I was asked by a new student recently how long I have been doing yoga. That question usually has me reeling back through the decades, demanding the use of my questionable math skills and the resulting lame answer of “a long time”.
This time was different. “Over 30 years”, I daringly replied. “Oh, you must be very flexible”, she commented. “As flexible as I need to be”, I said.
Yoga HAS been an integral part of my life for a long time. I frequented a bookstore in my teens, the Sunnyside Bookshop, in Ottawa. A magical place bursting with gleaming crystal balls, dusty stacks of tarot cards, brilliant gemstones, tinkley wind chimes, smokey incense and all manner of esoteric literature. It was there I stumbled upon a book by Richard Freedman, Yoga for Health, and embarked upon my lifelong yoga journey.
Yoga classes were hard to find in the early 80s. Most were found through community centre programs and housed in the dingy basement of aging schools and musty churches. We would gather in our baggy sweats with large towels spread out on ragged linoleum floors. Meditation and pranayama were the order of the day with asana being a means to an end – a way to soothe and massage the body into a blissful state of relaxation. “You sink into the movements, you become the movements, you have a joyous and physical experience knowing and understanding your body from a new perspective.” — Richard Hittleman, Yoga for Heath.
It is interesting to look back from modern postural yoga as it can sometimes be now – where the end is asana and your practice is only as good as your last pose. Where pushing and strain and competition are rife. Where ego has found its limelight in the seaside, bikini-clad glorification of “the pose”.
The practice of modern postural yoga has evolved inversely proportional to my human journey; it was quiet and reflective when I was young and is now brash and outward as I age – yet somehow, deep down, it all remains the same. My own practice has evolved with my body and my body with my practice. I practice asana now to remain fluid and at ease in my movements and physical activities and study yoga philosophy to find ease and peace in my life.
In classes, I promote body awareness, moving with ease and optimal function, finding balance between stability and mobility and a whole lot of self-discovery. We develop the ability to see ourselves from new perspectives with compassion and innate wisdom and hone the flexibility and strength of body, mind and spirit to foster the suppleness we require to weather the climate of our lives and emerge whole, intact and firmly connected to all that is.
Next time I am asked “how long”, I will say “forever”.