Less than 100 years ago, yoga practice was exclusively for men. It took all the determination of Indra Devi, supported by the Maharaja of Mysore, to persuade Krishnamacharya to accept her as a student. This was in 1938.
It’s ironic that, in 2015, many people think yoga is for women, and that there’s something vaguely unsavoury about men who practice it. As the Boys of Yoga put it, “yoga is pink lycra and vegan chicks,” or “mung-bean-eating, sandal-wearing, freshly dreaded trustafarians”.
Modern life can be tricky: busy schedules, inexorably rising sea levels, rampant species extinction. Sometimes it’s hard to kick back, relax, and silence the nagging inner voice that insists we’re hurtling towards ecological calamity.
Yoga can help! A little bit ‘left-field’ even a decade ago, yoga is experiencing a meteoric rise. It’s an ancient science of self-realisation and a popular workout craze, offering great fitness benefits and temporary relief from deep-seated ennui. Continue reading
About a week ago, I made a connection with a beautiful woman. At the time of writing, she’s due to leave the country in three days, and I may not see her before she goes.
In light of this experience, I’ve been pondering the concept of non-attachment.
Cats. Zen masters. Very annoying Zen masters.
It’s one of the most common instructions you’ll hear in the average yoga class. “Protect your lower back.” “Don’t jam into your lower spine.” “Look after your lumbars.”
There are many variations on the theme, all with very similar intentions: to make practice safe and to prevent the erosion of the discs in the lumbar spine. No one wants to end up like the guy in the New York Times article and have their vertebrae fused. Continue reading
I notice a common tendency in ‘spiritual’ circles for people to label themselves in ways that imply a great deal of spiritual attainment, and others in ways that imply a low level of spiritual attainment. So, I might call myself ‘evolved’, for example, or ‘conscious’. If I were female, I might describe myself as a ‘goddess’. People who I clash with, on the other hand, I might consider ‘toxic’, and adhere to the mantra that I must ‘clear toxic people out of my life’.
The problem with this is that no human being is composed exclusively of either light or dark. While I’m committed to practices that build self-awareness, such as practicing yoga asanas, sitting for meditation, and journalling, calling myself ‘conscious’ or ‘evolved’ would suggest that I had reached a destination, which is quite contrary to my experience: in fact, the more I practice, the more I realise how much more I have to learn. It would also separate me from those people who, for whatever reason, I deemed ‘unconscious’ or ‘unevolved’. This seems to me antithetical to a practice whose very name means ‘union’.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” ~ Mark Twain
At the time of writing, I’m just over a week from leaving the UK for Thailand to take up a yoga teaching position. It’s a move that offers the promise of ‘living the dream’, and finally translating my eleven and a half years of yoga experience into a full-time livelihood. It also feels like a kind of death, a change so profound that I’m unsure who I’ll be once the plane lands and I step blinking into the Bangkok sunshine. Some days, I’m excited at the prospect of the undoubted adventures that await me. Others, I’m flat-out terrified, distraught to think of the beloved friends, family, and artisan cheeses I’m about to leave behind.
Cake: terrifying [photo credit: Anne]
I hadn’t realised how nervous I’d feel.
I’d seen other people put together crowdfunding campaigns and thought, in the back of my mind, that if there was ever something I wanted badly enough I would be prepared to create one myself. Soon after I secured a yoga teaching position in Thailand in June and July, I realised this was that thing. I was confident I could sustain myself once I was teaching regularly, but – alone – I couldn’t cover the costs of flights, visas, insurance, and other essentials.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the intensity of the experience, and the anxieties it brought to the surface. The internal judgements telling me that asking other people for money made me lazy and shiftless. The burning sensation of shame as I imagined friends secretly harbouring those judgements. Continue reading