Yoga in relation

Somehow it’s already May. Spring seems to have shot past in an explosion of cherry blossom and wisteria and now, having spent the last few days sock-free wearing flip flops, it seems like the British Summer has finally landed. We’re due storms next week so it really IS the summer here.

It’s been a busy few months. I finished working for the organization I’d worked at for the last ten years of my life – a chapter that began with me being a fresh-faced 24 year old who’d never had a ‘proper’ job and never worked in the city (I hadn’t even seen a Pret a Manger before – that’s just how wet behind the ears I was) and ended with me being the older, wiser and more grey-haired person that I am today. I’ve been exposed to the dark belly of society most people don’t even know exists (or choose not to know), been inspired by and learnt from some of the most resilient people who’ve come through our 12 week programme, and somehow had time to become a yoga teacher and indulge in my love of yoga along the way. Now, with my long-term friend, colleague and partner in crime (although less so these days), I’m the co-director of our very own charity, Foundation for Change.

And change there has been lots of. Along with starting a new charity, in the last few weeks I’ve done more bodywork training (the TRE training and a weekend of Yin Yoga workshops) which has enriched both my practice and my praxis in my worlds of yoga and substance misuse. And actually my world view in general. The boundaries between them all are becoming increasingly less clear. And that is a wonderful thing indeed.

And yes, in case you were wondering, I’ve also managed to have something resembling a social life amongst all of that too.

What has kept me going, kept me healthy and (relatively) sane, and kept my energy levels up to cope with the change has been one of the main constants in my life – my Ashtanga practice. And it’s the lessons I learn through it that teach me that if there’s something in life I want, I need to have the discipline to work for it. Having always been a risk taker also helps, I must say. But back to the discipline.

If there’s something I want, some goal I aspire to (regardless of whether or not I actually get there), I know that it will take time, dedication, and a whole lot of patience. Sounds obvious but I really think a lot of people either don’t realize that, don’t think that to be the case or they just plain can’t be arsed. I see people who want things – be it to be more advanced in their yoga (even if advanced simply means making it through sun salutation B without getting out of breath… took me years!) or to have a fulfilling relationship with a partner – who don’t see that it’s not enough to just dream about these things and hope they’ll happen but that something needs to shift and effort put in to make it so.

This idea is unfortunately becoming increasingly reinforced by our post-modern culture which reinforces short-term, instant gratification. We want things now and don’t want to have to put in the graft to get them, have them and most importantly enjoy them. More people seem to read Buzzfeed than books these days. This can lead to a low frustration tolerance… if something doesn’t grab us immediately, we get frustrated, jack it in and look for the next thing to hold our attention. Again and again and again.

A conversation I had recently with a student got me thinking about the parallels between Ashtanga yoga and intimate relationships. Both are in fact relationships – one to what might be a central pillar in your life and one to a central person in your life. In both, you essentially do the same thing everyday. Both can seem monotonous. The longer you are in both, the harder you have to look to find the new bits. And the repetition of it all means you are regularly faced with good feelings and the enjoyable parts as well as the frustrating and challenging aspects. On a regular basis! In short, both make you face the bits of yourself that are not so nice to see, and can be avoided by going to a different type of yoga (or not going at all) or chucking in what you’ve got with one person and moving on to someone else. The sad thing being that it means you can miss the beauty of what you have right under your nose as you go looking for the next thing – again reinforced by the ridiculous amount of choice we have these days where there’s potentially always something better around the corner – probably meaning you’ll just carry on looking for the next thing.

I’ve been wanting to write a post on the evolution of one’s yoga practice – moving past the frustrations of the plateaus and taking your practice to the next level. Learning to refine the practice as it moves from the gross to the subtle. As humans we seem to be instinctually driven to evolve, everything is in a state of constant flux and change and evolution is entirely natural. But sometimes we get stuck. This seems to have been the beginning of that post and I’ll carry it on another time. For now, I’d urge you to explore your relationship to your practice… and your relationship to your relationship(s)!

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