Thursday, March 21, 2013

My Yoga Breakdown

Since I arrived in my new hometown of Shanghai, China, I have been expanding in many ways. I am meeting new people, experiencing and exploring new places, trying new foods, starting to learn a new language and surrounded by new culture. I am growing and absorbing more each day.

My yoga life however has been in a state of contraction. I have been drawing inward and not in the best or easiest of manners. I am feeling rigid, insecure, lost.

I am a Kripalu yogini, I am a Kripalu yoga teacher, I am dedicated to practice on and off the mat. My yoga is a yoga of compassion, love, and devotion. These are the cornerstones of my lineage, a lineage that is powerful and profound. It is a path home to the heart and eternal soul.

My practice includes observance of the yamas and niyamas or yogic ethics, asana or posture, pranayama or breathing techniques, chanting sacred songs of prayer, meditation in various forms and most of all compassion, prayer and devotion to God. All of these practices are intended to awaken consciousness and strip away illusion, bring freedom from suffering and ultimately culminate in realization of one's true nature. Love.

Recently I have been struggling in my practice, feeling that I have lost my way. I feel like I have lost myself.

I have gone to a few yoga classes here. The first two were crushing. The teacher took us through a very challenging physical class. She offered no modifications, gave no permission to do less, she performed aggressive "corrections" on me in several poses. When, at one point, I told her that my back and shoulders were not going to "to do" what she wanted, she coldly told me "Try."

There was no heart, no spirit, no compassion. I left that class deflated, questioning myself, my practice and judging my body. This opened up my core wound of unworthiness and the familiar internal dialog came gushing in torrents through my mind, thoughts like, " See you don't really know anything about yoga. Your practice is weak and your body is a failure. You have no business teaching. You are not good."

As I searched the city for an alternative I only found more of the same. Hot power and vigorous vinyasa abound (these can be wonderful and beautiful but don't serve me on a daily basis), and several people confirmed to me that the yoga environment here is full of striving and competition, not much room for love and compassion. I felt disheartened and alone.

I retreated to my home practice, to my way of moving, to the breathing and praying and inquiry of Kripalu yoga. Bapuji (Swami Kripalu) said in a well known prayer to his followers, "My beloved child, judge yourself no longer. Each time you judge yourself you break your own heart, you stop drinking in the love which is the wellspring of your vitality."

Love is the path, the practice, it is the beginning and the end. If I move in an asana practice with no love and care for my body, and beyond that my whole being, the practice is bankrupt and useless, and yet, even that struggle and suffering comes to teach.

I see now that that experience brought me here, back to my home practice, it brought me to this insight, to this page, to these very words I offer now. The struggle is the field that, nourished by faith and surrender, blossoms into growth and becomes an offering. It is perfect.

I have not lost myself, what I long for is community. I realize I rely on my yoga community or sangha to see myself, to reflect my light and gifts to me. I have been put on a pilgrimage of sorts, to know myself, by myself, to know my value by my own light. My name, Jyotika, given to me by teachers, means light or torch bearer.

My teachers gave me that name but it is my responsibility to claim it, to fulfill it.

Therefore I declare; I have something very valuable to offer. I am a teacher of Kripalu yoga and that teaching is needed where I am. I have the ability to create a loving yoga community. It is up to me to shine the light.

I made this declaration with the guidance of my teacher Vidya, whose constant support and unshakable faith are my inspiration. Her love is a wellspring fed by devotion and flowing with grace. She reminds me that my practice is nonstop, we live the yoga. We are truly powerful yoginis not because of physical prowess or accomplishment but because we are choosing to be awake in this life, to feel, to struggle, to walk directly into the fire and turmoil, because we have love in our hearts and faith in our souls. We follow the path that Bapuji offered us, the path of love.

My yoga breakdown has been a gift. I lean into my faith now, I let go of fear. The last line of that prayer from Bapuji is my mantra now, " Do not fight the dark, just turn on the light. Breathe and let go into the goodness that you are."

Jai Bhagwan

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Call Me Crazy But...

Call me crazy but I think that God, universe, source, higher power, angels, whatever  terminology you prefer, speaks to me through the radio. Yes, that' s right, well today it was actually through the grocery store overhead music. Does that make it more plausible or more crazy sounding?

Let me explain before you unfriend me, delete me from your contacts or unsubscribe from my blog.

I have had so many experiences where I have been down or struggling for whatever reason and I turn on the radio and "Shazam!" , the perfect song comes on. You know what I mean right? Right??

So anyway I have been doing pretty well adjusting to my new life here in China. It is a very cushy life to be honest so I can't complain too much, but it has been tumultuous and I find myself struggling to find myself here. I have become fairly undefined in a sense. I do my mother thing which is a big thing but then....what? I am a yoga teacher with no students and struggling to find yoga community at all, but that is another post. Yes that is it, most of all I miss my people. I miss my community of students, friends, teachers, family. China would be perfect if I could just get all of you over here with me, after all what's a few hundred more people in China!

Back to my original point, God in the radio.

This morning was dark and gloomy, fierce wind and rain. My driver was unavailable so I found myself slogging it to the grocery store pulling a cart and hanging on to my umbrella for dear life. I tried to stay positive, but my mood was sinking fast. I started thinking of the people I am missing and fretting that I will be forgotten, worrying that I am not making progress in my life, my practice, my teaching. Going no where, the wind agreed with me.

I got inside the store, ambled through a few aisles and then the music came on. It was freaking Backstreet Boys again!! Last time this lifted my mood, but today it made me scowl and want to throw an all out tantrum. I thought, "Are you kidding me?? Who plays the same songs over and over for days?!! What is wrong with this place??!!".

And then in mid song the music stopped. It turned into "Hey Jude" by the Beatles. I stopped right there in the cereal aisle and just took in that song, bathed in it. I sang along softly with tears in my eyes.

"Hey Jude don't make it bad, take a sad song and make it better. Remember to let her into your heart and then you can start to make it better."

As I sang those words my heart opened and my mood completely shifted. I felt love in that song, I remembered who I am in those words. It was a miracle, small but so profound.

If you don't believe in God, source, higher power, angels or even miracles, maybe it is time to turn on a radio and really listen, or just open the eyes of your eyes and the ears of your ears to what is all around you. Something is bound to show up. Or maybe I am crazy, but I'll take it.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Resistance is Futile

I have said it many times before in this blog, not in those exact words perhaps, but it is true, resistance is futile.

I am living in China. I do not speak Chinese. There are many things here that are so different than what I am used to. It is worlds away from anything I have encountered before.

My life circumstances have been melted down and completely remolded. I look around and it is almost like watching a movie or being dropped into someone else's identity, which has happened in a few movies I have seen.

Confronted with life altering circumstances can bring up a veritable gusher of resistance. The sources of suffering we all are confronted with; desire and aversion. The internal struggle of "I want this, I don't want that.", the feeling that the present moment, as it is, is lacking, flawed, or undesirable.

So many of life's circumstances are beyond our individual control. The weather, what other people say or do, or even cultural parameters and societal constraints. For example Chinese culture has a deep investment in hierarchy which determines your station in life, for your entire life. Chance of birth trumps all.

Resistance is futile and true peace can only come from within. China is teaching me that in the most profound ways.
It is not the circumstance that creates distress, disturbance, or unhappiness, it is how we choose to react or respond to it. So when I can't communicate with the person at the shop, can't find that one thing I need but can find plenty of things I don't need or that I am actually a little frightened by, I can become increasingly frustrated (which has happened more than once), or I can soften, smile and go with the flow.

Happiness is an inside job, no matter where you are.