Yoga is not here to let us escape from life. It is here to show us how to decipher what we believe life is. To see what is.
So many times people share their stories of how they cannot cope with the stresses of every day life, with what is percieved as a pushy boss, an inconsiderate co worker, a demanding family member, the commute to work and more if they did not have yoga.
That is a beautiful thing to hear.
It means that somewhere the heart, the mind, the body, the soul is finding space. Is finding release. Is discovering relief. And that zone of expanse you experience on your yoga mat is a magnificent place to start.
Yoga is, however, not an escape room.
Don´t get me wrong – I also came to yoga with a broken body, a broken heart, a confused and somewhat broken mind. At least that is how I percieved it all back then in the year of 2000.
Like so many others I also arrived on the yoga mat – which was actually a sheep skin back then in the beginners course at Yoga Tirol – with a burnout and a depression from exhaustion. And that first lesson, especially that initial Savasana where I fell asleep and was gently woken by my teacher just before the next class started , 30 minutes after ours closed, showed me a glimpse of something so bright and so generous I never looked back.
Yet it had nothing to do with performing a few asanas, hiding from the world outside the door of the studio and then finding yours truly headbutting in to reality as hard as possible only to wish myself back on that mat again.
What my teachers showed, and are still showing, me was, and is, a way of living life in this world. It did or does not necessarily make it easier all the time, however it does polish those glasses you are looking through as well as the mirror you are looking in, more and more by the day.
I feel urged to write this blog post as I see more and more students getting on their mats in all the different places where I teach, which is a true blessing. The world is in turmoil and so is humanity as a whole. We are destroying the planet at the same speed as we are destroying ourselves. Yoga – the polishing of the faculties we see and interpret our world through – is more necessary than ever, and I am grateful for all the people turning to this incredible practice for clarity, peace, stability and strength.
We have all , I believe, at this point heard about the three natural responses to a threat, to fear – fight, flight or freeze.
If not, you just read them ;-).
Fight – depending on the nature of the threat, there are different ways to fight it.
Flight – running away from the threat is quite often the wisest thing to do in a situation of the threat being a physical confrontation involving violence for instance.
Freeze – ”play dead”, ”wait till the storm blows over”, e.g.
Unless you live in a warzone, you are incarcerated or you are the equivalent of a Jason Bourne or an Ethan Hawke – most of your waking hours are not filled with physical threats. Yet, many of us have managed to create this scenario in our minds through all the things we as a society and individuals for some reason feel we need to do, have to perform, must accomplish, ought to aquire and so on.
When our bodies and minds say ”no” after to long a duress, there is a collapse.
For many of us this is what it takes for us to snap out of our destructive behaviour. We are told – rightly so a majority of the time – that our bodies stress response (threat response if you´d like) has been running to the max on the ”flight” reaction and now the body is exhausted.
One of the tools at this point being adviced is heading to the yoga mat.
But why? And how ?
Because, for instance, the pranayama practices allows your symphatic nervous system to slow down.
The asana practice guides you back in to your body so that you can feel it fully, read its signals, understand and cherish this vehicle which carries you around on this earth day after day.
The sitting meditation practice teaches you to look through the layers of all labels, behaviours, convictions, ideas both you and others have put upon yourself through the years.
The savasana or yoga nidra practice lets all your newly re-found knowledge and perspective settle in through all your layers.
The studying of the ancient texts brings a new pair of glasses accompanied by a new mirror to look through and in to.
With these tools you step off the mat and back in to the world.
The reason I feel so urged since quite some time to write this blog post is because even after this ”heading to the yoga mat” so many seem to still be fleeing. Which in itself is also largely due to yoga being marketed in way right now as The big solution to many of the issues a lot of us are experiencing, be it physical or mental.
Nevertheless , we are not supposed to flee the world on to a mat for an hour and a half only to walk out the door fighting life and then wishing ourselves back to the next hour and a half on the mat a few days later.
That is not Yoga.
That is ”flight” all over again.
– First we fight, then we flee, and from flight we are straight back in to fight once again. Not Yoga.
I love that there are so many more yoga studios, yoga schools, yoga bookstores opening up everywhere. I love that we are getting more and more sanghas, more communities of searchers out there. I love the messages being spread.
Yet, are we being honest with ourselves? Are we practicing Satya? Are we practicing Ahimsa?
Are we living those messages we all quote on social media or are we using them to fight something we do not like?
Are we using these very messages to flee towards something we would rather have than to stay in and see what is here right now for what it actually is?
Are we just frozen trying to touch our toes asking ourselves why or how the heck that would signify ”I Am Love”?
Cecilia Götherström, Nov 15th 2016