Yoga - The unity of everything
It has been on my mind for a while, to write about Yoga.
Yoga itself has been in my life for a little more than a decade now.
How it started for me
I intensly got into Yoga in India in 2013. I was travelling in India and life, in the form of hints from people, led me to an Ashram in Ram Jhula, a buzzing, beautifully alive with music, shops, scents and flavors, part of the town of Rishikesh.
Rishikesh is located on the Ganges River. It is the town where the infamous Beatles Ashram can be found as well as where Hindu pilgrims travel to pray, to show their dedication to the Gods. Rishikesh is also a purely vegetarian town. So there was NO meat. Even the dogs had to make due with vegetarian meals unless they managed to catch themselves a mouse, bird or something similar.
Rishikesh is located at the edge of the Himalaya mountains and is hence also known as “the Gate into the Himalaya”.
The Ganges here is actually very clean because it is only about 250 km young. So yep, you can drink the water (I did so after the rainy season so the water was actually very clear – and I was good).
I stayed in the Ashram for two weeks, did almost every morning and evening Yoga class for 6 days a week then left to travel more of Northern India because the winter was near and I wanted to see Kashmir and Ladakh.
After this short trip up North I felt drawn back to Rishikesh. I had already met some lovely people there and wanted to spend more time.
So I continued my Yoga journey in the Ashram with those very disciplined Yogis who were teaching the morning and evening classes. If you came to class a minute late, the door was locked and you were told to leave / didn’t even get in anymore until the next class.
These were one of the most disciplined classes I have experienced.
Even though it was October, it was still pretty hot and because of the Indian customs, we had to wear long pants and have our shoulders covered.
So there was no short shorts yoga practice with a nice bra top that I enjoy practicing in so much these days 😀
Sweat was always on and a shaking body, too. The classes were Hatha style so each posture was often held for quite a while and the postures were challenging!
I gained a lot of strength during this time and my body became very flexible compared to what it used to be.
It’s worth mentioning here that I was a very unfit kid. I usually disliked sports class in school and I had the nickname “movement spasty” because I was rather clumsy with my body.
These two months of strong Yoga practice in Rishikesh opened my body and mind to a new way of being.
I learned the headstand and I realized that I and my body were capable of so much more than conventional schooling and sports clubs had me believe previously.
The connection between all things
I also very distinctly learned that this “body-mind” connection isn’t just some woo woo talk but is actually real.
From these many hours of sweaty and intense practice that pushed my mind (focus) deeper into my body, I realized the imprinting of thoughts and emotions in my bodily tissues.
That every experience I’ve had, every feeling I have and every thought I have is somewhere felt, has a sensational imprint (or can be stuck) in the entirety of the body.
This Yoga experience also gave me feeling experiences that I had previously only known from taking substances.
Yoga confirmed what I had been experiencing
Some mornings I managed to get myself out of bed for the early philosophy and mediation classes that lasted from 6am to 9am.
In there I learned that the word Yoga means to “unite”, to bring together”…. And BAM! All the sudden a lot of the things that I had experienced in my life up until then made sense.
I had experienced how my inner world was reflected in my outer. I had experienced how everything seemed to be connected. I had experienced how my mind and body in fact were one.
And Yoga – the practice, philosophy and study of it confirmed it and continues to help me see, feel and experience this connection of all things ever more clearly.
There is the individual soul and the universal soul which are essentially one beacuse one springs from the other and eventually returns to it.
We are always connected. It is simply a matter of tuning ourselves into this connection – Yoga can help us with that
This is where Yogic practices (Asana, Pranayama, Yama, Niyama, Concentraion, Contemplation and conscious use of the senses (aka sensuality)) come in so handy ♡
Maybe not all Yogis agree with me on the sensuality part but this is what Tantra taught me and Tantra is said to have birthed Yoga – a little more on that later.
I absolutely am eternally grateful for the practice and the wisdom that is passed on through the lineage of Yoga.
It has and keeps on impacting my life deeply.
Nowadays people repeatedly tell me how relaxed and yet efficient I am. I always think or sometimes say “it is the Yoga and the meditation.”
So the Asana practice of Yoga continues to draw me in. I notice how much it helps me with a good digestion, with my sensitive back, with an increased sensitivity for my body and more…
At some point I got to know the physical practice of Ashtanga Yoga (the eight limbs of Yoga I had learned about before).
But when I was living in the Mexican jungle with a bunch of adventurous people and horses, a friend of mine kept telling me I should do “Ashtanga Yoga”.
She printed out a couple of papers with a series of movements and gave them to me. Some sun salutations, standing postures and seated ones.
I started following the instructions on there. Paying attention to the exact in and out breath with each movement, resting my gaze where the instructions told me to and BAM I was in my Rishikesh experience once again. I felt so focused, stronger in my body, AWAKE.
So I was hooked.
I practiced Ashtanga Yoga (the one with the series of postures as known from Mysore, India) for about 4 years from that time on.
My Yoga experience with disordered eating and healing
If you’ve been following me for some time you might know that for a lot of years I had been suffering with emotional eating, overeating, binge-eating, and the “not-enough eating” kinda disordered eating.
This kind of struggle kept going on for about 9 years and I ping-ponged around 20 kilos up and down at various point in this time.
When I encountered the practice of the Ashtanga Yoga series, I started to get very strongly confronted with my tense relationship to food and my body image. It was as if the magnifying glass was ON.
I constantly compared my body, my eating behaviour and the things that I was able or not able to do with my body to that of the other people practicing. While Yoga practice emphasizes a lot on “the inner experience” there still is an undeniable focus on the outer shapes here in our Western world.
In my opinion, Yoga Asana brings up this deep sickness of body dismorphia that is running through big parts of our society.
So becoming aware of this is very important in order for our Yoga practice to deepen.
Practicing Yoga with curiosity and love
To listen to our body, to inquire about our inner world. With openness, curiosity and yep – as corny as it may sound – with love.
This was missing in my Yoga journey at some point. In the very beginning it was excitement. Innocent joy. Like in a new relationship. Then a sense of grimness set in.
What was needed then is the loving curiosity. The willingness to soften. To surrender instead of resign. To let go instead of trying to get rid of.
There is so much I am continuing to learn.
How I started teaching Yoga
Somewhere along my Yoga journey I was asked to cover for a Yoga class for one of my previous partners as a teacher. So I taught my first Yoga classes in gorgeous Tulum, Mexico.
When I returned to Germany in 2016, my teachers invited me to join the teacher training. I did.
More because I didn’t know what else to do with myself than for any other reason, really. But yeah, I though “it’d be a good way to deepen into practice”.
I ended up doing 2 years (500hrs) of teacher training, began teaching during this time and really found joy in passing on what I had been learning from Yoga Asana.
Yoga continues to support me, guide me, strenghten me, soften me and help me see the world from a different state (or: several perspectives).
One of the pitfalls in Yoga…
However, one of the pitfalls I see in many people who practice Yoga, is this wanting to be at peace. Wanting peace is a great thing.
Only there’s somehow this wild attachment to be “the perfect centered Samadhi Yogi”.
This leaves little space for aliveness and (joy of) life.
Enightenement isn’t a destination. It is a way of living.
Balance is not grim determination and sucked up emotions in order to fake inner peace.
Balance is dynamic. It is to flow and BE with what is. Being open, kind and in loving, judgment-free presence with what is. Not with a closed off heart.
I have seen a lot of “Yoga-people” who have a very stiff posture and energetic presence. A very suppressed feeling oozes out of them. A sense of denying the nature of their emotionality and therefore humanness.
Tantra and inner child inclusion work (aka the unconscious and subconscious)
And this is where, on my journey, I came across Tantra and inner child inclusion work.
As I learned, Yoga actually sprang from Tantra.
I love the Tantric philosophy – at least the one I know of, the non-dualistic path – because it sees the human experiences with all its struggles and beauty as miracle of creation.
The practice and view suggests to allow the multi-facetedness of life and its profundity to penetrate us to the core so we may get to feel our core and experience life from that place.
A place of surrender to what is. This doesn’t mean that horrible things are justified.
It rather means that we see life as a journey.
As an invitation to explore ourselves as this divine intelligence that is having its human experience.
This is the mindset that I am nowadays applying to my Yoga practice as well – as before I used to be largely rough, bitter and frustrated for “not being there yet”.
I am now seeing it more in a way that where I am, I have a chance of exploring and learning deeper layers of love.
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