My best mate recently informed me that I’ve developed a catch phrase… Apparently, I regularly respond to the various activities she’s doing (baking cakes, cleaning, running around after her two young sons) with “That’s Yoga!” Just imagine me saying it in a disney-esque voice, double thumbs up and cheesy grin and you’ve got the tone… There are times where I barely recognise myself and this is one of them!
So whilst I attempt to be less of a cheesy yoga cheerleader, it is the perfect segue to tell you a little bit about the first of the Yoga Sutras: ‘Atha-Yoga-Anusasanam’. This translates to ‘here, now, is the teaching of Yoga’. Now, you may be thinking, “Well go on then Goulder, spit it out, you’re the teacher.”, but what this Sutra is suggesting is not that I launch into a lecture about Yoga, but that here, now, in the present moment, you can practice Yoga. But wait a moment before you jump into Downward Facing Dog!
I often hear people saying “Oh, I do Yoga.”, and what they mean is that they own a pair of leggings and they go to a class once a week (or once a month more realistically). This used to be me too – pre-India. I am not devaluing this activity – I remember only too well how difficult it is to leave the house for a class once you’ve finished a long day at work. Attending yoga classes is the starting point and is to be encouraged and applauded (particularly if you go to my classes – bills to pay, dreams to fuel etc.) but that isn’t all Yoga is.
Yoga is a lifestyle choice. As I’ve said before, you don’t have to quit your job, head to India, chant Hare Krishna and get your nose pierced to embrace Yoga (and to be honest that may be a little bit single white female…). It is simply a way of living mindfully in your culture, your society, alongside all the demands that we have upon us to feed and clothe ourselves and keep a roof over our heads.
It’s like meditation. When I say that word you may picture a smug looking person sitting in lotus, fingers linked on their knees, wearing a soft smile, with eyes closed as they access some blissful far off plane. In all likelihood they are planning what to eat for dinner or rehearsing an argument with a loved one that they wish they’d handled differently. We all do it. It’s human. My point is that we have these stereotypes but Yoga is not about performing a fancy balance posture with legs akimbo and it is not necessarily just sitting on the mat at the same time, each week.
The origins of the word ‘Yoga’ come from ‘Yuj’ which is similar to the English word ‘Yoke’ meaning ‘to unite’. This is what we do in Yoga – we unite the body, the mind and our spirit – all aspects of human nature. To do this requires discipline, focus and routine (which is why attending a regular weekly class is not to be sniffed at) but it also features in any activity where you are focused on the present moment, and find peace and calm within. So that could be out walking the dog as your thoughts calm and your mind clears, or taking a bath and relaxing, or knitting, singing, cooking, going to Church (the real thing not the drinking establishment in South London). Writing this blog with my full focus is Yoga.
Many people think that they need more time and space before they can fit Yoga and meditation into their busy lives. That there is too much else to do and there just aren’t enough hours in the day. But it isn’t true. It’s like when you decide to start a diet on a Monday, fall off the diet by Wednesday, eat crap for the rest of the week as obviously you can’t start again until the next Monday…
For me, the turning point was when I realised that in order to become happier I had to choose to let go of my misery, to let go of my overthinking, my bitching, my need to be right – to uphold principle, my need to control everything, to blame others for my misfortune, for my bad mood. I am still learning to let go as it’s a deeply ingrained state of behaviour, in me, in most of us. It is scary to let go, to accept that old patterns, routines and behaviours aren’t helping us and to move forward to a new way of thinking, of being. As a society, we appear to define ourselves by the wrongs done to us, by how hard we struggle to achieve things, by comparing ourselves to what others have, what we do not, and this keeps us busy, distracted and exhausted. Once I surrendered control, released myself from the control of my mind, and slowed down, I started to let emotional baggage go and then there was more space to let happiness in.
So, if you are stressed or anxious, if you are mad busy, if you are feeling irritated or dissatisfied by life, then there is no better time than the here and now to make space for Yoga. There never will be a better time and I promise you that if you let Yoga and meditation in, you will have more time, energy and enthusiasm for the rest of the day, for the rest of your life. So, Here and Now – That’s Yoga! Hmm, maybe I should launch a T-shirt range….