There are a few places I can go where I feel inspired beyond the normal. Places that open up a window to what it means to feel something inspired beyond the everyday, to something that’s bigger than myself. Places that remind me of what an extraordinary gift this life and present moment can be.
The concert hall during tremendous performances is one of them, when I’m both playing and sitting in the audience. Weekend morning bike rides along the river, with nothing but my own vigour to propel me forward, are another.
The other is my yoga mat.
This year I embarked on a teacher training with an extraordinary leader and community of people seeking to learn more about this special practice that brings light into our lives. We’re nearing the finish, and it’s been a remarkable journey. The physical demands have been notable, but the mental insight and breakthroughs have been life-changing.
Through this training in particular, I have become more attuned to my body, the capabilities therein, and acutely aware of the daily mental jumprope routines my mind insists on playing.
In a world where women especially can never be enough- good enough, thin enough, smart enough, capable enough, busy enough- yoga is a space where I can land and be more than adequate. It’s a space that gently accepts whatever my 100% looks like on that given day (because based on the day, it does change).
Yoga has become a haven and a community for me where, through the simple act of breath and movements, deep fears and inadequacies are rendered as the lies that they always were. It’s given me a lens to cut straight to the heart of an issue, and see past the garbage.
I remember the feeling in college when I hadn’t touched my viola for 2 or 3 days. The atrophy would creep into my fingers, things would get stiffer and creakier. Now, I feel that in my whole body through yoga. I can feel spaces and pockets opening up that I didn’t know were blocked. Gaps in my sides and the back of my ribcage now come to my attention through breath and diligence. My toes can stretch wider now.
In learning about restorative yoga in our course, our teacher remarked that people are tired. Our lives are increasingly fragmented into millisecond sound bytes. We are plastered with headlines and agendas, and there is simply no way anyone can really keep up with all of it. Social media is a big one, the way it demands (and receives) space in our lives, and with it creates monstrous expectations and comparisons of looks, money, health, and a warped ideal of normalcy.
Physically and mentally we are judged, sized up and criticised on any given factor- and often by ourselves.
Yoga is a place where I can go to be enough. My best at yoga is just that- my best. 100% means operating with what you have at that time. 100% is not 120%, or sacrificing tomorrow’s capability for a false urgency of today.
Being enough and giving 100% doesn’t mean coming to class and shooting up into a twelve-minute headstand or holding yourself in a one-armed plank. It means showing up, being present, falling in and out of poses, laughing it off without judgement and trying again.
Yoga and the practice of stillness in one place, of accepting the present moment for what it is, actually profoundly derails the idea that aggression or going on the offensive is the best avenue to change.
Yoga is a place full of possibility, a practice of radical acceptance that turns circumstances into avenues for future growth. This isn’t a floaty, woo-woo notion. Without accepting things for what they are, without judgement, I cannot move forward in any given circumstance. And when I do look for change, it’s rivers that create canyons, after all.
The feeling of landing in a safe space where you are encouraged to flourish beyond your wildest expectations – but your practice isn’t judged or performed or compared – is soul-nourishing. I’m not sure how many people get to experience this kind of profound shift, but I want this for more women in particular, the space to allow and accept our best as something we can be proud of and celebrate.
Because it is.