You and Your Mind

Through the 200 hour course, we heard about the Brahman and the Atman and how one ties into the other. The human consciousness is nothing but a mirror of the higher consciousness… but that is only once we learn to live in silence. Silence from distractions, from thoughts, from noise and pollutants that infiltrate our senses almost single second of every day!

We have our phones feeding us with updates and news of people and things around the world constantly. If it isn’t that, we have friends and family and their lives that we think about. Not to forget the stress of finances and employment and so many other things.
But I feel, most of all, I have to start with my mind. My mind loves to make excuses. It’s the first thing that gives up when I’m in a challenging situation. It is the first one to start complaining when something isn’t going right. It also is the first one to put me down when I haven’t met expectations. Why is my mind against me? 

Here’s the juice – minds are like dogs. If you train them, you get a loyal companion for life. If you don’t train them, you end up a messy, indisciplined, unruly stranger who doesn’t really have your best interests at heart.

It happened to me today!We’re nearing the end of our course and for the last few days we’ve been focussing on theory of yoga more than the practice of asanas. Today after a very long time we had a super intense practice and I could hear the voice beginning to get louder. “How much longer”, “We’ve already done 10 rounds, why is he making us do 5 more?”, “This is inhumane”.

Oh and let’s not forget the excuses – “It’s more important to be safe than to push harder and hurt myself”, “This is not going to come in the exam so it’s okay to not do it the best right now”, “Endurance can be built over time – I’ll start once this course is over, I can slack off for now”, or the best “I’ve already done 40 Chaturangas in this practice and we’re going to have to do 10 more… they’re not going to make a difference so I can cool off on trying”

Also the self deprecation, “You have no arm strength and you’re not going to build it all in today’s practice, so stop”

I looked around the room and my amazing classmates were diligently jumping into and out of their chaturangas. It was all the inspiration I needed. I shut off the voice in my head and jumped into my 41st chaturanga – easy peasy. My body was okay, it was my mind holding me back. Self awareness is such an important trait and today was a lesson in how to make changes that help you move towards a higher consciousness.

Yogacharya

A yogacharya (pronounced “yo-ga-char-ya”) is the respectful way to address a yoga teacher. Sure, you can call them a “yogi” as well and that is completely acceptable too!

As a part of the 200 hours YTT course, we’re all learning to become yogacharyas and for us all, there is a short poem that I dedicate:

eyes closed and palms up 
steady minds and mouths shut
that's how we connect 
our own fuse to the common plug

we are it and it is us
there's no give and take
in trying to understand this
there are some mistakes we will make

give up attachment
to almost everything
but be conscious of the experience
while doing anything

learn to live and live to learn
for karma yoga will show
every action has a consequence
either you'll regret it or it will make you grow

soak in all those experiences
and then let it go
clutch on to sand too hard
and the faster it will flow

reaching Pratyahara 
is definitely no mean feat
your sadhana will take some time
so please do take a seat

close your eyes and look inside
stay grounded, stay cool
say hi to your third eye
and goodbye to the inner fool.
- LeelaM

Happy yoga, fellow yogacharyas!! 

Handicapped!

Yoga isn’t for everyone. If you’re healthy, strong, flexible and inclined towards being a part of a larger collective, then yoga is a perfect match. If not, then please do Tai Chi!!

That’s how I felt when I had to undergo emergency knee surgery in 2017. 
I was a university level basketball player and in 2005 I had a terrible fall on the court. I was told that I had a tear in my ACL and needed to hang up my sneakers and retire from my budding career in the WNBA. I was also told that I could either get surgery done or I could just strengthen my leg through exercises and continue with life.

As an irresponsible, impatient 20 year old, I chose to do neither. So I immersed myself is my 20s and everything that it brings with it – first jobs and with that financial freedom, relationships, new friends, and a level of delusion I can’t believe I had and seriously wonder why countries allow people in their early 20s to vote! Every time I wore high heels and danced the night away, I would sprain my knee and the tear in my ACL would increase a little. I would lie in bed for a few days, binge watch TV shows and get right back to it after that. This went on for a decade.

In 2017, I was not dancing, I was not wearing high heels. I was in my most sensible pair of flat sandals and was standing still in a book store, when I suddenly felt my right knee shift out of position and intense pain followed. I couldn’t straighten my knee and had to be wheeled to the A&E. The MRI showed that my ACL had said enough was enough and had decided not just to tear completely, but decided to also take a little piece of my meniscus with it as it slid off. Surgery was the only option. I was brave about it until a week after surgery and I was told to lift my leg up from the bed (like in Eka Pada Uttanpadasana, but only to 45 degrees!). I couldn’t and the pain was so terrible that the physiotherapist had to yell at me to lift my leg 5 degrees off the bed. Needless to say, it was one of the most trying times in my life and I wouldn’t have come through it without the support of my amazing husband! 

9 months after surgery and PT, I felt good – I had reached good flexion and extension in my knee and all was well. I decided to try and join something a little more restorative and I tried my hand at yoga. It did not go well. I couldn’t do 70% of the poses. Something as simple as Virabhadrasana 1 was hard to do and lets forget about Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana! I was dejected and demoralised and almost gave up after the first class, but then I had paid for 10 sessions so decided to just continue with it while it lasted.
I’m glad I did. My body responded. My knee felt more stable as the classes progressed. I was able to bend further and lower and even if I couldn’t get into complicated baddhas, I saw that my body had the confidence in itself, even if I didn’t. 

Yoga IS for everybody. The “ideal yoga body” aspiration isn’t. It’s okay if you can’t do a headstand or a full chakrasana. It’s okay if you can’t even do Virabhadrasana 1. Just keep doing it how much you can and slowly, but surely, your body will start to surprise you. I have experienced this over and over again. Nike got it right, quit thinking – “JUST DO IT”! 🙂

What’s in it for me?

Yoga means different things to different people and all these meanings are substantial. If someone considers it a just physical activity – a great way to get into shape – so be it. If it means something deeper to someone else, then that is a welcome definition as well. 

The one thing yoga shouldn’t be, is judgemental.

I started doing yoga in 2009 when I was just out of college and after a few years of working in a corporate environment realised that I wasn’t getting any exercise in my routine. Yoga was an easy choice because it had just begun to get popular and there was easy access to yoga studios at every corner. I got what I was looking for as a good workout alternative. I sat through the boring meditation and instructions to “sit still” and “be one with my mat” – whatever that meant, in order to get to the sweat eventually, that’s all I really cared about. How many calories did I burn and what meal did I earn. This thought process continued to follow me as I meandered through HIIT and pilates and home workouts and the gym as well. It was only when I reached the dreaded ’30yrs old’, that questions about myself and my purpose started to come up in my consciousness and I realised I wasn’t equipped to answer them. 

I, once again, automatically turned to yoga. This time, however, I wasn’t that interested in the physical aspect of it as much as I was seeking answers. Even if I wasn’t seeking answers, I was looking for tools to help me get my answers. It turns out, not many people offer these tools when they teach yoga in studios. There is not a shred of theory in any of these classes, there is hardly even a trace of meditation! So I decided to do this myself – I spoke to a few friends who were yoga teachers and they pointed me towards libraries and book stores with a list of books that were going to enlighten me, hold my hand and guide me as I trudge through the darkness. 

Once again, I faced a sea of information that didn’t make much sense to me. Skepticism took over and I turned my back on yoga and immersed myself into my life, work and hobbies. It was only when I quit my corporate job in a fit of frustration, that I realised that I was ready to roll up my sleeves and get into the meaning of it all, what yoga is all about. 

I signed up for the RYT – 200 hrs course. I can’t say if I’m going to be a yoga teacher in the future or not, but I sure as hell have become a student. I understand the abstract concepts that have been simplified for a beginner’s mind in an attempt to ready them for the vast universe of yoga. Thank god for awesome teachers! I haven’t received the certificate of success yet, but I do consider my decision the right one. I feel ready to absorb and understand what the guru’s of yore were talking about. I can’t wait for my journey to continue as my own unique one – unlike anyone else’s. Allowing me to fail and fall and then rise up in my own time.

Like I said, if yoga is anything – it isn’t judgemental.