Here are 5 unexpected things that I have learned about practicing yoga
1. OH SO SENSITIVE Going deeper into my own yoga and meditation practice made me more mindful and more aware of the subtleties of experience. This did lead me to be more appreciative of my life and empathetic towards others. However what I didn’t expect was that increased sensitivity is a double edged sword. There were times when the lightness of being became simply unbearable. There were times when my sensitivity to people, situations and environments felt so acute that I was overwhelmed, lost and felt out of control. There were times when my heart felt so tender that it could implode from the gravity of it all. In those times, I found that spending time in calm peaceful places, journalling and surrounding myself with close friends helped me feel more grounded. If you can relate to that experience, my best advice is to remind you that you can always ease off the practice if it feels too overwhelming. Remember that THIS level/depth of practice is all your choice. Take things slowly and gradually and ensure that you create a positive space to hold the experience. It’s important that you have the right kind of time or place or situation when you’re delving deeply into the practices. I find a retreat or ashram environment is ideal for taking your practice to a deeper level.
2. EXPERIENCING BLISS POINTS DOESN’T MAKE YOU SPECIAL. Having incredible insights, flashes of inspiration, voices, visions, premonitions, lucid dreams, synchornicities or crazy trippy, blissful, euphoric, orgasmic experiences doesn’t make you special or enlightened. You can have them and still be an A* Hole. I recall after spending 5 months in India meditating in an ashram in the tea mountains, I thought I’d sussed it. That delusion of grandeur was soon crushed when I arrived at Mumbai train station and had to battle my way through swarms of taxi drivers hustling me. I flipped my lid and all that zen dissipated just like that! Yes, over the years I’ve had some mad experiences that if ever we sat down for tea I could tell you all about and I’m sure you probably have some of your own cool stories too. When you experience something out of the ordinary as a result of practising yoga, breathing and meditation it can feel quite ‘out-of-this-world’, it can feel like you’ve encountered something special, or that you ARE something special, that maybe that was enlightenment. A fleeting lifting of the veil of illusion. A place/ the state to be reached and longed for. For years I would be perplexed and determined to decipher the meaning of such experiences. At times I would search and grasp for more experiences. Nowadays, I’ve reconciled that indeed they are intriguing, interesting and sometimes enjoyable experiences but they are also temporary ‘bliss points’ not intended as a ‘reward’ for yoga practice but more can be considered a small reminder that there is more to life that the daily grind and the teachings of yoga are very much alive.
3. EVERYTHING IN MODERATION INCLUDING MODERATION. Looking back at my twenties I smirk at how serious I was about it all. I strived for balance! (?) Striving for balance is ridiculous and comical! Balance arises from gently easing off the reigns and going with the flow of life, not from holding on tightly and micro-managing everything. With yoga practice, discipline, dedication, purity and piety are all great qualities to cultivate for sure. But with good intentions sometimes comes an overly zealous and perhaps obsessive approach. I recall a conversation with my sister where I was telling her all about yoga and veganism and listing all the superfoods and what supplements ‘she SHOULD’ be taking. I thought I was enlightening her as I detailed all of the health benefits in an almost neurotic fashion. I was stopped in my tracks by her court reply; “you SHOULD lighten up”. That’s when I realised that really she was en’lighten’ing me! From then on I toned down my approach, let loose every now and then and lightened up which was probably way more effective for my wellbeing than a cocktail of supplements
4. EXPECT THE SHIT STORM. Everyone has a tough time at some point and yoga teachers are by no means immune from this. If anything chances are if you’re practising yoga diligently, the tough times will keep on rolling in thick and fast as you bat off one samskara (negative subconscious holding pattern) after another! No stone is left unturned, yoga brought on some dark times and made me face many of my (many) demons. Expect the yoga to actually have a very real impact on your life and sometimes in an unpleasant, very difficult or disturbing way. You may find that you lose friendships or that you are no longer interested in things that you previously cared for. If you find that your yoga practice has triggered something that is difficult to handle, it could be that you need more support or guidance from your trusted yoga teacher and loved ones or even a professional therapist! I tried out counselling during my most turbulent times but personally for me, I worked through my issues most effectively through embodied practices and reconnecting with my most beloved yoga teacher and surrounding myself with people that nurtured and supported me. read more on this here in my article ‘problem with yoga’
5. BEING A YOGA PURIST IS NAIVE WHEN IT COMES TO MOVEMENT. There was a stage where I thought yoga was the be all and the end all, a complete movement discipline in itself and that there was no need to bother doing anything else for the body. Then I realised that I was in pain and yoga, although wasn’t causing the pain, it wasn’t helping it either. That’s when I branched out into a more multi-disciplinary approach to movement and fitness, added running, HIIT, weights and pilates and soon discovered misalignments, disorder in my movement patterns and gaps in my strength which I wasn’t able to identity in yoga having spent so long in the same grooves of my posture repertoire. Afterall, yoga practice isn’t really intended as an exercise program so why use it as that? read more on this in my article about pilates & HIIT here
If you are interested in taking your yoga practice to the next level, whether you intend to become a yoga teacher or not, a yoga teacher training may be something you would like to consider. Check out the Real Flow yoga Teacher Training Program that starts 26th Aug in Morocco and is completed over 3 months back in London.