You hear the word “yoga” and you see this in your mind:
Or you think of yoga like this:
And you are like: “Yeah, all those hippies...” or “how am I gonna ever bulk up and get my six-packs by sitting on a mat.”
Whatever workout you are doing and makes you feel good, I’m happy for you. This is not a post about trying to convince you to do yoga. This is a post where I’m telling you why I chose yoga and will stick with it till I die - there go my non-attachment preaching posts on Instagram out of the window.
I am an actor with nearly three years of fight performance training under my belt. These years I have hurt my body more than ever in my life. Broken rib, countless bruises, overtraining, muscle tear, tendonitis are just a few and only what you can see on the surface. The most damaging thing I did was to condition myself to ignore pain.
I see this on many people in the industry, in fact the more pain you “eat up” the cooler you are. It’s kind of an unwritten rule. And while I understand that our society that associates strength and masculinity with suppressing emotions and sensations in our bodies is kind of responsible for this, I feel that on the other hand if I learnt a better way to go around it, I should express that.
Here is how yoga put me in the right place:
Sustainability is my favourite word these days. If I can not do something long term, it should not worth investing my great efforts in it. Can you sustain what you do and HOW you do it long term? The emphasis is on the how, and this is where yoga comes into the picture.
There is nothing wrong with any of the activities we do: gym, martial arts, dance, any sports. They are good for the body and the mind. But only through yoga was I encouraged to listen to my body. To learn my body’s language and understand what it wants to communicate to me. (Also in this process I started to separate myself from my body and look at it from a different perspective. My body is not me, I am in this body that is called my body. This way all my sensations are messages that it tries to communicate to me.)
Through yoga I learnt alignment and anatomy of the human body on a level that allows me safe access to other systems of movement (I do like a good gym session, hike, run, cycle day out or performing a saucy sword fight! That is super cool.)
This alignment also helps me to connect to my core more, connect to my breath more (as your lungs are controlled by all the muscles around it) which inevitably improves the quality and strength of my voice. (If you are a performer, you know how important this is)
Through yoga I learnt to connect to my true self more and therefore better my connections with others. Relationships are not easy, we can have many so called friends and still feel alone. We can also (and as an actor I see this a lot) fall into the trap of seeking external validation too much. Of course we need feedback from around us but allowing our true self to blossom is not easy if we don’t know what that is. What our true self is and what a reflex that is coming from conditioning are not the same.
Only because of yoga I started to study the subtle body (our energetic body) and how the effects on it will effect our physical bodies. It is a knowledge that first - and honestly a lot of times still - seems confusing to understand, we don’t see it with our eyes. But it is super important if we want to understand ourselves better. I learnt to pay attention to my emotions more. After all they are energy in motion, energy coming from me. What could they mean, where do they come from and how to properly respond to them. These questions push me further on learning a new language and develop my emotional literacy that can only be beneficial for those around me and most importantly me.
This links me back to my first point. Pain is a feeling in our physical and emotional world. And while we think that the more we build up a tolerance to it the stronger we get, in reality the more we ignore our pains the worse they get.
Imagine that sandwich you’ve forgotten in a zipped up pocket of your bag. As weeks go by it starts to rot and smell.
The same with all the pain we ignore. Physical and mental. The years go by, the decades go by and all we are left with is a damaged soul and a body that is incapable of movement. Locked into our bodies our souls get imprisoned, unable to connect to others and incapable of understanding itself.
Yoga taught me consciousness on so many levels. And while I feel this is just a beginning of my journey I know this is the right path for me.
Yoga taught me:
how to safely move my body
and how to take care of it (nourishment, rest and training)
the importance of breathing
connection to my environment (people and nature in general)
self-love and acceptance (work in progress)
how to listen to myself.
All of these are important lessons, but the last one is what I find was a great one. Not allowing my external world determine my worthiness took away a huge anxiety factor in my life.
Labels and expectations we get put on by society creates unnecessary stress. That then leads to anxiety, bad habits and essentially illnesses of the body. I always knew I needed harmony in my life, and yoga took me a step closer to that. Many steps in fact.
Harmony to me doesn’t mean meditating on a cliff in a beautiful sunset (though I’d dig that too). To me it means that when I have hundreds of things to deal with (mundane or urgent) and I then get bad news from family, then burn my dinner and there is no hot water in the house and I know there is only a hundred in my bank account, I still can sit down, pray and find a place in my mind where I feel grounded no matter what. That place where I can compose my next steps and create a plan to go forward.
Yoga taught me how to find the balance between my internal and external word. I don’t have a recipe for every life situation, I have so much healing left to do still and life is ever changing. But without yoga my issues would be still swept under the carpet, I would still abuse my body and treat it with no respect, ignore it’s needs to rest and recover and probably sooner or later break it for good, my relationships would be reflecting my lack of love towards myself and I would probably never really see who I am and what I am here to do.
I can only be grateful for all the teachers I met in my life. By teachers I mean everyone I learnt from. Parents, friends, actual teachers and of course the universe itself.
So why yoga? Because while a simple gym workout can grow my muscles, my yoga practice helps me grow my world much much bigger than I ever imagined. And in it I grow myself. Much much bigger than I ever imagined.