Back in 2013, when I was an avid yoga practitioner travelling around the world to study and teach, I had the fortune of spending a lot of time with a teacher of mine, Christina Sell. One spring, I was attending a particular workshop called “Asana Junkies” with a group of incredible women in San Marcos, Texas. This workshop was the culmination of an 11-week webinar that Christina began in January whereby dedicated yoga practitioners from all over the world could join in either live or watch the recordings later on, to study and practice intermediate and advanced asana. Through the webinar, participants receive Christina’s unparalleled guidance in asana with new sequences each week, and get to connect with fellow practitioners both through the webinar and a facebook forum. It has been a wonderful resource for me and a way to stay linked up to a steady practice and community during my travels.
The intensive was 4 full days including morning puja, mantra, pranayama, and meditation, followed by an intense 3 ½ hour practice, lunch, then another 1 ½ hour restorative/seated practice. We worked with a fairly repetitive sequence that gave us the opportunity to refine, expand and go deeper each day. Having been a participant in both types of workshops (repetitive sequences vs. something new and different each section), I can say from my own experience that although the “new and different” each day approach with various sections of a workshop designated to inversion or backbends or arm balances is fun and exciting and offers lots in the way of new learning and information, I have progressed more and taken away more from this repetitive approach. It has been very rewarding for me to see my poses change in a matter of 3 or 4 days and to come away with a sequence that I am familiar with and inspired to utilize in my own personal practice—something that I just do not get from doing something different each time.
This particular intensive was very significant to me. A year prior, I had been living in Calgary, Alberta and was teaching yoga classes and working as a management consultant. At the time, I could not have imagined that the past year would have unfolded the way it did. I attended this same intensive in San Marcos last year, on a last-minute whim—and connections I made there set into motion a series of events that resulted in me subsequently leaving Calgary and beginning to travel full-time.
It was kind of like an anniversary in a sense and I felt overwhelmed with a wide range of emotions. I have been experiencing nostalgia for the stability, community, friends, home, and routine that I left behind in Calgary. Sadness, for missing some friends and students in Calgary who were very important to me. Grief, for the heartbreak that I have experienced this year in the form of loss, new perspectives, and challenging relationships. Gratitude, for friends, teachers, family and acquaintances who have held me, cared for me and supported me. Joy, for the many opportunities that I have had to study yoga this year with Christina Sell, Darren Rhodes, Carlos Pomeda, a few senior Bikram teachers, and the many wonderful practitioners and friends I have made across Canada, in the U.S. and in Australia. Excitement, for the new direction my career has taken and all of the opportunities that lie ahead; and fear—of the unknown.
Over the past several months, Christina has been referring to aspects of our yoga practice as “deposits in the bank”. I hadn’t really thought much about this reference until this week. I thought of it as—the more we do something, the better we get at it. Lately, I’ve thought about how the concept of referencing our practice in terms of a “deposit in the bank” is multi-faceted. In our closing circle at the Intensive, I shared that ever since I was little, I always had a chequing account and a savings account. The chequing account was where I deposited the majority of the money I made, and I deposited small amounts when I could into my savings account. My everyday spending came out of my chequing account and I tried to forget that my savings account was even there, until there came a point when I really needed it. An important trip I wanted to go on, something unexpected happened and I needed some extra money, whatever it was. I think our yoga practice is like that too. When we build up a regular practice, we start to see small returns right away. We practice diligently and see ourselves get stronger, become able to do poses we couldn’t do only months before, and generally keep on improving in a way that is hopefully exciting and empowering and keeps us interested in the path of practice. Then there’s the aspect of the practice that we don’t cash in on right away. Coming to our mats day after day, exposing ourselves to the company of other dedicated practitioners on the path, perhaps even learning the philosophical teachings of yoga and developing a seated practice—all of these things are deposits in the “savings account” of our own inner reserves.
The “savings account” aspect of the practice are the qualities that are cultivated within us by committing to a practice that both requires and offers strength, focus, determination, connection, clarity and understanding. By practicing regularly, whether alone or in community, we walk this path with like-minded people, and tap into centuries of wisdom that are readily available to us through this practice. We don’t necessarily need these qualities in large volumes every day; we may notice that our interpersonal relationships get better, we like our job more or we change our job, we starting each better or treating ourselves better as a result of practicing yoga. When we are suddenly faced with a major challenge, or a traumatic event in our lives, it is these times that the fruits of a regular yoga practice become apparent. Speaking from personal experience, when I have not had a practice and I went through difficult times, I fell back into bad habits and my life seemingly spun out of control. I did the best I could at the time, but I did not have the capacity to handle things any better than I did and I floundered. When I do have a practice, it does not mean that the challenging times don’t come; it’s just that when they do, I have something in my inner reserves that I can withdraw from and my life doesn’t have to feel like it’s crashing down around me.
2012 presented me with some incredible experiences, in addition to some of the most difficult challenges I have navigated through. I definitely still struggled and had bad days. There were times when I reacted, or got upset, or lost faith. But more often than not, and far more often than I ever have before, I found myself able to remain steady in the midst of chaos, calm when I wanted to fall apart and clearer in my thinking when all of my old patterns arose to test me again and again. The deposits in my “chequing account” so-to-speak, of regular practice, attempting poses that were difficult or that I don’t like very much, have yielded a stronger yoga practice, poses I couldn’t do before, and increased awareness of my physical body. The deposits in my “savings account” through regular practice weren’t always so apparent until the times came when I really needed it. The same way that I would tend not to think about any extra money sitting in my savings account and just make small deposits when I could over time—each effort to sit in meditation, to study more deeply, to attend workshops, to pay attention to what my teachers were saying, to acknowledge and stay connected to fellow practitioners and community, have yielded over time a strong network of support around me and within me that I have been able to cash in on when life got challenging. In this way, it has been my experience and my continued hope that I can stay more centred when things get difficult and recover from life’s “lows” with a little bit more grace and ease.