Earlier in the year, I was lucky enough to have been a guest at the Billabong Retreat, a yoga, meditation and wellness retreat nestled in the bush less than an hour from Sydney. (You can read my review of Billabong Retreat here).
Not being a particularly experienced yogi myself, one of the things I found most enjoyable was benefiting from the experience and wisdom of the resident yoga and meditation teachers. And massively broadening my knowledge on what yoga really is.
Spoiler alert – it’s not about making perfect shapes in a perfect location for your Instagram feed 😉
So what did I learn about yoga at Billabong Retreat?
- Yoga is not actually about achieving poses on your mat. In fact, yoga is all about the relationships in your life, including the most important of all, that with yourself. It’s is a way of ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’.
- Yoga is a wisdom that acknowledges and understands human suffering and provides techniques to overcome it – mindfulness, meditation, movement.
- The ‘asanas’ (the movements and poses that we have come to term ‘yoga’) were actually designed as preparations for meditation – as we focus on the movement of the body, our mind finds a calmness and internal attention. Out of approximately 4,000 words in the yoga sutras (the 196 phrases defining yoga), ‘asana’ is only mentioned twice.
- Yoga may seem like a newish ‘fitness craze’, but it is in fact an ancient guide to bringing joy and contentment. The modern western world is just catching up with what the east has known for centuries. Yoga is 3-5,000 years old. Originally the 196 yoga sutras were passed on through chanting, before they were written down. (By comparison, ‘ashtanga yoga’, a practice you may be familiar with yourself, is only 50 years old.)
- Yoga was originally taught one-on-one from teacher to student. The teacher would have designed a personalised practice for you that would transform your mind and your life. Yoga is supposed to be individualised, so don’t be afraid of booking a private yoga class for a bespoke practice, or at the very least, to tailor any asanas to your own needs within a group class. There’s no shame in taking child’s pose while others down dog if that’s what your body or your soul needs.
I don’t know about you, but knowing this makes me feel so much better about not being able to conquer wheel pose or be the perfect still ‘tree’. It also encourages me to step on to my mat more often, wobbly or not. And that’s got to be a good thing.
Thank you, Billabong Retreat, for broadening my yoga horizons.
lululemon, This is Yoga
Check out this video for lululemon’s take on yoga and what it means to them – the practice of breath, meditation, letting go, non-violence, self-discipline, self-discovery, trust, devotion, joy, compassion, humility, generosity, patience, concentration, purity and acceptance. It may help change the way you think about yoga too.