Combining yoga and coaching

I never have a plan of which deity I’m going to be focused on as I think six weeks ahead of my teaching schedule. Or indeed our next yoga and coaching workshop. I look around me, out into the nature I’m so lucky to live near. I’ll watch my students and listen to my friends. All the time, I’m on the lookout for little clues and always they’re there, in the shadows and the echoes. It’s happened so many times now, I don’t question it but every time it’s like a little bit of magic.

Back to December

At the beginning of the year I looked ahead six weeks, to half term, or mid-February if you’re not in the school system. The thing is, I was still in the echo of December and the five acts of Shiva. I had the feeling I hadn’t done him justice and wanted to spend more time in his company. The reason I thought this is that I had a mantra in my mind which wouldn’t quit:

ॐ नमः शिवाय गुरवे
सच्चिदानन्द मूर्तये ।
निष्प्रपञ्चाय शान्ताय
निरालम्बाय तेजसे

Om Namah Shivaaya Gurave
Sac-Cid-Aananda Muurtaye |
Niss-Prapan.caaya Shaantaaya
Nir-Aalambaaya Tejase

This is a verse from the Upanishads, there is a second. Perhaps that will call in spring. You may also recognise it as the Anusara invocation. It therefore, holds some bittersweet memories for me. As a student of Anusara when I first started my yoga practice and early teacher trainings I loved the method. It gave me access to poses I had never had before and insight into philosophy I hold so dear.

This was the song we sand at the beginning of class, three times. I always felt it was two too many!

Aside from that, the school no longer exists in its original form. Nor can I honestly say that I teach 100% the method either. That’s evolution and I think it’s healthy. Shiva’s all about movement and the different phases we find ourselves in simultaneously. We shed, we learn and we grow.

That doesn’t mean it’s not bittersweet. I still remember those times as being full of connection, inspiration, and joy. When we combine yoga and coaching, we allow ourselves to stand back just a little.

Shiva hangs around

This is the back story, my point is that Shiva was still tugging on my sleeve back in December in the form of this mantra. You can see his name right in the first line:

Om Namah Shivaaya Gurave

My translation of that would be: I honour Shiva, the guru.

That’s why this six weeks to half-term I’m focused on investigating a few of the words in the mantra which seem particularly relevant at this time.

The Guru

First, Gurave, which has its root in Guru. A word we are perhaps over-familiar with. There are two meanings, however, that I like.

One is, moving from darkness into light. At the beginning of January, this is what I knew would be happening on the outside. Whilst at the time, it was still feeling very dark, wet and cold most of the time. I could also see that we are now moving into the lighter side of the year. And every year when this happens I feel a collective sigh of relief. That life is just a little less effort, things come just a little more easily.

The second meaning is Guru as the weighty one. I don’t think this is a commentary on someone’s BMI. I believe weighty refers to authority and stability. When I think of Shiva, this is what I think of. The one who sits in a cave and mediates for millennia. I’m not aspiring to sit in a cave for that amount of time. Half an hour would be nice. But the feeling of spaciousness is something I do crave.

When we bring this into our bodies. We can trust in the connection to the floor, bring precision and clarity. As an anchor, a weight and authority for the pose to build from. From there we can feel where the tight spaces are and look to bring more space and capacity into them. Illuminating the pose in the most vibrant way. We can use yoga and coaching to enhance this brilliance.

Seeing patterns in the chaos

My next word was: Sac-Cid-Aananda

One word or three, three into one. The Trayambakam, another name for Shiva.

A common translation: truth, consciousness and bliss.

Truth seems illusive in our modern world. What is truth what is not and how do we know the difference?

Stand without correcting yourself.

Notice how your feet habitually land on the floor. That’s true, nobody can tell you to ignore the evidence of your eyes and tell you anything different.

I learnt something when I was teaching early in January and that’s I very often give this cue: stand with your feet parallel.

Until a student said: I can feel that pulling on my knee.

I pulled myself up and realised that whilst this cue is generally effective, we aren’t giving ourselves time to notice the truth of how our bodies habitually land. And I feel that space is important. As Tantric philosophy says, the body is not something to escape from. It is something to be enjoyed and honoured.

When I stood in my habitual pattern I noticed my body was still holding the injury to my ankle from November. My left foot slightly forward to take the weight out of the joint.

Huh. That’s the truth.

When I moved and stretched my body and came back to that standing position, I found I was again standing feet parallel.

That’s consciousness.

That is seeing the truth, shining a light on it, and becoming aware of the back story and the patterning our brilliant body has used to protect us.

And when I had released the tight spots, metaphorically giving myself some space to breathe and a hug, how did I feel? Combining yoga and coaching allows us that space.

A hint of a smile.

That’s bliss. A little bit admittedly but enough to recognise what it was. 

Emotional turmoil

My third word was Shaantaaya – peace.

And this was my first clue that Shiva was sticking around. Because Christmas, in the end, always makes me think of peace. When the effort has been made and everyone rests. I admit that’s a rose-tinted view, but I stand by it.

I could have spent time in exploration of peace but what occurred to me are the nine rasas, or emotions. Clearly, thought up by those of a masculine persuasion. Personally, my emotions number far more than nine. More like a colour wheel of infinite possibilities. But I digress.

The thing about emotions is that we tend to label them as good or bad. Something to cultivate or push away. I don’t find this particularly helpful. Emotions, much like sensation in the body, is a message. What is the message?

When you feel something in the body, very rarely is it isolated to the physical sensation. There is a lot more, to the experience. It traverses across the physical, mental, emotional and physical planes.

If you take the time to delve into this experience during your yoga practice you’ll learn at lot. You’ll learn to unravel the knots and use the unravelled piece of string to map your next move.

Your inner light

Finally, Tejase. Light. Circling all the way back to the beginning, from darkness into light.

Tajase refers to a very specific light, however. One many spiritual beliefs will recognise, I haven’t done the research so I can’t say for sure *all*.

The light within us.

Because yoga isn’t about trying to achieve something outside of ourselves. Yoga is the process of uncovering what is and has always been there.

It’s about understanding that our Tajase is unique to us. And that uniqueness is our gift to the world. Like a jigsaw piece that only goes in one place.

We move from the inside out. Yoga and coaching is that tool.

We end where we began

As we move from darkness into light, from winter into spring. We can perhaps do that spring cleaning, the dusting off to see more clearly.

This will be the theme for our next yoga with coaching workshop with Jane Irwin. I hope to see you there.