Updated: Oct 9, 2020
The only certain thing is change. We all know this, but the events of the past few months have left most of us feeling tired and some of us overwhelmed. Not knowing is tiring. We are all unique in the way we have had to adapt our lives to the current global landscape but we all have some things in common.
The practice of yoga reaches beyond who we are, what we have and what we do. Yoga recognises that our true nature is an essence that exists within, something that binds us to the universal and which transcends the dramas being played out on the world stage. The work we do in our yoga practice helps us to journey inwards, beyond all the neuroses of the mind to discover who we really are. Our essence is unchanging, it is pure awareness uncluttered by to do lists, grievances and worry. It is yoga.
So why can't we just feel at peace all the time now we know this? In Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, one of the ancient yoga texts, we learn about the five kleshas, which are the five obstacles to yoga. These obstacles are asmita (ego identification), avidya (ignorance), raga (attachment), dvesha (aversion) and abhinivesha (grasping (to life)). These obstacles to self-realisation are common to each and every one of us, and are what cause us existential suffering and mental strain. The kleshas are thought of as veils - layers that obscure our true nature from ourselves.
It has never been more important to realise that contentment cannot be found by looking outwards, and especially not by following a diet of news. The answers lie within. Yoga does not give you anything you don't already have. Yoga helps you to peel away the layers that form your day-to-day identity to find your true nature, which is peace and happiness. It's already there in you, in all of us - perhaps you have experienced it in a yoga class, where you are completely absorbed in your movement and sensations, or when you are in deep relaxation or meditation. Discovering that state of pure awareness and a feeling of being connected is called Samadhi - the highest state of yoga where we are in union with the universal consciousness. The teachings of yoga maintain that everything other than this pure awareness is an illusion. The world is a stage in which we enact our dharma (life's work) in order to become closer to who we really are.
Our identity is nothing more than a collection of ideas we have about ourselves. It is made up of thoughts, memories and impressions that continually shift and change. Identifying too strongly with an idea about oneself only causes suffering when our situation changes and we no longer have the external markers we use to define ourselves. Each one of us possesses the potential to see beyond the superficial and unreliable process of referencing the world around us for our sense of self. Self-discovery is a completely commonplace yet extraordinarily magnificent power that you have and which can be used to find contentment. This incredible transformation does not have to change the course of history in a big way - we write history all the time in the decisions we make about how we show up in the world. When you are content and at peace, it rubs off on those around you and little by little, the world becomes a better place.
This Autumn and Winter I have planned a few things especially to ease our passage through this difficult and complex time in history. There will be series of restorative yoga workshops which take place on Zoom and in person in Weston-super-Mare during October to January.They are designed to be a refuge for you, and a forum for releasing fear and anxiety and cultivating peace. There are also a number of yoga podcasts I have published lately which address calming anxiety.
Let me know your thoughts on any of these ideas, I am always happy to discuss anything yoga. I am sending my heart out to all humankind today and every day. Let's be a community of yogis who support each other, tacitly and actively, to get through this time with grace and resilience. Just know that wherever you are you are, you only have this moment, only this breath, and in this moment you have the power to determine the next one.
Morven Hamilton is a yoga teacher and teacher trainer living in Weston-super-Mare with her partner and daughter. She specialises in restorative yoga, yoga for cancer and in training future teachers in the Yoga by Nature 200 hour Teacher Training Course and Healing the Whole Person yoga for cancer teacher training.