Yoga as a Symbol For Movement…

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A list I made close to a year ago had one thing on it near the very top that I thought would never, ever in my deepest dreams be achieveable.
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t that wild of a goal, but for someone like me who finds it hard to locate even the goalposts on a football pitch let alone take a shot at one and score, it was a pretty out there task for me to set myself. I’ve probably confused you now with thinking my aim was to become some kind of sports guru and become successful playing for some prolific team or other – I regress.
No. My goal was yoga.
“Yoga. Yoga. Yoga”.
I had written this after a hastily scribbled list of numbers, on a cheap paper towel probably acquired from the latest coffee shop where I’d sat in confusion flailing about mentally and trying to somehow quieten my racing thoughts and notions by writing them down on the closest thing available. It looked something like this:

2. “I want to be able to do all the really really difficult yoga poses”

The funny thing is I don’t think I even knew what I was talking about when I said ‘all the really difficult yoga poses’, because, let’s face it, there are hundreds! Even now after a years’ full practice and endless research, both online and group-setting classes taken, I am still encountering new poses and variations. New variations that have kept varying as the practice has grown and been shared over centuries of yogis discovering the benefits of it. I couldn’t possibly have known the extent of the goal I had set myself. It was almost like setting myself the challenge of sampling every flavour created of Bertie-Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans – a task made all the more challenging given the fact that they are a fictional confectionary craze, but let’s not bring the blurred lines of ‘fact and fiction’ arguments of Harry Potter into this…

My point is that in setting myself such an unrealistic goal, I was inevitably setting myself up for failure. Not failure in the sense that I have not achieved anything since I began practicing yoga, but failure in that there will always be something new about each pose or breath to learn; new variations to experiment with, and ultimately, new things being established that I do not know about the practice of yoga. Not only that, but in my practice these days, I no longer aim for the perfection of doing the ‘difficult poses’ for the sake of it – if my body is feeling up to it, I do them. If not, I don’t. The focus has shifted from wanting to do the poses, knowing that they are achievable, to actually just being in the moment and feeling and listening to my body.

In seeing how far I’ve come in a year, and realising that although I have progressed and learned a great deal, not only in regards to yoga practice, no surer have I ever been that there will always be more out there ahead of us in life to experience, and that the world is an ever-evolving, ever rotating sphere of confusion on which we just happen to be positioned; downward-facing dog or not.
The point of writing this was not to brag about how steady and reliable my headstand now is- although I am quite proud of it! – but merely to reinstate a point I’ve made before which we all know to be true, yet always seem to gloss over in the heat of moments that seem as endless as they are intense;

Life is a continuous progression from one moment to the next, each one irrelevant to the one which has gone before it, save when we choose to link them together.

In setting myself the task to learn things that I not only did not know existed yet, but were yet to be established as the variation of themselves that they currently are practiced as, I was straining my gaze into a black hole of impossibility, instead of focusing on the now.
The poses I have perfected to date have only been perfected in the moments in which I was positioned in them. I have the ability to say that yes, I have done this, but in reality every headstand I have done since the first has varied, and every one I will do from now will vary from that also. Things change. People move on. We grow; lose weight; gain weight; balance out; live.
In the end all we have is this moment.
All I have and can know for sure right now is the truth that I possess the ability to do those yoga poses, and that last year I didn’t, or else, hadn’t discovered I could yet. I’m not saying every time I do them they are perfect, or correct, or the same as before, but I know that I have previously achieved some sort of competency in them. If I never try to do a headstand again, I’ll be content in knowing that I once achieved it, and so achieved a part of a seemingly impossible goal I had once set myself and considered important. But like I said, the importance of actually doing them has disappeared completely. I’ve gotten to the stage where I see even setting myself goals to be slightly pointless, preferring rather to keep possibilities as dim ideas in my head, instead of focusing my energy too much upon the future.

All we have is now, and when we consider the syncronization of thought and action that yoga makes achievable, all the lists and plans for potential action or future possibilities that have not in fact happened yet seem fairly pointless. With correct yoga practice, we move in the now, for the now, with no agenda or hidden desires behind our movement save a need to feel our physicality and sit comfortably within it in that moment; a return to the Sattavic principles of spirituality where childhood and the purity that is associated with it are sought after.

I will definitely someday qualify officially as a yoga instructor, but as of now I have no set plans in place to do so. If it happens, I’ll be all the more appreciative of it having not thought into it and over-planned practices that haven’t yet occurred. I’m comfortable right now sitting as I am, as I would be were I positioned in any of the many poses I have thus far encountered, and have yet to try.

On Functioning Through Chaos…

One thing I have learned from working in a chaotic, ever-changing and active environment is that one can never ever expect to depend on someone else in order to achieve a goal. If there is something you wish to get done, I have found the best bet to be self-sufficiency, being pro-active, and taking steps myself to ensure it gets done – otherwise it won’t happen the way I intend it to.
I may sound slightly stubborn and rigid with this kind of assertion, but I truly believe that to achieve any kind of happiness for ourselves, we must do so independent of any other’s opinions or interference – it’s finding a nice and acceptable way to do this and go about implementing change for personal reasons that proves difficult sometimes.

A few months ago I took some time to listen to myself. I quit gigging, I took some time off work, and I sat at home for a few days writing, reading, and listening to my needs, my own self, and nourishing my mind and body with things that it was really crying out for. What I found was that I had more creativity, ideas, and potential to give and create and live independently than even I had ever considered possible. The waves and flow of creative energy had always been there, buried deeply somewhere among the canopy of self-doubt, over-analysation, and damaging, poisonous thoughts which had led me to destructive and disordered eating behaviours and thought patterns. It had been stifled by things I previously had in place in my life that did nothing to help them – things I had come to depend on, and thought at the time for all intensive purposes should have been positive outlets, but that had really resulted in my self and sense of individuality being suffocated.
The confusion this created was so comforting in it’s extremity that I stayed there, stuck, yet to anyone assessing my situation from outside my own body, it would have often appeared I was in a good place. This false belief was strengthened by the seemingly successful ventures I embarked on, all the while eating myself up inside at the lack of artistic space I was being allowed (and allowing myself) to express myself and true way of being. In taking time to reassess my beliefs, my needs, and my own self as an individual human being as opposed to existing as a part of or for another person or group of people, I was honestly shaken to realise the power I have over my own life.

Even now just thinking about it empowers me. I have been given this body to live in, to mould and to shape as I see fit over a period of time. I can take it where I like, dress it in whatever clothes are available to me at a given time, and imprint upon it any image or word I feel has made a lasting impact. What I choose to do with my life is actually feasible if I believe in it enough to persist and continue thrusting energy toward it. It’s the choosing part that I struggle with. But I am literally a blank canvas. Every day, every moment, is a blank canvas that we can start building upon, or tearing apart with certain behaviours if we believe it strongly enough to repeat it consistently over any length of time.

I’ve come to see that life is a continuos progression from one moment to the next, each one irrelevant to the one which has gone before it, save when we choose to link them together.

It upset me to realise how much time I’d wasted worrying about what people thought, how I looked, how people would react to things that hadn’t happened yet or that had already come to pass…It was so pointless. The lack of control I’d had really showed itself for what it was when I finally took control, and decided to do something about it.
Realising this really showed me that although people may seem to be heading in the right direction on the outside, often even lying to themselves about being happy, there really is nothing more important than to finding what serves you, only you, and allowing yourself to take it. A chaotic and fast-paced working environment is occasionally the last place you’d expect to find such grounding thought, yet there is something extremely calming and humbling in taking a step back from the madness around and into the one small space of earth within one’s own physical body that remains within our control. Because in the end that’s all we’ll ever really have.

“You are Beautiful. Stop looking at your phone.”

‘You are beautiful. Stop looking at your phone.’

I found a note on my phone the other morning with those words saved to it. I don’t remember saving it there, when or what even prompted me to write it, but I’m so glad I did.

When I looked up I realised that sure, all I was doing was sitting on the bus searching through my phone for some entertainment. But then I really thought, and I saw that I was sitting on the bus.
I looked around, and instead of shifting my gaze awkwardly from the searching eyes of the technologically-challenged elderly woman opposite me who had nothing but the world outside the window to pass the journey with, I looked at her full on and gave a simple smile.

Because at that moment, that was all I could do.
There was no point staring at the screen of my device and wishing I was elsewhere, or talking with someone online and losing myself in a life that’s not my own while my body was physically transported across the earth. From the past, I had inadvertently chosen to divert my attention into this present moment, and to interact with my surroundings.

And guess what the woman did?
She smiled back.
She didn’t have to, and I didn’t make her – but she smiled back.

 A short message, most likely written as a result of an inverted and paralysed moment of anxiety at some point in a public situation, had opened my mind and spurred me on to smile at this stranger. Purely because I had reminded myself of my own worth, she had then smiled and prompted a chain-reaction of positivity that would not have been possible otherwise.

Distraction

It’s so easy to look away when we feel we’re not worth looking at.
So easy to distract ourselves from our busy thoughts with other unimportant aspects of our lives, and get worked up about things that aren’t true, and most certainly aren’t worth it. We do it all the time with factors that are completely out of our control – we look away and ignore the world outside unless the sun is shining when we get up in the morning. But the world is still there, even during a storm. Even on a bad hair day, it doesn’t change the fact that I still have hair, no matter how many hairbands or hats I try to hide it with.

Power to Change

How often have you found yourself avoiding the mirror and leaving the house with a frown because of something you can not change at that present moment– be it your hair colour, height, weight, outside influences or thoughts about tasks you must complete within a given day?
By establishing mental boundaries and accepting the environmental factors that are both within and outside of our control, I find that my mind calms somewhat, with the knowledge and reaffirmation that although I am strong in myself, that there will always be things outside of my control. It’s a grounding and empowering realisation all at once, which places me firmly within my own body, and aware of both the potential and the limitations of it.

Everybody Gets It

We’ve all been in positions where we wish we could disappear or change certain aspects of our appearance. In grounding yourself in the moment, letting go of ‘what ifs’ and ‘should haves’, and coming to terms with the you that is in the minute right now, reading these words, it allows a lot of these preoccupations with beauty, perceptions and opinions to become irrelevant. We can begin to finally accept ourselves for what we really are.

So look away from that phone screen, close the laptop, and turn off the television for a mere few minutes – a fleeting moment in which you can think about where and what you are, and meet yourself there.

Just look up.

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