In the end, yoga is a very lonely pursuit. No one can really advise you on “how” to do yoga.
However, when you start, the opposite seems to be true. There are group classes, workshops, retreats (where you withdraw from the world, but, strangely enough, in a group setting).
And it’s good to get some guidance when starting out with the physical aspects of yoga so that postures are done in a safe and effective manner. Then there are the breathing exercises, and here again, instruction is key.
After that, it gets a little murky. Meditation? Well, it can’t really be taught. There’s hints, tips, guidance for sure, but in the end (as Swami Vishnudevananda would put it) “meditation is a state you fall into, as much as you would fall asleep”. How do you fall asleep? Well, exactly. It just happens, somehow.
So in the end, it’s you and your practice. No one can tell you how it works and how to get “there” – and even defining the “there” isn’t that easy. And what I realised over the years is that even though you’re talking to another committed yogi about, well, yoga, you might still be talking about two very different things. We can never know exactly where the other person is coming from.
In a surprisingly odd way, this is a lesson that ordinary life recently taught me.
When we announced to friends in Melbourne that we were about to move to Perth, all we got in return was raised eyebrows and wrinkled foreheads. We heard that we could not possibly be serious. That it would be really boring there. That there was nothing to do at all. That it would be really, really far away from – everything.
All these well-meaning people had our best interests at heart. But they spoke from their perspective and experience. Melburnians relish the fact that their city is so “European” (in fact that’s the first thing everyone will tell you about the city – apart from the “four seasons in a day”-thing of course).
But we grew up in Europe and the last thing we wanted was to have a “European experience” on the other side of the world. Most Australians grow up with sand, sun and beach and many of them find all of that quite ordinary.
It’s what they have every day.
It’s what you get in Perth, in fact.
And to us, it’s something quite extraordinary. And by being “far away”, well, Australians would refer to Sydney, Brisbane or anything else along the East Coast. True, Perth is far away from that. But it’s a 2.5 hours flight to Bali and really close to other Asian destinations which appeals to us.
So it seems we actually like Perth for the very same reasons many Australians don’t fancy living here. Our friends told us what they’d do if they were in our situation. But it would take someone telling us what they’d do if they were – us.
And that’s the thing: You cannot be the other person and you can never know exactly how they’d feel about a situation. Only they have the answer, deep within. That’s why a psychologist would try to rephrase what you’ve said and turn it into a question, a question only you can answer. Because other people cannot figure out what’s right for us.
In a way, yoga is a great teacher when it comes to that – it’s a unique journey. Yoga teaches us to watch the mind, examine thoughts and feelings. And these are our thoughts and feelings, and we’re learning to sit with them.
Isn’t that nice, in a way? We’re living in a world full of uniformity, but even though we’re all watching the same TV shows and we’re all buying the same sandwich at the same corner store, when it comes to the real stuff – only we can tell.
I like that.
Have a great rest of the week, whatever you choose to do,