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Teacher of November 2017 - Philippe
What is yoga for me?

Back in 2004, while working on my architecture thesis, I meet a friend from elementary school whom I hadn't seen in years. Last time I had seen him, he seemed confused about what career path to take. He had tried many things and nothing had stuck. Now he seemed focused, calm and happy so I asked what had changed.

My friend explained he had learned to meditate and was practicing every morning at 3am. In his meditation group, someone taught him the basics of making bread. After meditating, he would experiment to create different recipes. Some breads would turn out great, some didn't and had to be discarded. Not thinking of the end product, just mixing and kneading the dough helped him focus and gave him peace of mind. Making bread and later vegetarian food, became his life path. Years later, I would learn he was actually speaking of Karma Yoga or “ the discipline of action”. Teachings contained in the Bhagavad Gita.

I found his experience and transformation so interesting that it sparked my curiosity to learn meditation and yoga. Going through a moment of much anxiety at the time, I figured it could help in some way but quickly found out that meditation was actually harder than I thought!

As I began studying and practicing Yoga I felt physically healthier and emotionally more stable. I started to realize that, more than any other activity I had tried before to deal with anxiety and stress, yoga made me observe and question my own actions and their repercussions on my family, friends and life in general. Yoga helped me see that much of the anxiety was created inside my mind. In the way I dealt with difficult situations, thought too much about the past or kept repeating behaviours that weren't necessarily helpful. No amount of external ”fixes” was going to give me peace of mind. It needed to come from inside.

During my first training, the teacher read this famous quote: ”The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result”. This really struck a chord in me. It’s seems crazy but we all do it at some level, consciously or unconsciously. The thing is that it is easier to see it in our asana practice than in our attitude towards ourselves and others.

Through the effort and discipline that Asana practice and meditation require, we are constantly faced with ourselves; our physical and mental strengths and weaknesses. How do we deal with frustration or praise? Do we like the struggle or prefer to give up ? Do we know when to push harder and when to rest? Can we keep a steady, observant mind when faced with our favorite pose or the one we just hate? Once we think we have mastered a posture, do we stay curious or become stagnant? Are we constantly comparing what we do with the people around us or can we just focus on the task at hand? Can we actually use the practice to learn from our behaviour?

Through media we might be led to believe that yoga practice is just about looking calm, striking a cool pose and being happy all the time. Having fun is also part of this, naturally, but if that's all we see, we might be missing out on the best part. As we go deeper, we learn that facing things we don’t like about ourselves is a powerful tool which holds potential for acceptance and transformation. Working with these things helps us feel more comfortable in our own skin. This leads to a deeper sense of calm.

Nowadays I see my yoga practice more as a constant exploration. I’m blessed to be able to share the practice and I thank every person, student and teacher I have met in this journey. It is through this interaction that I learn more about myself, hopefully become a better person and get better at sharing the gift of yoga practice.

As in life, what we learn depends more on our capability to be receptive and learn from every situation, mistakes and successes, than to “get to” an idealized state of “perfection” or “enlightenment” . Recognizing when to take a stand, when to be flexible and when to change may be challenging but it helps us deal with life in a more compassionate way. It’s a never ending process of learning and that is the beauty of a yoga practice.

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