I’m often asked about my interest in yoga, how I became interested in it, and what it means to me. I love this set of questions because it implies that “yoga” is one thing. And yet for me it is a bundle of stuff.
I came to this bundle of stuff because I needed to. Back in the past sometime over 30 years ago, I wasn’t a happy, or an easy person. My lifestyle wasn’t particularly healthy and my mind and heart were clouded with unhelpful thoughts and emotions. I found solace in quite a few unhelpful lifestyle behaviours that over time had become what you could call addictions and props. Increasingly, I became unhappy and wanted to find a sense of balance and calm. I wanted to see myself and the world more clearly. I wanted to be healthy and happy.
My mother went to a yoga class and I became entranced by the postures she showed me. I practiced them regularly, and eventually graduated to classes. The postures, which I learned were called “asanas”, sparked an interest in breathing and moving gracefully with the postures and breath. I learned that breathing was called “pranayama”. I learned that moving with breath and awareness from one posture to another was called “vinyasa”. I began to read what I learned were important texts – the Upanishads, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Bhagavad Gita, Hatha Yoga Pradipika and so on. I learned about kriyas – cleansing practices. I learned to chant in Sanskrit. I began to learn how to relax, and then to concentrate. I graduated to contemplation and reflection. I eventually came to meditational practices.
I found that there were some principles or codes of practice concerning self-discipline and how we engage with others and the world. These are called Yamas and Niyamas. I found these helpful. I still do.
My life balanced out. I found work. I learned that being of service to others can be a joyful practice in its own right. I met and eventually married my wife. We had children. I began to go on retreats and meeting learned yogis and philosophers. I received teaching from T K V Desikachar, and from Mr Iyengar’s students. I received further teaching from Mr Desikachar’s student Paul Harvey.
I found that the yoga practice of Isvara Pranidhana – surrender to God gradually became a feature of my life and practice. My learning deepened. I found the teachings of the Buddha, and Jesus. They complemented my understanding of yoga philosophy. I found the Stoics and they seemed to offer me a further richer, and deeper take on my practice. I stepped further in the direction of a form of buddhism known as Dzogchen. I received teaching from Tulku Rinpoche Namkai Norbu, having met him twice. I was taught tibetan yoga in this tradition by his senior teachers, Fabio Andrico and Laura Evangelisti in Italy.
I latterly came to other forms of movement and self efficacy. I received teaching from Wim Hof, and his work utterly transformed my sense of what is possible. I begun to integrate the natural and functional movement viewpoints into my practice more recently have been influenced by the work of Kelly Starret, Katy Bowman and Erwan La Corre amongst others.
This is a journey that continues and will continue, evolving and deepening, but at the heart of this journey is a desire to be the best that I can be, to do the best that I can do, for myself, for others and our world.