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From worrier to warrior Stop caring so much what others think of you - let yoga set you free

What does free yoga mean? Can yoga lead you to freedom? Is it still there for you, for free, despite having become such a huge market? Do you feel free in your practice, or does it add to your constraints and feelings of pain or shame, of not being good enough?

For nearly four and a half years I’ve now been following my BDY/EUY yoga teacher training. A lot has happened during that time: moving house, getting married, an impending death in the family, losing my job, becoming self-employed (again), numerous injuries and seemingly everlasting bouts of sickness, our kid starting school, a long-overdue and painful but necessary estrangement from a very close relative. The list goes on.

However, on the inside, the changes have been just as big, if not bigger. Basically,

I’ve moved from worrier to warrior.

Because:

Nirgends, Geliebte, wird Welt sein, als innen. Unser
Leben geht hin mit Verwandlung. Und immer geringer
schwindet das Außen,

Rilke writes in his Duino Elegies: Nowhere, Beloved, will there be a world but inside. Indeed, where four years ago I thought if I can’t yet practice the full first Ashtanga series I somehow wasn’t „allowed“ onto my mat at all, I now practice what, when and how I bloody well like.

Hiersein ist herrlich,

the „yogi amongst the German poets“ continues in the Seventh Duino Elegy, and to me personally, nothing makes you feel as „here“ and alive as bending over backwards, opening your heart on your way into Camel pose…

yoga backbend by the dutch beach

…or feeling as strong as „Brett Pitt“ in plank pose…

yoga pose chaturanga dandasana

…or looking at the world upside down, with the heavens as an abyss below you and the sea washing over your crown, in headstand.

yoga headstand by the beach

All this: preferably outside, in synch with nature. Listening to the waves rolling over the beach and back into the sea, synchronizing your breath with them. Or in a meadow by the forest, melting into the grass and fusing with the birdsong, like we will be again at Festland on 20 August for Yoga im Grünen.

I also used to be afraid of telling a person I was afraid of or felt treated unjust by directly; creating loads of unnecessary drama along the way by involving third persons, whose opinions I relied on much more than my own, instead. Did it resolve the original problem? Course not. Now, I’ve learnt to go directly to whomever I feel there is beef with, lay open my heart and usually there is an awesome reaction bringing peace and much more closeness than there was before. If not – I try and let that relationship go.

You know what else I was scared of – still am, actually? Posting images of myself in yoga poses, for all the obvious reasons: not doing the asanas correctly enough, seeming vain, chubby, old or vacuous. I’m no Kino MacGregor, after all; nor am I the young, bendy supermodel type who strictly adheres to ALL the yamas and niyamas ALL the time – just a regular mum of 44 (years, not kids). Who, to be brutally honest here, recently nicked a yoga magazine from a posh beachfront café because it included tips for reaching that all-elusive next goal, handstand. (I regretted it immediately and was promptly punished by my favourite vase – the one next to the Buddha on my home altar – shattering. Karma is one clever bitch!) And you know what?

Life’s too short to constantly worry over what others might think of you. Just do what you bloody well like.

It took me several injuries, along with aforementioned life events, and the handing in of the final, 100-page thesis in my training of 800 hours to realize: Yes, I am still a student of yoga and will remain for life. But yoga is a means to an end, not the end in itself. This is why Dona Holleman, one of my top ten F*CKING HEROINES and yogini galore, proudly says:

I’m not a yogi. I like drinking wine in cowboy bars!

Yee-ha! This is a relief. I can love my yoga and still swear and drink beer after a show with my punk rock band! Hell, everything can be my teacher now, including my SELF. Because I am finally able to hear her again, now that all those other voices aren’t always put first anymore. Which means, I guess, I have finally also become a teacher worth their salt; or, as Nietzsche puts it:

Man vergibt seinem Lehrer schlecht, wenn man immer nur der Schüler bleibt.

Indeed – one repays a teacher badly if one always remains nothing but a pupil. So here’s my 5 cents‘ worth:

  • Do yoga for yourself (or don’t do yoga). If that’s all that will fit into your life right now, make it onto your mat 3 times a week for 30 minutes and be proud of yourself – rather than worrying about not practicing for 2 hours, 6 times a week, as Ashtanga dogma would have you.
  • Listen to your body, and do what feels good and right for it, depending on the shape you’re in any given day or moment.
  • And most importantly: patiently listen to your soul. You can hear it particularly well on an empty Northern Dutch beach, I’ve found this summer.
  • And then post or don’t post pictures of you in those joyous moments. 🙂

Be free! Free of the identification with any outcome, success or failure. That’s what f*cking heroines do. Because life is damn short and far too precious for you not to do more of whatever tickles your fancy.

And suddenly, poses that (for me, personally) have seemed out of reach just fall into your lap, like a fruit finally ripe for the picking. And you’re off, flying in Crow Pose.

yoga pose bakhasana

Or maybe you just want to do f*ck-all except sit still by the sea? Then there is one more gratuitous pic, just for the heck of it. I hope you, too, want to try new stuff – or not – but please, darling, dare show yourself as you truly are. Enjoy your summer, by the beach or wherever you may be.

Namaste and rock on!

padmasana, lotus seat in yoga.

PS: Our holiday is already over, we’re back to school – but I try to find time now and again to create the oceanic breath myself. And we are working on planning some F*CKING HEROINE retreats, including lots of singing and brightening yoga, for next year – stay tuned…

 


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