Last night I did an online yoga class with a studio and teacher I’ve not practiced with before. It was exactly what I needed, but to be honest I was often totally distracted (aka a little annoyed!) by her voice and style of teaching – it was so “yoga”! The intonation in her voice didn’t seem natural. What she was saying seemed to come from the Insta-yogi playbook. It all seemed a bit inauthentic and what she thinks is expected, rather than who she actually is.
Sorry for being judgemental of a fellow human and yogini, and perhaps I'm way off base. Maybe I just didn’t jam with her.
It made me think about the yoga teachers I do resonate with – both those I’ve practiced with in person and some I follow on social media. They are all about being themselves and bringing that to their teaching. They share what they think and how feel about life, current issues and yoga. They share their process, their own frustrations and limitations. They get sweary and use wild analogies. They make me laugh as much as they help me cry. They don’t say ‘namaste’ just because everyone else does (I have so many thoughts about his particular issue, but that’s for another time!).
I don’t practice yoga because I look good in stretchy pants (trust me I don’t!) or because celebrities do. I do it because it makes me feel good and whole, connected to myself and something more than myself, it meets me where I am yet gently challenges me to be better.
I don’t drink whisky because it makes me look sophisticated and mature (though I have had fun confounding certain people with my knowledge and opinions!). I drink it because it’s delicious and interesting, and because it connects me to my dad and our Scottish heritage.
I don’t follow US politics and history to impress people with my erudite insights. I follow it because I find it genuinely fascinating and complex, full of personalities and upheavals and intrigue. I am inexplicably obsessed by the Kennedy family, can quote large portions of the West Wing and have recently had the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat.
Finding teachers, jobs, hobbies and communities aligned to what you care about, are interested in and driven by is sometimes challenging, but always worth it.
Finding your unique pursuits and style can open so many doors – and perhaps close some that need to be closed. Individuality doesn’t mean building walls around yourself. I see it more as a network of hubs and spokes, with you in the centre, connected to people, teachers, businesses, communities, even products through ideas, passions and opinions.
Part of a complete yoga practice is self-study – a practice and way of being called Svadhyaya. I’m a long-term self-awareness junkie, and feel the power of deeply knowing yourself. If you’re feeling like it’s time to expand your own self-study and not sure where to start, here are some things to ponder, journal about, chat to a friend or mentor about …
What’s most important to you? What deeply drives you? What do you truly care about? Where do you spend your time and money? Where does you mind go when it wanders? What movies, documentaries or books are you consistently drawn to? All these things give you clues as to your deeper values and unique interests. Google ‘values’ and find lists of words that might help you narrow it down or identify something you hadn’t thought of and follow the threads of your gut instincts.
What do you authentically sound like? Are you a bit sweary or sarcastic? How do you best express yourself – prose, poetry, song, prayer? How do you share your voice with others? Do you share your voice with others? Do you ask for what you need and offer assistance where you can? How can you speak up about issues you care about? What can you contribute to the collective conversation, from a place of love and grace not blame and division?
What feeds your mind, body and soul? What makes you feel goooood, inside and out? Is it reading, exercise, meditation, eight hours sleep, connecting with loved ones? Is it gardening, painting, cooking or bushwalking? What are the anchors in your day? What are the rituals that help you feel like you’re in control and firing on all cylinders? Are you getting enough of all this / how could you do it more?
We are so conditioned to be, speak, dress and behave in a certain way – to follow the trends or what we think is expected of us. But as right now is an age of great change and transformation, it's an opportunity to rethink everything, set new visions and pursue different versions of ourselves.
What if you were able to quiet all the noise and listen within, and truly live in alignment with your values, use your voice and discover your vitality? How fun and inspiring would that be!?
“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.” - Paulo Coelho
Change can take time, but staying focused and aware, and taking action will always help you move forward.
Photo credits (Unsplash)
Meerkats: Dušan Smetana
Group shot: Helena Lopes
Jetty reflection: Paola Chaaya