I have a confession to make. I abhor the yoga ‘world’. The ‘it’s all one’ t-shirt wearing, ‘my perfect down-dog makes me a perfect yogi and I wear mala beads, drink green juice and don’t wear fur’ yoga world. The world of yoga that, through its magazine subscriptions, yoga teacher ‘stars’, commercial ‘zen’ drinks, and display of tattooed, sculpted biceps (In other words; Uniform) make it no different from any other industry vying for commercial recognition.
I’m not better than that. In fact, sometimes I feel like a failed outsider in an industry where I am supposed to feel more connected. Regardless of how often a yoga teacher tells me, I don’t always feel like a fucking miracle!
Even from the beginning of my yoga practice it felt like I wasn’t here for the same reason others were. A lot of people come to yoga ‘broken’, either from a physical injury, a break-up, work-related stress or just a general feeling of discontent….most are searching. I didn’t say everyone, I said a lot. Let’s get clear here, not everyone is broken, some just want a yoga body. I found yoga because I fancied a boy.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel broken often, I am a seeker, I have stress, I’ve had heartbreak and discontent and I analyze the shit out of my life – I just wasn’t looking to yoga to help me, I was looking elsewhere. Plain and simple, yoga was just a means to get laid! It didn’t work out with the boy, in that regards, but I stayed with the practice because it was fun. Yoga became a practice because I was curious and I found it mysterious and intelligent and challenging and more of an experience than a work-out. It became an extension of my life, not something I did after work. Then, inadvertently it became the glue that held things together, it became what I do for work and what I do to satisfy my life.
I am currently in an extended Yoga teacher training to take my certification to 500hrs. I became a working yoga teacher 3 years ago because I am curious about life. Yours, mine – those of our forefathers. I am curious to know how life works for you and how it doesn’t, what you love, what you don’t love and where in your life you want to love more. It impresses me if you can do a handstand, I admire your perfect back-bend, my jaw will drop as you extend a leg behind a head….all of those tricks will be celebrated, but do they make you love yourself, and your life more? Do they make you feel more connected to me, or simply better……more spiritual than me?
During our training this past weekend, we were asked spontaneously to lead a meditation. One man, Zaran, courageously stepped forward first. I am always in awe of those who go first.
Zaran doesn’t wear yoga attire, I’ve never seen him wear a mala bead, he hasn’t inked an advertisement of his yoga on his skin, I don’t think he is a vegetarian, or vegan – but I don’t know – and that’s the beauty. He doesn’t recite the yoga sutras, or impress me with his knowledge of the eight-fold path, or the 4 noble truths. I don’t know if he digs Hanuman, or reveres Lakshmi or prays to Nataraja. Standing there, in his pedestrian clothes I wouldn’t know what Zaran did in his life. However, I know this. When he greets you and you ask how he his, he responds: “Happy to be alive” and flashes a smile before handing over a gift of fresh fruit and hand-picked flowers from his immaculate garden….and then launches into a handstand. In fact, he launches into a handstand whenever, and wherever he can. He engages everyone who walks in his path, with equal attention and kindness. I know that he is the closest example of what living your ‘yoga’ is about to me.
Zaran doesn’t teach yoga in a formal setting, nor do I know if he has an interest to, he simply loves the practice and is curious. At each weekend he sets up his seat; a large flat cushion and a sheepskin (I doubt he’s vegetarian, thinking about it now). He sits erect and attentive, engaged and ready to participate, without any other agenda but to learn more. Simply to feed his ever curious heart. Very much like a young child on his first day of school. He has that childlike curiosity and simple way of saying of something we’re all spending 1/2 an hour philosophically discussing. Zaran is 61.
He led us through a 12 minute meditation which, at first, sounded like a high school biology class as he mapped out the trail your breath makes as you inhale and everything that happens, biologically, in your body when you take a breath. It wasn’t poetic, it wasn’t ethereal, it wasn’t seeped in some metaphorical jargon that had me feeling like a failed yoga student unable to visualize my breath as a budding flower. He led us through this very credible, physical journey of what is actually happening when we breathe and how it feeds our body and pumps the blood and we don’t actually have to do anything for this to happen and this, indeed is a miracle. As I followed this journey the feeling started to develop, to translate. It started to…..dare I say it….blossom that I am, in fact, a miracle. And, so are you! Yogi’s use it all the time; they shout in class about the ‘miracle of you’, but they rarely tell me why.
And the best thing? Everyone breaths. Yup, that’s right – you don’t have to ever step into a yoga class to be a miracle. Because, in the words of Zaran:
“Who’s not a bundle of miracles”?