Ask Parvati 20 – Tantra: Yoga is Everywhere – Part 1, Freedom in Freedom

BY Parvati

Dear Parvati,
I started studying yoga ten years ago. I have traveled to India, taken teacher training programs, and adhered strongly to an orthodox yoga style. Now I find my practice shifting. Rather than doing rigorous asana (yoga exercises), I want to explore a more playful sense of moment-to-moment mindfulness. As I follow this, I find my asana practice moving away from the pattern I have followed for so long.
I really like your song Yoga In The Nightclub and it got me thinking about this juncture I am at. When is yoga actually yoga? Just because you call something yoga doesn’t make it yoga, does it? If, as you say, yoga is everywhere, even in a nightclub, why wouldn’t my current practice still be yoga?
Anything in our lives can become binding. We can feel joyfully free while jogging, later to find that running feels like a constrictive chore. We can find freedom in the new yoga classes we just adore, to later find that we are bored with the teacher and the routines. We can experience heights of bliss never before experienced when we first take up meditating, until we hit bumpy bits in our psyche when sitting practice starts to feel more like listening to nails on a chalkboard than to sweet, angelic music.
For years, I was religious about my yoga asana practice. I woke up and first thing, practiced every day without fail. I had to. Somehow I felt wonky if I did not. My day would unfold more smoothly when I did and I loved that feeling. Yoga and meditation provided (and still provide) an unequaled opportunity for centering, inner spaciousness and evolutionary support. But anything we do can turn from expansive to constrictive. Soon I began to feel confined by my yoga and meditation practice.
In my highly disciplined Hatha yoga practice, I hit a wall. I began to feel stiff rather than relaxed. I began to feel agitated, rather than expansive. I was no longer getting my fix from what I called my meditation medication. So I went deeper.
The practice started to reveal to me ways in which I was hard on myself. In some unconscious way, I felt that if I did not do the practice, I was a bad person. The drive that had led me to doing very well at school and university, that also drove me to wanting people’s approval, had now shown up as a sour motivator in my spiritual pursuits.
I turned more inward and listened to the impulses that made me feel expansive. I listened to joy and how it moved through my being. How did joy express itself through my being? I knew enough to know that living by “shoulds” would only lead to unhappiness. I knew that trusting that still small voice within would lead to greater and greater joy. It, after all, had led me to meditating and doing Hatha yoga in the first place. Where did that voice want to lead me? What did it want? How could I get out of the way and serve it?
(Continues tomorrow with Yoga Flowers)