Yoga Saves The Day
By Mari Kennedy
“As our body, heart, mind and spirit open, each new layer we encounter reveals both great freedom and compassion and deeper and more subtle layers of underlying delusion.” Jack Kornfield
On a cold and dark Tuesday night, I am tired after work. I head towards Oscailt Mews where, every Tuesday for the past five years, I teach the 6.15pm yoga class. As I get the open empty space ready, I begin to feel better. My body relaxes and my mind softens in anticipation of the class. Familiar faces emerge through the door, some like me: tired and weary, others enthusiastic and eager. As we gather and greet each other, I am filled with warmth and tenderness. For the next hour and a half, we will practise and play together. By 7.45pm, tiredness will have given way to aliveness – the room will feel very different.
Yoga is a transformational practice. Every time we practise, we transform inside and out. As we roll out our mats, we are consciously making space for ourselves in our busy lives. One of my teachers, John Friend, the founder of Anusara yoga, calls it “serious play.” Stepping onto the 6ft by 1ft mat is a serious act of commitment to ourselves as we find freedom in ourselves and reconnect deeply with our hearts.
Most of us live in bodies that are conically tight and minds that are relentlessly busy. When we start yoga with stiff bodies and distracted minds, it takes effort to align our bodies in postures and open our minds in meditation. There can be deep resistance – all we can think about is getting out of one pose into the next. Frustration comes and our inner terrorist starts to rant. An impulse to throw one of those cork blocks at the teacher arises. If we lovingly persist with an attitude of curiosity and kindness towards ourselves, we learn that experiencing the pose opens us up. When we welcome intensity of sensation and meet the emotions, the body and mind expands and we taste the deliciousness of freedom. As we get stronger and more spacious on the inside, the stiffness melts away. With each practice the effort decreases and something pulls us back to our mats for more.
Speaking about yoga the great Italian yogi Vanda Scaravelli said, “Practice transforms us. We become more beautiful, our faces change and our walk gains in elasticity. Our chests expand, the muscles of the abdomen start to work, the head is lighter on the neck. To watch these enhancing changes is amazing. A different life begins and the body expresses a happiness never felt before.”
I have witnessed these enhancing changes; this happiness in my students but also in myself. And that overflow of natural joy is not just physical but happens on all levels.
Yoga builds strong vibrant bodies that pulsate with Shakti or the life force. Practised in the tantric tradition, as we do in Anusara yoga, it is a remembrance of our divine nature in these bodies. We experience a union between body and mind, and the ego and spirit. It teaches us to be present; to listen; to embrace everything and deny nothing. No repression, no escape, no avoiding, no renunciation. Hurray!
Ireland has some beautiful spaces to practise in – Oscailt Mews, The Yoga Room and The Elbow Room in Dublin, and Ennis Yoga Centre, Yoga Shala Galway and Yoga Boann in Drogheda.
Life in 2011 has been exciting and challenging. Everything feels unstable and there are lots of unknowns. Yoga is a sophisticated technology from a 4,000-year-old tradition that offers us a practice to radically engage with being human: to open and to fear, find our steadiness inside and celebrate being alive.
Mari is a yoga teacher and transformational coach.