Life experiences are made into ornaments.. .. things that we glorify and hold on to.. things that we attach to for self esteem and identity. A teacher of yoga, teaches the practices of Abhyasa and Vairagya: Discipline and Renunciation. These practices develop clarity of perception. They teach us to put the ornaments on the shelf so that we may experience ourselves as Yoga.
Recently I have the privilege of welcoming Russell into the teaching body of the school. Day to day, week to week over the last 5 years I have watched and walked alongside him. Yoga as pilgrimage is the phrase that comes to mind. When we go in search of new or expanded meaning about ourselves, or a higher good - through experience - the journey is called a pilgrimage. When we learn the practice of yoga as pilgrimage it is a journey of encountering powerlessness and at the same time inner strength, confidence and great clarity and purpose.
Initially I did yoga like I did exercise; I felt I needed ‘fixing’ because of a few injuries. I would push myself in my practice. I wasn’t really listening or feeling present to my body. I was enforcing my will on my body. Realising this has been huge, as this ‘enforcing’ process is actually a big part of the problems I experience.
Only when we are sick of the suffering, when we have reached a place where actions and effort feel hollow or meaningless; or the thrill is just not that big a thrill anymore; or when happiness is mixed with self-doubt and we find ourselves on auto pilot; when we feel brave enough to admit even one of these things to ourselves about ourselves, then we are ready to pose the question of contentment, forgiveness and a life of peace, then we are tilling the soil in which a yoga practice can spout Yoga.
When our mind set is toward the body as an 'ornament', we engage with it in ways that glorify performance. Actions inherently serve no practical purpose. Whereas when we engage with the body as an 'instrument', we are concerned with the capacity of the instrument to harmonize within its context or circumstance.
Letting go of the fight response and understanding that the mind can influence the pain response was the first step. Appreciating that my body has served me extremely well through 60 years of exertion and should not be expected to perform like a 30 year old, came next. That meant accepting my limits with a new calmness and humility rather than anguish and stress.
Our yoga classes for children have been running for 4 years and some of the feedback we get from parents and also teachers is amazing and encouraging. Children experience stress for lots of different reasons and yoga helps them to 'discharge' it through physical movements and also through breathing exercises and meditation.