The Gifts of Yoga
Last month we launched our first Yoga & Trekking Retreat in Nepal, a collaboration with Cass Doyle from The Space Karratha and Pilbara Goddess Retreat. We’ve had an amazing response from people, and more than half of our homestay packages have now been booked. As we continue to make preparations to ensure this retreat exceeds peoples’ expectations, I’ve found myself reflecting on the path that has led me here, the incredible gifts that yoga has brought into my life, and the lessons it continues to teach me.
When my family moved to Karratha 18 months ago, it was harder for me than I expected. Like with everywhere else I’ve gone in my life, I expected I would just slot straight in and find life as easy as it’s always been. But I was so wrong! I felt isolated, so far from family. I wasn’t sure if I liked it here and I wondered if we’d made the wrong decision. I felt like I didn’t belong here.
But I struggled along with my life, trying to make the best out of a situation which made me feel so out of place. I made the decision to complete my Yoga Teacher Training through an online school. It was something I’d wanted to do for such a long time, and now was the best time to do it. Even if I couldn’t get away to a face-to-face training.
But this meant that I had to go out and find fellow yogis, so I didn’t feel like I was alone. Or any more alone than I already felt like I was. I understood that learning to teach yoga required having someone I could connect with on this journey. I approached Cass Doyle from The Space Karratha, and I found so much more than I was looking for!
I believe the main driving force behind what Cass does is providing a place of belonging. For everyone. And she did that for me. She introduced me to a community of people not just with a similar interest (because yoga is so much more than a personal interest or a hobby). She introduced me to a community of people who were journeying on a similar path - a path of spiritual growth and deep personal healing. Of course, not everyone knows they are on that journey. At least, not to begin with. And that’s what I love about Cass and The Space! She doesn’t just give you what you want, she gives you what you need - even if you don’t know what that is!
Having the opportunity to find my community through yoga and The Space reminds me of one of my favourite quotes by Ram Dass: “We are all just walking each other home”.
2. Yoga is so much more than Asana
I have always been drawn to yoga. But I always saw yoga as a predominantly physical practice. Which I think is understandable, given the way yoga is commonly taught and discussed in the West. But despite this, I always knew there was more to it. I just never allowed myself to stick with it long enough to find out more. Perhaps I wasn’t ready. But a part of me was always deeply curious, and yearned for the moreness of yoga.
And this is why I decided to complete Yoga Teacher Training. I wanted to go deeper. I was ready to go deeper. But I soon realised training and study alone isn’t enough. You learn through practice, and what you learn isn’t really what you expected. It isn’t what you read in the books. What you learn comes from within. It’s deeply personal, and at times confronting. It strips you bare, exposes all your vulnerabilities, and then asks you to look even deeper. It takes you to the brink of what you think you’re capable of, and then asks if you want more. You realise you only came for the exercise, but now you want to stay for the truth. So you find yourself whispering, “yes!”.
3. Yoga can be fun!
I feel like I’ve gone through a bit of a rough patch recently. For reasons I couldn’t explain, I found myself not smiling or laughing nearly as much as I have in the past. I have felt myself sleepy and reserved, and like I take things way too seriously. And in that, I’ve convinced myself that yoga is a serious thing. But then, yoga goes and shows me how to have fun!
I remember sitting in a Kirtan session in the Beacon Yoga Centre in Fremantle, and a couple of the women had brought their young children along. I had never been to Kirtan before and I was pretty excited to get my devotion on, but I didn’t really know what to expect. The kids had their colouring in books and a few other things to keep them amused, but they were more interested in the people around them who were singing and chanting. They were trying their hardest to be quiet, and to communicate with each other and the adults around them without being too noisy. And then there came a break in the music and as all of the adults sat there, drinking in the energy that had been created with the music, the kids couldn’t contain themselves any longer and they burst out laughing, encouraging everyone around them to laugh with them. Some of the more serious kirtan devotees weren’t so amused, but most of us were. It was so delightful to have the children show us that we don’t have to take our spiritual practice so seriously, and that the yoga community is for everyone - including children!
More recently I found myself practicing with some of the kids during a weekday kid’s mindfulness and yoga class. I knew I was lacking a bit of fun in my life, so I decided to go along not to help teach, but to be a kid and practice alongside the kids. I don’t know who was more surprised and amused - me, or the kids! As I held hands with the kids, crawled along on the ground imagining I was a worm, and sat in a circle chanting Om, I found myself laughing in a way that was unreserved and more in tune with my inner child. It was probably the most fun I’d had during yoga in a long time!
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My journey with yoga is one that has stopped and started over the years, but it always draws me back. And since practicing more consistently and working through my Yoga Teacher Training, I have come to realise that there are many reasons for this. But I think what I love most about my yoga practice is that it reminds me that although there are personal aspects to our practice and some things in life have to be faced personally, life isn’t meant to be journeyed alone. Life (and yoga) is about community, and that includes the kids! Without community we can’t do the work we are here to do, we can’t find true joy, and we’re going to have a lot harder time turning up to our mat to do the work that yoga asks of us.