Am I a Yogi?
I've always quite openly admitted that I am a Pilates person – it’s like cats and dogs; you always have one that you connect with better. I chose to train in yoga nidra specifically due to its help with managing my concussion symptoms. The yoga nidra qualification strongly emphasised I should complete the basic 200-hour yoga teacher training, so I booked such a training. A yoga teacher training in Costa Rica is an intensive experience: I sought to fully immerse myself in the spiritual aspects of yoga. I never found reading yoga philosophy enjoyable and struggled in my yoga nidra training to take on the Upanishads (old texts of yoga) without feeling frustrated at the arrogance of yoga being an all wonderful form. I find the study for the sake of knowledge acquisition unsatisfying.
Yoga teachers often talk about how yoga is the answer to a happy life and health; how it appears to be the solution to all modern dis-ease and there are moves to incorporate it into the National Health Service. I am not fully comfortable with this approach as my gut instinct is that the word 'yoga' comes with cultural barriers, religious concerns and spiritual connotations that many (including myself) don't wish to engage with.
Yoga philosophy study requires the study of the Patanjali Sutras, which include the eight-fold path of yoga ('Ashtaanga') and the first 2 sections of this are (1) tools we can use to examine if we are on a path to a happy life that does not cause harm to ourselves or others (i.e. those around us are the mirror reflection of us internally) ("yamas"); and (2) the internal resources to help us work through finding balance ("niyamas"). Our training required me to present a 5 minute dharma talk to the group on this topic.
I researched various interpretations of these ancient texts, considered their role and decided that the only way to explain this in such a short time was a real-life example to work through. I chose an addiction - workaholism - something I have enjoyed since I was 15 years old and have found the hardest issue to address in my recovery. This is also something many of modern Westerners suffer from and are beginning to become aware of the problem.
Working on Working Less
I have joked throughout my recovery that I am working on working less! However, it is a genuine challenge for me to not work. But why do I love working so much? I worked through the 5 yamas and 5 niyamas for my presentation using this example. I could see how before my accident my yamas caused harm to me and other, but I could also see the niyamas that I had worked through without such a label.
What struck me was that the hardest area for me to resolve is the “moderation of energy” which during my recovery I have worked too hard and then been unwell again – a yoyo of energy. I also could see that the niyama I have just chosen to begin discovering since last August was “worship” of something divine (ishvara Pranidhana). Personally, worship as I have been learning it has been the idea of a universal consciousness that manifests into physical form as a human to enjoy the experiences of physical form, and that I have an inner me that is happy and all-knowing.
Discovery of this ‘divine within myself’ also resulted in my decision to travel, find better energy moderation and balance. Perhaps in the modern age of less religion and familial connection, we are missing this key of worship and are filling it with another 'wor' word: “work”.
As I teach a flow yoga class my general movement teaching background kicks in - get them moving, alignment, breath and then play. Initially I am still drawn to teach a somatic movement play into a yoga nidra or visualisation. After 6 weeks of teaching I notice that it is during restorative yoga classes that I have space to play with philosophy or spirituality. I feel connections with guests on retreat that seek to heal that I am drawn to certain chakras and their lessons. With beautiful oil mixes to use in my teaching I find use of chakra themes keeps me on track in my restorative classes.
The themes (or bhavs in Sanskrit) start to seep out into the now slow flow classes. People on retreat are exhausted and in desperate need to rest, recuperate and restore (restorative is ideal), not hard core flow like they may in New York City. There are many injuries or serious diseases in the room, with several complete beginners on mats. I teach very basic slow flow - perhaps I reach three sun salutations in the whole 60 minutes. We always check in with foundations and how to build strength with the openness.
As I settle into my yoga teaching daily I start to play with themes in class. Breath to exhale and let go to allow ease of the inhale; or to find space to become effortless and allow grace; or shoulders and they reflect how we are holding emotions from our hips. The guests all tell me I am a ‘great yoga teacher’ and the staff call me a ‘yogini’ for my wise comments in discussions.
I find my blog writing and reflections of my life lessons drips into classes. My spiritual reading and meditations start to impact my exploration of what I want to play with in class. Ever since I recall preparation for exams at school I found to teach others fully deepened my own knowledge and understanding. Through teaching yoga to those healing on retreat I have enabled myself to expand deeper into my spiritual self and unite my unconscious higher self with my physical being - I am a yoga teacher.
Am I Yogi?
I can see that perhaps I tick the boxes of being a yogi, but then if one writes a label almost anything can fit into it if you so choose. If a ‘yogi’ is defined as a person that seeks a happy life without causing harm to others, then we all are yogis (hopefully). I don’t like labels so my gut answer is no I am not a yogi, I am just Nid.