometimes you just want to make them dance together, and when they don’t you start handing them pamphlets of dance schools that can help. I’ve learned that some dances, like the dance I dance when I’m alone, are not made to be shared. They are my steps to my tune. It is the same with a dance between two people. They each come to it with their own breaths, steps, backgrounds, rhythms and sometimes, it takes time to figure out how to dance together. They lose count, step on each other’s toes (sometimes on purpose) and they might even drop each other, but nothing is broken, nothing needs to be fixed. It is their own dance, to dance for themselves, not for you. And if you are the dancer on the floor, this is your dance, not for the world.


Life is a process.


Yes, we want to get there, wherever there is. We want that perfect handstand, we want to be loved, and we have so much love to give, but some things, the good things, no matter how you dissect or tear apart, you just can’t rush. Perhaps, there is nothing wrong with being fine with how things are not exactly how you want them to be. Perhaps, not liking having my feet of the ground is not some big character flaw that I have to fix and perhaps giving love not knowing if it is returned is not something that means I’ll spend my life pining while the ones loved just take.


There are always a million things that can be wrong, that can be fixed, but there comes a time when everything is just fine the way it is. Les Leventhal reminded me that a flower opens when it is time. If you pull the petals open, they break. It is the same with most things – your body in practice, your life in its journey and your heart. When it is time, nothing you can do can stop what is going to happen from happening.


So relax.


Live, love, cry, break.


Listen to the music and dance. This track might be shit but the next track might be fucking awesome.  What you do at that exact time is always the right thing, and if you decide that you want to change your dance, slow it down, take a partner, change the pace – there is always space for that too. Remember that in a dance, there is that strength, but also that ultimate surrender to the music. Most of the time, you don’t really know what music is going to start playing.




A Snob On a Meditation Cushion is a Snob Still

A few months ago, in yoga teacher training, we came across a scripture that addressed how in order for one’s yoga to progress, one would no longer mix with what’s known as “common people.”  Since then, it has become a running joke where we’d make statements referring to the so called, “common people.”  Although we use it in jest, yoga snobbery is a very real situation.  Personally, I have had statements, often laced with a tone of judgment, like, “oh we’re not likely to do so and so because we’re yogis,” “you’re a yogi so you won’t do so and so,” or even, “he eats McDonalds and smokes cigarettes, so he’s that kind of person.”

Yoga, in its essence means “to yoke,” or “union,” and correct me if I’m wrong, but this segregation of seeing ourselves as “yogis,” and therefore above other people, instead of uniting us, separates us from others. Yogis generally adhere to the five yamas (nonviolence, truthfulness, non-stealing, non-excess and non-possessiveness) and the five niyamas (purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-study and surrender).  But what about the practice of compassion?  What about the practice of feeling for others without putting them on another level, often lower than we are?
How could a bunch of tree hugging hippies be snobs, you say?

What about the snobbery that looks at people who don’t practice yoga or meditation as lesser beings, and at the other level the snobbery that looks at people who don’t or can’t practice certain things (including some asanas) as lesser yogis? How many times have you had a yogi flick you off by saying something like, “I’m a yogi,” with an unspoken side of “that makes me more enlightened that you are?”  Yoga practitioners, have you had an incredulous yogi say to you, “oh you’re not a vegetarian?”, or “you smoke?” Sometimes you might even find yourself looking at another yogi and OMG, they’re NOT wearing Lululemon, so they can’t be serious yogis, can they?  Don’t get me wrong, I love my Lulu gear, but I know that if I was a student who had to pay for university, rent and yoga classes, I wouldn’t be able to afford them.  Would that mean that I treasure my yoga any less?

Honestly, I can be just as guilty of yoga snobbery as anyone else. Not just to others, but to myself.  It’s not just that voice where your judgment eye is turned outwards, it’s also when your judgment eye is turned inwards, looking for reasons why you you’re not good enough for yoga.  I often find some vice or reason why I’m not a good yogi.  The fact that I hate the word, “resonate,” might make me a bad yogi, actually.  In fact, although yoga is a big part of my life, I often refer to myself as a yoga practitioner instead of a yogi.  It’s not anything, I just don’t think I’m there yet, wherever there is.

That’s the thing with judgment and snobbery though.  A truly enlightened person often is not judgmental at all, and they really wouldn’t bother about what people are wearing, or how long people are holding their handstands for. A person who was born into wealth within an old family is often more humble than what we would call the nouveaux riche. A spiritually experienced, although he or she might guide you through and occasionally make fun of you, would not segregate in a way that makes it seem some are less than others, and they sure as hell won’t talk down to people.

Yoga is a great place to be, but there can also be a lot of pretentiousness, especially as with our consumerist, achievement mad and socially conscious society, we have started to take the same shit into yoga.  The pretentiousness ranges from people who pretend to like kale because it’s the “yogi superfood,” to people using certain words or speaking in a certain way because it’s more yogic (by the way, yoga originates from India, so technically to properly use yogic words, you’d speak Sanskrit or a current language that originates thereof), to holding back on swearing because it’s un-yogic, to a view that someone who can’t move in a certain way are considered un-yogic.  And don’t even think about being a sci-fi addict, or loving beer, or wanting to own things. There is almost this idea that you have to tick boxes to be a yogi and if you don’t, then you are just not there.

A lot of people are starting to get interested in yoga for all its benefits. Who are we to say that while people are only practicing some aspects and not others, therefore they are not a yogi? Who are we to say that someone who has never stepped foot in a yoga studio is “common?” Some people choose not to practice asana at all, focusing instead on pranayama or the yamas and niyamas.  Some people practice asana but spend their time judging those who don’t.  Perhaps it’s time for a bit of svadyaya, a turning of the focus inside, and realizing that there are guidelines, but there are no rules that makes others more of something, or less than.  Some people just don’t like kale and enjoy a steak and beer, or a cigarette once in a while.  The smell might be unpleasant to you, but that sure as hell doesn’t make anyone better than anyone else.

Judgment is judgment no matter where it comes from and a snob is a snob even when you’re sitting on an expensive piece of rubber meditating five hours a day.