I don’t usually call myself a Yoga teacher, I say that I teach yoga. After nearly 20 years of practice I find the blurred edges between my yoga and the rest of my life have all but disappeared so there are no edges left. I’m not implying that I handstand down the street or pop into lotus while waiting for the bus, I’m talking about the root meaning of the word yoga which is ‘union’.
While we mostly play the starring role in our own daily dramas and sometimes with internal conflict between how we assume things ought to be and what is actually happening – yoga assists in putting us off stage in the Director’s or even audience’s seat, able to cast our eye impartially over the whole stage and show and accept it as it is happening- a brilliant show with sad bits, funny bits, poignant moments and everything in between.
From this vantage point of being off stage, space exists between us and the goings-on, between our thoughts, judgements, fears and longings and the essence of who we are inside. The difference if you like between the role and the actor him/herself. When there is space, there is choice: to move towards or away from, to be involved or not involved, to be attached or not attached, to act in a different way if we so choose. We feel less dragged about and more able to surrender to the flow of how things are with less struggle, maybe reminded that this is just a small part in the overall play and that soon the scene will change.
This relaxed, easy, fluid feeling, this union of mind, body and spirit that encapsulates the meaning of yoga is a powerful resource. Whether you find this (and you can find it anywhere because it’s an internal state) surfing a wave, writing a poem, cutting hair, working a till or chopping wood it’s all the same. The Chinese called this Wu Wei or ‘effortless doing’ a kind of going with the flow that is characterised by great ease and awareness, being able to respond perfectly to anything that may come our way without even trying. More recently an Italian psychologist, Csikszentmihaly, renamed this state as being ‘in flow’.
Pressures abound. How do we translate this state we can find in a yoga class to business, to relationships? In business there is often a tendency to slip into mild panic, distress or frenzied doing when we perceive the current situation to be lacking or insufficient in some way. At exactly this point when all instincts are to tense up, prepare for fight or flight, work harder, demand answers from the already over stimulated central processing unit of our brains – THIS is the time to stop, breathe, release, relax. Rebalance. Sometimes in this moment there are great epiphanies to be had. There may be the realisation that you are swimming against the tide and that if you only sidestep an inch you can step right back into the flow that will carry you onwards and upwards with ease and grace in a way that you could never have powered all by yourself had you continued to struggle and fight.
The same can be true in relationships with family, lovers, close friends, children. When things get rough take a look at how absolutely involved you are, how zoomed in are you? How much space is there between you and the situation? Where are you off balance? Taking physical space or time can often bring about a sense of perspective that was lacking, from this place you can access your own centre, stop analysing, judging and worrying and focus on you, on intuiting if you are in flow or not. When you feel whole and good and are truly flexible, going with the flow rather than against it – it is possible to absorb many and varied challenges that come your way with much less reaction and much more empathy. Less energy is required and life feels easier again.
So watching this very absorbing, compelling play or film, yes you are invested in the characters (and you are also one of them) yes it may make you cry, laugh, smile or feel cross and when you remember you are sitting watching it all, you can remember that everything passes. The balance will always redress. The scenes you see, become involved in, absorbed in, they will evolve and change but while you are in them, you have a choice about how you act. You can choose how you play it. I’d like to think I play with some style and grace and a bit of flair at times, though it’s not always the case, I know – even the best actors have their off days. What I do know is that being your unique self will guarantee a great performance I reckon you’ll enjoy and be proud of and that’s really all that counts when the curtain falls.