In November 2018, I found myself standing nervously outside my boss's office at Trinity College Dublin. I mustered the courage to say, "Joanne (made up name), I'd like a month off to go to India and train as a Yoga teacher!" She looked at me like I had lost my mind, but I left her no choice. It was either a break or I was ready to bid farewell to my job. I was happy in my job, but it was just a job, I felt that I wanted and needed more from life. It was time for a shift, I knew I had to embark on this journey.
My relationship with yoga had started a decade earlier, but I never felt like I truly grasped its purpose. Yes, there was that blissful feeling at the end of each class, but what was it really about? Drop-in classes and Google could only teach me so much.
When I arrived in India for my training, I found myself surrounded by a sea of tall, fit, and flexible 20-year-olds who seemed to have it all figured out. Needless to say, I felt out of place, like an outsider. There I was, with my flabby bits and inflexible hips, trying to become a YOGA TEACHER!
However, the less time I spent with my colleagues, the more time I spent walking around the village, chatting with shopkeepers and restaurateurs, getting to know bits of their lives. That quickly became my favourite part of the experience. Not many of the locals practiced yoga (at least not the physical aspect) but they were kind, content, and joyful. They seemed to possess a quality of harmony and calm.
My light bulb moment happened during a very hot and drowsy mid-afternoon philosophy class when our teacher Sudhir Rishi said: "Joy is my true nature, and smile is my birthright". As babies, he explained, we look in the mirror and see only joy. But as life unfolds, with its trials and tribulations, that mirror becomes clouded by the fog of experiences. The rules of our parents, the words of our teachers, our friends, and all our life
experiences cloud this mirror. By the time we reach adulthood, joy is often obscured, and all we see are problems and pain (the fog).
So, the essence of who we are (the soul, the self, or whatever term you prefer) is pure joy! What Yoga can do is wipe away a bit of that fog every day, allowing us to see ourselves as we truly are—pure joy. This is very different from merely trying to get fit, flexible, or quiet the mind as it is often advertised. Beyond the flashy splits, impressive handstands, and picturesque mountaintop meditations on Instagram, lies a practice that is deeply profound, philosophical, and spiritual. It is a practice that guides us back to our authentic selves, to that spark of joy that often gets buried under the weight of responsibilities and expectations.
Yoga is more than just a physical practice ; it is a journey of self-discovery. It reveals the truth that lies within us all—that we are beings of boundless joy. As we step onto our mats each day, we embark on a quest to peel away the layers of conditioning and rediscover our birthright—the inherent happiness that resides within us.
Yoga is not confined to the perfect poses or awe-inspiring images we see online. It is not just a way to get your body flexible or upside down. It is a transformative practice that invites us to remove the fog and witness our own radiance. It is an opportunity to connect with the profound wisdom and joy that resides in every human heart.
Today, take a moment to step onto your mat, breathe deeply, and explore the depths of your being. Allow yoga to be your guide as you uncover the beauty and authenticity that lies within.
Embrace this practice as your own personal journey of rediscovery—a path that leads back home to yourself!