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beginning yoga

beginning yoga, bikram yoga, five tibetans, home yoga, lu jong, yantra yoga

Do We Ever Really Make A Choice?

September 26, 2015

A series of synchronistic events led me to make a choice to do Bikram Yoga...

Before I get into how I prepared the physical environment (see my previous post Preparing for Bikram Yoga at Home), I wanted to share a bit about the decision process. When did I decide I wanted to do Bikram Yoga at home, when a week earlier I hardly knew anything about it? What convinced me? This led me to ponder how we make choices, and do we really ever really make a choice?

Bikram’s book had clear instruction. That was important especially with practicing yoga at home. I felt inspired that I could see a way forward for me, and I also now know from my own experience that my body has a powerful capacity to heal (so does yours even though it may not always feel that way).

Even so, it might appear as though I just got up one morning and impulsively decided to do Bikram Yoga. True, the actual decision was fast, once I’d arrived at the choice point, but that point came as a result of an unfolding process. For some years now I have been living synchronistically, paying very close attention to 'coincidences' and life’s flow: where am I being guided and led? And where is life blocking, saying ‘no, not that way’.

Following the Trail

Some years ago I read The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield, and was coming more and more into the awareness that we are indeed living in a conscious, alive, and aware holographic universe of which we are part. The Universe is constantly informing us, and we it. It is a two way communication. Various experiences had led me to this place (many of which I’ll share over time) but for the purpose of this post I just want to draw attention to the fact that nothing happens in isolation.

Like a flower opening, there is a constantly unfolding process, which we can become aware of if we pay attention to it. As a result of observing this process I can see the many synchronistic events that gradually led up to my ‘decision’ to do Bikram yoga.

It seems funny now, but on reflection (when I first started yoga) I didn’t really believe that I could make progress! I never thought in terms of my body and how it could (and would) change. Even though I’d read about how Vanda Scaravelli only began Yoga when she was 55 and at age 40 (the age I started) I had an idea that maybe I could be like her. Maybe I could be fitter and healthier when I’m 70 than when I was 36? I loved this idea, but that’s all it was. An idea.

Limiting Beliefs

Actually practicing yoga, and experiencing myself practicing yoga, was a different story. I soon came up against the stark reality of just how inflexible and limited my body was. The reason I mention that here, is because I didn’t at that time question the permanence of ‘my inflexible body’. Yoga to me, at that point, drew my attention to just how much I couldn’t do. It is only now, with hindsight and experience, that I can see just how easily we accept our own limitations without question.

Approaching yoga from that limited standpoint was tough. It became a chore, a range of movements that I went through in the name of 'keeping fit and healthy'. I believed that ‘arthritis’ was here to stay and didn’t expect any ‘progress’, nor did I see much (no surprise there then)! Even though I'd had minor surgery to remove a small piece of loose cartilage from a knee joint, this reinforced my limited belief that ‘my knee won’t bend’. When in fact, it was the very thing that had restored the potential for a full range of motion.

I’d had a ‘locking’ knee since a fracture when I was 14 years of age, so I had lived with (and reinforced) the idea that ‘my knee won’t bend’ for a very long time. At one point it was true that my knee really couldn’t bend, but now things were different. At first it still couldn’t bend simple because it was stiff after 26 years of limited motion, and the supporting ligaments had contracted and withered, but all of that could be worked on. Now the only limitation remaining, was my mind.

In the fifteen years between then and now, the thing that has changed the most has been my mind. A multitude of synchronistic events has led me from one trail to another, each of which has challenged another limiting belief and led me to a different experience of myself. (I might add here that I don't see this as hopping from one thing to the next but rather a progression to the next important step, like when we complete first grade we move to second grade).

"No, not that way"

I began with hatha yoga, which I practiced for 7 years. Then when I tried to sign up for Sivananda Yoga training in India I met with block event, after block event. I was jumping through hoops trying to get on that course and it wasn’t happening! I experienced lost application forms, difficulties trying to connect with someone, unanswered calls, I even got to India and at the visa office was told NOT to do any yoga training (since my visa wouldn’t allow it)! It wasn’t exactly what you’d call a ‘flow event’.

When I returned from India I was staying with a friend who told me he’d just done the teacher training for the Five Tibetan Yogas (Sometimes called the Five Tibetan Movements, Five Tibetan Rites or simply the Five Tibetans). That first morning, as he was leaving for work, he handed me the whole coursebook and said ‘take a look if you like’. While he was out his phone rang and I answered it. It was from a friend of his who’d also just completed the teacher training too. She was home most days so we agreed to do an exchange, I’d give her some life coaching and she’d teach me the Five Tibetans (there are more synchronicities - too many to go into here - that also connected with Tibet and the Tibetan system).

Choose The Path In Front of  You

So I stopped practicing hatha yoga and for a while focused only on the Five Tibetans. Now I know some people feel the five tibetans isn’t ‘real yoga’, but it was the first time I experienced a sense of progress. I’d found something I could do that was appropriate for my level, and I actually felt I was getting somewhere rather than just struggling to go through the motions.

Doing the Five Tibetans daily over time significantly improved my fitness levels. Around 2011 I came across the Lu Jong method taught by Tulku Lama Lobsang and learned that too.  It is somewhat gentler than the Five Tibetans and my daily practice became a 'warm up' with Lu Jong and then the Five Tibetans. On days when I didn’t have enough time, or couldn’t do them both for some reason, I would at least do the Lu Jong just to keep the energy channels open.

By doing something daily for several years, I lost any thought of 'arthritis'. I might be a bit stiff in the mornings (who isn't!), but I always felt great after doing some 'yoga' practice, whether it be Lu Jong or the Five Tibetans.

I became fascinated with the whole subject of the Tibetan yogas, especially after seeing the movie “The Yogis of Tibet”. I learned that what they are practising is Yantra Yoga. Yantra is the original Tibetan yoga of which the Five Tibetans and Lu Jong are adaptations. In September 2013 I signed up for a weekend of “Yantra Yoga for Beginners”, with John Renshaw in London, and it was the toughest thing I’ve ever done!

I bought the book "Yantra Yoga: The Tibetan Yoga of Movement" by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu and came home fully enthused, but my enthusiasm gradually waned and became disappointment (in myself) and disillusionment. I bought videos, and tried learning the postures, but didn’t feel as though I had enough structure to translate what I’d learned from the weekend, into a daily practice for myself. It’s like I had all the ingredients but needed the recipe - a bridge. Also I don’t live anywhere near a Yantra class and there are very few around.

Having a systematic method is a very important piece for those of us practicing any kind of yoga at home. How do we get correct instruction and how can we then translate that into something workable, a recipe, a method? For a while I followed the method for Tibetan yoga given by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche in his book “Awakening The Sacred Body”. I also took an online course, with a series of instruction videos, but felt as though once again I was going through movements but not seeing any progress.

Perfect Timing

So I was really on a kind of plateau wondering what would be next, when my friend recommended reading Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class (see my earlier blog). As soon as I saw the clear pictures and instruction, I knew I had a recipe. And by now (compared to 8 years ago when I was trying to get on the Sivananda course)  I was different. I was fitter (thank you Five Tibetans), my mental attitude had changed, and I now had experience of, and total belief in, my body’s own ability to heal and change. Her suggestion dropped in with perfect timing, just when I needed it, like a ripe seed falling on fertile ground!

So was it really ‘my’ choice at all, or just the next step in an ever-unfolding process of evolution? Is Bikram Yoga now ‘the end’? I doubt it. I am still very much interested in Yantra Yoga, I just needed a bridge that could get me from my present level of fitness and (in)flexibility to the more advanced levels of fitness and flexibility required for Yantra. Maybe life stepped in and drew my attention to Bikram Yoga as a perfect bridge (and a good recipe). Who knows? For now, this is where I’m at… and that is constantly changing.

On a deeper level we might wonder if we ever, really, really, make a choice. If we are able to take a step back and watch the process of our lives unfolding, we might see a series of synchronicities as life just unfolds itself through us… and if we catch the patterns, we might even be able to predict what our next ‘choice’ will be!


Below is an excellent video with the voice of Alan Watts, on choice...