I first came across “yoga” in 1989 as Granny Karin taught it from her home where we used to stay as a family for Christmas holidays in Fish Hoek, South Africa. Almost 30 years later I am starting to appreciate the true essence of yoga and it’s transformational effects, for self and the world around us that have been there all along.
I always knew that Karin was a hip Gran and was in such “good shape” and could be considered a “bit different”. But it’s only now I fully realize just how cool she was (and still is!) and what a magical gift that had been placed right in front of me! Even when Mark Shuttleworth, Africa’s first citizen to go into space asked her personally to teach him yoga in Moscow in preparation for his first space odyssey I didn’t comprehend the full magic of yoga and Granny Karin.
This is me, Granny Karin and my sister Kathy in Fish Hoek beach together!
You can imagine it being a really special moment for Karin and I when I sent her this certificate. (Dearest Karin – I took long enough but eventually I worked it out! Better late the never and at least you haven’t left the building yet and in fact you are definitely not too old to travel the world with me so we can share this beautiful gift together?! Can you imagine?!)
I am now a certified JivaMukti* yoga teacher after an incredible, very intensive month long, 300 hour residential program in Costa Rica. (Thank you to all the teachers, facilitators, mentors and all their teachers and teachers teachers for the gift you are passing on)
But what does this actually mean? What the hell is yoga? I can now give a yoga class?
I will never forget the time when my University of Cape Town hockey team and some of my friends came for a yoga class with Karin in 2001. I will never forget my mate Carts saying “F@ck there are so many gilfs here?!” (Apologies if this adapted term from modern “pop culture” aka American Pie offends you.) But the point is that yoga appeared to be something you did that made you look and feel good. “If it can make these Grannies look attractive imagine what it could do for me?!” And according to my experience and introduction to yoga it was something done by Grannies or older women.
Has much has changed?
(Perhaps it’s just the Grannies traded in for younger versions that’s different and throw in the odd man?! Let’s not get sidetracked!)
That’s exactly how I saw yoga. It was something that you do. Like playing tennis, or going to gym or taking an aerobics class, yoga was another option for physical exercise that also increases flexibility.
I never realized that yoga doesn’t just refer to the physical activity of asanas (yoga postures), pranayama (breathing) and dhyana (meditation) in fact these represent only three of the 8 limbs of (Ashtanga) Yoga. More so yoga represents our natural state, the feeling we were born into. A feeling of oneness and inter-connection with everything around us. In this state there is no such thing as “them and us”, “I, my, mine”. Society has not yet had the chance to inform our minds otherwise and make us believe we are separate from, different to or more worthy than other living beings. Over time as society and the powerful status quo have their way with us and infiltrate our minds, this changes and we move further away from our inter-connectedness and move towards a state of “separateness” where we no longer see ourselves in others or others in ourselves. We see “others”. It’s a state of mind. Not a state of being. It’s man made, not natural.
(See story of 10 year old Langa resident Sinethemba in his natural state in a previous blog – Leading from the heart )
This is Sine on the right with his friend Junior in the middle.
I love this Osho quote:
“The heart is always right if there is a question of choosing between the mind and the heart because mind is a creation of the society. It has been educated. You have been given it by the society, not by existence. The heart is unpolluted.”
This “otherness” is at the source of all disputes, conflict, pain and suffering that litters the history of mankind. We continue to find ourselves engrossed by this feeling of “otherness” and the accompanied sense of total confusion and helplessness, resigned to the fact that there seems not much we can really do about it and that it had nothing to do with us in the first place. “It’s not my fault. There’s nothing I can do about it!”
This is BULLSHIT! Yes you need to hear this! I’m sorry I have to be so blunt! Absolving yourself from responsibility is the response of a victim. We are not victims. We have created this and we have a chance to find our way back and put things right!
I remember when I moved to Hamburg. I heard this and that about German people and especially the people from Hamburg. That they take a long time to warm up to new people much like the weather! That I wouldn’t like it! Blah blah blah! Etc etc! Whatever! That’s just your excuse for being a grumpy git that attracts fellow grumpy gits into your world! Do you realize that the people around you, no matter where they are from in the world are a direct reflection of yourself and the attitude, joy and love you put out there? Don’t put the blame on something else! People from Hamburg, New Delhi, London, Miami, Cape Town etc etc are all just people and we all have the choice whether we want to influence our direct environments positively or not. It’s in our hands! (Hamburg and its people are so frikkin awesome. I love being there so much and have been made to feel so incredibly welcome. I feel the same way everywhere I go!)
Start with yourself and see what happens.
If you carry anger, bitterness and hatred, you will attract exactly that. You will be putting yourself in prison! Take this from a man who really knows what it’s like to be in prison and if there was anyone who had a good reason to be “angry, bitter and full of hatred” it was him. Thank you Tata Madiba. Your life and choices continue to inspire me and I am feeling more hopeful than ever before. I feel for the first time I am aware of the source and have a means to influence it and am not just knocking my head against a brick wall continually dealing with the symptoms.
For so long, I became sick witnessing all the turmoil, confusion and hatred all around me and doing my best to understand it and contribute to alleviating it. But ultimately knowing deep down that it was a pointless quest as addressing the symptoms often made it worse as it created entitlement, more separation and served to disempower. It was all about “them” and “us” – those “with” giving to those “without” and feeling good about themselves doing it and receiving public acclaim for their so called selflessness. Meanwhile this was all about self and reinforced our “otherness”. I felt sick and helpless. But without a viable alternative, a way of addressing the source, at least we were trying to do something and these good intentions and efforts must be acknowledged.
Apartheid means “separateness”. This is a great way to describe our plight and our savior, not just in South Africa, but worldwide. Separateness is a learned state of mind, and is not a natural state of being. We are not born hating another person or living being. We don’t even see a difference between us and a tree or another person or anything around us. It’s one and the same, we are just part of it all. We are taught to differentiate and apply different value to the existence of different things and people.
The thing is we don’t need to be taught to love at all. It’s our natural state. We just have to “unlearn” to hate and seeing “other”. And this process of unlearning and stripping away all the societal filters, conditions and status quo is called yoga. Bringing us back home to our natural state.
Yoga gives us a chance to return home! Yuj is the Sanskrit root word of Yoga literally meaning “to yoke”, “to unite”, “to join”.
Start with yourself and see what happens!
Perhaps a reason I didn’t fully connect with yoga is that I didn’t see the point. Activism, for lack of a better word, is a core part of my being, my dharma (duty) and I saw yoga as basically the other end of the spectrum to activism and thus served no purpose. It was too passive and pointless for me to engage in. Or so I thought. Now I feel yoga is the ultimate activism – a means to study and address the source, and explore our true potential and fundamentally why we are here.
(Dearest Anya-ji, “When the student is ready. The teacher appears”. I am ready if you will have me. Thank you for your genuine care and commitment to this path. You inspire me greatly.)
The truth is I have not become a yoga teacher over the course of this last month, I have been a yoga student, practitioner, seeker and teacher all my life, I just didn’t know it.
“Sthira sukham asanam” Yoga Sutra 2.46
This can be translated as follows:
“Your connection with the earth should be steady and joyful”
And can be interpreted as our relationship and connection with the earth should be mutually beneficial for the earth and the other living beings we share the earth with. This immediately changes the quality of your yoga practice too when you start to consciously place your hands and feet on the earth. Place them as softly as you can! We are all visitors here!
“Gate. Gate. Paragate. Parasangate. Bodhi Swaha” (this is a radical chant!)
My translation: Let go. Let go. Let beyond go. Let go beyond the beyond. (So far gone!!) What remains or what is uncovered is ultimate wisdom that has been there all along.
Let go of all the “mind stuff” and “separateness” we learn and carry, and we will uncover our true nature. Everything we need is already within us!
After my first ever JivaMukti* yoga class I walked out with the most remarkable feeling of “oneness”. No words were needed. I was home! Very little harm can be done in this state! Thank you Chelsea and Kiki Lucia for guiding me here!
(Dearest Cristina & Ray – I hope you are reading and smiling. It many ways letting go and trusting really started with you. Forever grateful to you both. See you along the way x)
Welcome home. It has been there all along and you can visit anytime, anywhere.
*JivaMukti = Liberation while living
Ps. I hope that The Unogwaja Charitable Trust embodies this desire to address the source and bring people together and exposed to this experience of “oneness”. Please get in touch with me via firstname.lastname@example.org or the Unogwaja team directly email@example.com www.unogwaja.com to find out more!
Watch this: Unogwaja Charitable Trust Video
I am home. Way above the trees at Blue Spirit Resort Costa Rica. Everywhere.