When I think of the word yoga I automatically think of white woman and vegan man with man buns doing poses and showing off their asses in Lululemon pants on a beach in Costa Rica. This is the image that my mind portrays when anyone here in the west talks about Yoga and Yoga studios in general. I never fully understood what Yoga was as I never actually looked into the practice let alone the philosophy of it. I was like many young and impressionable minds of my generation that was spoonfed ideologies and theories of what something appears to be versus what it actually is. Much like what is happening in our world today but I will save that observation for another day.
So what is the practice of Yoga and why was I so wrong about it?
Yoga in the West
From an early age I had always been drawn to different cultures and traditions but never fully understood any of them. I dabbled with many religions in my youth but never found anything that fully resonated with me. I guess you can say I was lost for much of my life because I believed that I needed to believe in something besides just being alive. That was the programming that I received at an early age having been raised in a Roman Catholic household. Apart from my religious upbringing I was also raised in communism in the 80’s in Poland. Life was complicated to say the least.
Upon my immigrating to the West in Canada I was quickly thrown into a world unknown to my young and maleable mind and I quickly became engrossed in everything I could get my hands on. Having only been raised amongst white people with only one view of the world I sought to digest many aspects that were hidden from me in my youth. Perhaps that was the reason I was such a rebellious teenager that always had to try things for myself no matter the warnings from my parents or peers.
I first heard about Yoga in my early 20’s when Lululemon made a huge splash onto the scene and took over the minds of young people wanting to be healthy. The next best thing since sliced bread! Yet I quickly knew somewhere deep down inside that it was being projected something other than what it was. I would see young people flock to these studios with their green smoothies and perfect buns on top of their heads and their overpriced yoga pants, that I have to say some should have thought twice about wearing, and talk about how Yoga was transforming their lives. Yet when you took a closer look at the state of their lives they’d be drinking their pay checks away on the weekend, moaning and groaning about this and that and the other and how their relationships were failing and they couldn’t afford their overpriced yoga pants and their Yoga studio memberships were costing them too much but they couldn’t stop going despite the toll it was obviously taking on their lives. I guess outwordly appearances come with a heavy price tag.
In my young mind, I only saw the virtue signalling that the community was turning into and I quickly grew a disdain for it. Despite me working in the health and wellness industry as a massage therapist I closed my mind to the possibility of the potential for this practice to add real value to health and wellness. Don’t get me wrong, I wore lululemon pants but it wasn’t to go to the Yoga Studio.
Yoga pants and everything in between
Having watched many of my own friends, colleagues and clients turn to the practice of Yoga yet not see any benefit from their dedication further fuelled my disdain for the practice itself. I could not understand why so many people were so hung up on Yoga yet when they came to see me they would be riddled with ailments from pulled muscles to bloating and everything in between. Yet they would swear that Yoga was a critical part of their lives. How? When clearly once on my table I could feel first hand the chaos their own bodies were actually displaying. What was the disassociation my clients were experiencing? Were they aware of this or was I just being too critical?
In retrospect, because I did not understand what Yoga actually was, and only perceived one side of the equation my mind created an opinion that lacked first hand knowledge of the subject at hand. What the hell is Yoga and how did it become such a fashion statement in our culture? Why did so many of my clients always want to know if they should partake in this activity and why was my answer always ”you should, but I won’t because it’s boring”.
Enter 2020 and my world was ripped from under my feet…
Gaining right knowledge
To be fair my first hand experience with Yoga was far and few between and I always thought those who participated in the practice were just virtue signalling their status as better than those who didn’t. Once 2020 hit however my reality quickly dissolved into what I can only call a walking living nightmare of unimaginable proportions. The state of the world around me became one of confusion and grief and quickly turned into hopelessness that spiralled me into self loathing and being very lost in my waking and sleeping hours. I was having trouble keeping my grip on my reality and everything that I knew was quickly being ripped apart at the seams. I lost my job. I lost family. I lost friends. I lost my grip on my life and could not navigate this unstable ground that was now becoming more and more like quicksand. How was I to gain control after everything I thought I knew was no more? My own sense of self even took a hit. Who was I and what the fuck was going on?
To those who have gone through moments in their lives where all feels lost and hopeless, where you feel like you’re drowning even though you know you are sitting in your own living room. What some may call the dark night of the soul, these moments literally feel like a death. A death of yourself. You can’t breathe. You can’t eat. You can’t sleep. You can’t even form a comprehensive thought. You start to question your very own existence down to it’s most basic level. You have a existential crisis like never before and your mind creates a story on top of another story and before long you are so lost in your own head that you have no idea who or what you are.
This is the moment that anxiety rears it’s ugly head. You become so anxious because if you’ve already lost control of your reality what else is there left to control? Did you even have control in the first place? We all know we can’t control others, although some try through various manipulation techniques, again another topic for another day, so what are you in control of anyways?
When 2020 reared it’s ugly head I felt like I was losing control but in hindsight I was gaining control. That is the paradox that I found myself in. How can I lose control of my world yet come to grips with losing control? How did I find my way to calm the inner wolf that I was unknowingly feeding my entire life? How did I, the biggest skeptic when it comes to ”science” and religion find my way to the practice of Yoga? Divine serendipitous intervention. There was no other way except for the universe to smack me right upside the head. Miracles do happen and I’ve lived to tell the tale.
Beginnings are always disguised as endings
It is true that I have been wrong about many things in my life and Yoga is one of those things that I have come to appreciate after actually learning about it. In the past I simply held onto a belief because somewhere along they way I listened to external opinions. Much in the same way why I became a vegetarian at 16. Yet whenever I talk about Yoga most just think I practice the poses which is what I always thought Yoga was. Oh you can wear tight Lululemon pants and do a headstand? Great. You’re an ego maniac with a nice ass.
With all that being said, it wasn’t until I was shown and taught what Yoga actually encompasses, which is far more than a tight ass, that I started using it as a tool to further my spiritual awakening. And now here’s the thing. I also kept a distance from spirituality all my life because my belief system around it was so diluted like so many things we have been programmed to believe in. Again, another topic for another day…
When you break down the practice of Yoga is literally translates to ”union”. A union of what exactly? The mind and body connection and how it can truly transform how you live in this 3D reality. Too much too soon? Just stick with me here for a little while…
Whether you believe in a soul or not, you do have to ask yourself some very in depth existential questions. The most prevalent in man kinds history is ”what are we doing here and what is the purpose of life?”. I’m sure we have all had those thoughts creep up on us once or twice in our lives. If not, then I hate to break it to you, but you might be a NPC (non-player character). If you’re not sure if you are you probably haven’t had a single question in regards to your presence on this spinning ball we call earth…again, another topic for another day…
Back to Yoga…
If you have ever questioned your purpose and what the actual fuck we are doing here you may want to consider learning about this ancient philosophy. And please understand that Yoga is not a religion. There’s no church to join. There’s no gods to worship. There’s no membership fees to pay. There’s no threats of living in damn nation and purgatory. There’s no priests and authority figures. And most certainly no human sacrifice is needed. Again, another topic for another day. All there is, is you. You become aware of yourself as part of a bigger whole. You become aware of how liberating it is to just be. To learn to exist. To learn to be a human ”being”. Being in the present. Being aware of your breath, your emotions, your thoughts, and your power of just living. That is what Yoga brings to your life. A knowing that you are here and living and that in and of itself is the miracle and power of being human. Of simply living. One breath at a time. One moment at a time.
I could go on with the cliches but unless you actually start the practice no amount of descriptive words can come close to what this journey feels like. I have tried to read numerous books and papers on the subject but no matter what I read it never comes close to explaining how magical this practice can be in your life. And believe you me, I was a skeptic. I was wrong to look at one side of the equation and only see that which was presented to me as a very broad representation of this ancient practice. What I learned in the doing was right knowledge based on my own experience. Much like my own experience with my diet which you can read about here. Not to mention the parallels that came to the surface with this addition to my daily life have I seen first hand how Yoga and diet can help to achieve optimal balance in your health and wellness journey.
Don’t believe me. That’s fair. But have you tried? If your answer is no then you most definitely must. If you’re at an end and feel completely lost I urge you to tap into this simple daily practice and see what you can uncover for yourself. So how does one start a Yoga practice? Simple. You sit.
Sitting, you must do
In the wise words of Yoda ”sitting, you must do”. Not sure if he said it but since there are no fact checkers on my site we will just roll with it…
This won’t get your ass fitting nicely into a pair of yoga pants but like I said before Yoga is more than Lululemon pants and man buns. There are many aspects to Yoga that involve more than what I was shown and that means you have to start by sitting. The concept here is simple. If you can gain control of your monkey mind you can start to transform your life. No small task but Yoda knows. And this is where true mastery comes into focus. Only by sitting can you come to terms with who and what you are. And this is where most people get turned off. Because this involves you being with yourself and that scares the shit out of people. How can you transform yourself if you don’t know who and what you are. Yoga gives you the space to do that. To sit in silence with your mind is one of the hardest things anyone can do. Don’t believe me? Go and sit in silence for the next 5 minutes. Go ahead. This post can wait…
During that time were you able to shut off your mind from constant chatter? Were you able to sit and be present in the moment and witness what was happening or were you thinking how stupid this is and how much shit you have on your to-do list? I do both. Every single time. That’s the point. Can you sit with yourself long enough to start to unravel what your thoughts are telling you? Can you sit long enough and start to peel back those layers of who and what you are? Can you sit long enough and not let your thoughts and your itty-bitty-shitty-committee take over this space? There’s no magic pill or cure to doing this. I was once asked how to start sitting in Yoga. How can you get good at it? You just have to start.
We as a society have been programmed to believe that our entire reality in based on intrinsic factors such as taste, sight, smell, touch and sound. Those are limiting factors that keep us stuck in a 3D world that makes you believe that you as a human can only achieve that which you can taste, touch, smell, see and hear. Everything outside of that is not possible or not even rooted in reality. But even quantum physics tastes that “nothing that is observed is unaffected by the observer”. This simply means that even according to science, everyone sees something different because we are all creating our own realities. Even the ancient yogic texts talk about being an observer of your thoughts. How did ancient Yogis who lived in caves know about quantum physics? Perhaps because they too sat with themselves and learnt who and what they are.
This is what has captivated me by this practice. Who is the observer of my thoughts? Am I my thoughts? Do they control me or do I control them? Perhaps not many of you feel the need to seek the answers to these questions but for those that do, might I suggest sitting with yourself? There is beauty in learning how to sit in stillness and yet face your darkest and most dormant of demons and tell them no. I will not be ruled by my thoughts. I will observe them and learn from them but they do make me who I am. Much like the colour of my skin doesn’t make me who I am so neither do my thoughts.
Being, than doing
Having touched base on what Yoga is at it’s root we can now talk about how good my ass looks in Lululemon pants because at the end of the day I’m still human. And I like my ass. As well as wearing Lululemon pants. Cause, well I’m here on this earth in my meat suit wearing yoga pants.
The other side of Yoga is the actual practice of movement which does involve the poses of Yoga. I will say that practicing this part of Yoga does have it’s benefits for obvious reasons but it’s fascinating to experience how this also allows you to open up to being present. To really focus on your breath and stay in a pose while your itty-bitty-shitty-committee is telling you you’re in pain. Or that you’re doing it wrong. Or that your ass maybe doesn’t look as good as you originally thought. There’s power in this practice as well. However, the West seems to only focus on this particular side of Yoga. The other side is the actual Yoga philosophy and practice of meditation and even the practice of breath work. All of these help to transform your life in one way or another but all can be used as a tool to unify the mind-body-soul connection in powerful ways.
Leaning into life
There’s so much more to expand on what Yoga is as this is just a glimpse into the practice and the philosophy. There are many aspects to ponder and examine but for me on a personal level, even just starting to question life and then seek to find answers has led me down this path. Although I am quite new to this practice I have learnt much along the way and can only implement what I have learned along the way. The magic is simple as it truly is the journey alone that is so transformative.
Living in a society that seems to only focus on instant gratification and outwardly badges of honour starting this practice has truly propelled me to live differently. Taking a closer look at my own life and all that involves from family to friends and work and even daily activities has forced me to slow down. To truly experience one moment at a time. Don’t get me wrong I still get stuck in the trap of this world but I am starting to be more aware of it. And that my friends is the first step. Awareness.
Be steadfast in Yoga, O Arjuna,
Perform your duty without attachment,
remaining equal to success or failure.
Such equanimity of mind is called Yoga.Bhagavad Gita