Millions of people are practising this thing called Hatha Yoga, whereby a mat, postures, and breathing are a popular gateway to this sense of feeling the body here and now. Without a magic formula needed, the focus on the body and breath works to soften the edges of the most erratic minds, creating, perhaps, an unprecedented space in which the ‘Now’ is experienced.
The glimpse of this ever-present stillness stands out like a beacon amongst the overwhelming act of ‘doing’, and for some, becomes the motivating reason to embark on a path to feeling a little more whole, fulfilled, and ‘complete’. Yet ‘complete’ entails all, including the heady heights of joy and the plummeting depths of sadness, whereby circles are walked, and loved ones say “This yoga stuff is making you worse.”
What was left when my mind became still was not quietude but discomfort – and the discomfort certainly didn’t feel like oneness.
It was reading above sentence from Michael Stone’s Awake in the World that motivated me to conduct interviews with some dear friends in the yoga community about why we walk this path. Whilst there’s an element of doing this as a sanity check that I’m not the only one going crazy (half-joke), the motivating factor is to share the experiences of how the immersion into yoga is not about wearing more happy faces, but the ability to be an authentic face more often.
This week, Tara Copp-Barton, certified Jivamukti teacher and founder of Yoga Tara, shares her yoga journey so far. It was with Tara that I began my exploration into Yoga some 10 years ago, with her classes very much inspiring my own approach to practice and teaching.
1. How would you describe the first year of yoga practice and how has your attitude to practice evolved?
The first year of my yoga practice was mainly physical. Honestly I really didn’t like yoga – I found it such hard work and quite painful as I am intrinsically a lazy person. But I kept returning, week after week. I liked the way it made me feel mentally and I noticed a difference if I didn’t practice for a week. It was like Prozac for me.
My attitude hasn’t evolved hugely as I still practice to gain the same rewards: mental peace and clarity. I guess I’m more independent. In the old days I had to go to classes, but nowadays I like practise alone really.
2. Richard Freeman says that yoga ruins your life as we become more sensitive. Has yoga made you more sensitive and if so, how does this impact your life?
Yoga hasn’t made me more sensitive as I always was. It’s made me more intuitive and have more confidence in my beliefs. In some ways it’s difficult to say as I was a pretty messed-up 25 year old when I started practising and I’m now a not-so-messed-up 43 year old!
Yoga doesn’t take the pain away though. I think we are all looking for something to ease the troubles of life. Yoga doesn’t numb pain – it gives us tools to deal with it. If you haven’t experienced loss or pain in your life you haven’t been living!
3. Is there a correlation between your experience on and off the mat? If so, can you describe the relationship?
Stuff that I have learnt on the mat that has influenced me off the mat is mainly the breath and knowing when to pause and take stock. I (generally) am slower to react in situations where in the past I would have spiralled very quickly. I’m more able to put more space around my problems and thoughts in order to identify the real issues at hand. Also, my experience on the mat has enabled me to sit with discomfort more easily. This is really hard for me as I am a comfort junkie. I’m still a work in progress though.
4. Why do you practise?
It sounds cliched but my practice is time for me, special time. Some days it may be more meditation then asana as I seem to go deeper with meditation. For me asana is more about expressing myself and creativity and remembering that the mind and body are one. Both, however, change my state of consciousness to a calmer, more peaceful place.
5. Why do you teach?
I never chose to teach – the universe decided it. I think I have information to impart and I think people can relate to me as they know I am a relatively normal human being trying to navigate my way through the craziness!