Roots and Branches of Yoga
Yoga has a rich and diverse history, originating in the Indian subcontinent over the past 2/3 thousand years. Yoga's purpose, history and evolution is much debated and studied around the world with different traditions and lineages taking different perspectives. For example, Bhakti Yoga with a focus on love and connection with the divine, Jnana Yoga with a focus on attaining deep spiritual knowledge, Raja Yoga with a focus on achieving one-pointed consciousness. In the west, the most commonly practiced form is Hatha Yoga, where we develop a practice of coming into the body, working with energy, breath and awareness as a means of cultivating a more direct experience of ourselves as we are.
What I understand to be shared amidst these perspectives is that the tools and teachings of Yoga can provide a means of coming into greater connection. Greater connection with self, others, that which is beyond words...greater connection with life itself!
Coming to your first yoga class can be intimidating, confusing and overwhelming. What are all these terms I've never heard of? I don't know what part of my body she's on about? I'm not feeling anything? I can't do that movement! it hurts!
Please let yourself be a beginner. Take your time. Ask questions. Start where you are.
Yoga is practiced in bare feet on a sticky mat
Come to class with an empty stomach
If something hurts stop doing it, ask for help
If you need to rest, rest
Focus on yourself and your own practice, yoga is not competitive, try not to compare yourself to others
My Approach to Yoga
Over the years I have explored various 'types' of yoga and practiced lots of different approaches to yoga postures (asanas), breathing practices (pranayama) and meditation (dyana). At some point during my exploring I started to feel weighed down with techniques, rules, systems and theories. Whilst I would feel some benefits to these practices; I felt like I didn't really know why I was doing a lot of it and like I was putting a load of stuff on to my experience of myself. I got confused about what was true and right for me and got caught up in what I thought I 'should' be doing, feeling and thinking in my practice. My relationship with Yoga began to feel like a bubble away from real life and I started to feel a kind of detachment and disconnection that felt like the antithesis of what I believed yoga to be all about!
This experience led me to explore further afield, particularly into the worlds of somatic movement, embodied anatomy, psychotherapy and Buddhist mindfulness practice. During this time I also became increasingly interested in concerns of safety (physical and emotional) in yoga practice and the stress placed on the body by some approaches to practice. I now integrate learning from contemporary anatomy and movement studies, and psychotherapeutic theory to supplement my yoga training.
My approach to my practice and teaching now is more firmly grounded in a spirit of inquiry and exploration into present felt experience - not doing more and more practices with the hope that something will happen. I believe it is from this place that the promises of the ancient Yogis are more likely to be realised, and in our modern, western lives that we are more likely to be grounded in ourselves in such a way that we can act in our best interests and in good relationship with those around us and our environment.
In short, I still practice and teach postures, breathing practices and meditation, and now I integrate learning from other places to support this exploration that is Yoga practice; being with what is real and true, as we experience it.