I spend my whole day rushing around doing things.  I spend all week doing things so that the weekend can come so that I can spend it rushing around doing the things I think I actually want to do.  Or, as was the case this weekend, not doing anything in particular, leaving my diary open in order to just relax and have some space and time for myself.  And what do I do with that time?  I move, from here to there, from there to here.  I sit, I walk, I stand.  All day I move.  I complain of being busy, complain of having too much to do and not enough time to do it in and then I complain of having nothing to do and too much time on my hands.

Yet, when a moment appears in which there is nothing to do, nothing to distract me from being where I am, I immediately look for something else to do.  And I’ve trained myself so well in doing, that it is easy to find another thing to do, call a friend for a chat, make tea, drink tea, eat, read, sleep, browse the internet, watch endless youtube videos, the list is endless and can go on for hours, days if necessary.

These distractions make up my daily life outside of work.  And even at work, if I look carefully at my productivity, when there is a moment where I don’t know what my next task should be, I just move on to something, anything to move away from this empty moment of not knowing and of not doing.

In that fraction of a second I reach for something, and almost anything will do.  Pema Chodron talks about airplane journeys and what would happen in that hour and a half if the entertainment system broke down and we had to actually sit with ourselves for that time.  We’ve forgotten our books, the TV doesn’t work and there’s no food on the plane.  We’d probably all just fall asleep in order to not have to sit with the boredom of that hour and a half.

When I have nothing to get up for in the morning, nothing to do, it is easier to sleep longer.  This morning I woke up with a feeling of dread.  That feeling of having nothing to do, and feeling like I was forgetting to do something.  But it is the feeling of being bored that makes us constantly turn to forms of entertainment.  And there is nothing wrong with entertainment itself or with being entertained.

But when we rush from one thing, into the next, not even aware that we are running from ourselves then are we really living our lives fully?  Are we aware of ourselves?

I used to think that the point of watching myself and my restless behaviour was to see how unproductive I was being and therefore I would be able to remove the distractions and the things which were not necessary, like the endless video watching on youtube.  But now I don’t think the point is to remove distractions, that will take care of itself in the long run.  So for now I’m just watching myself.  Being aware of what arises and seeing my response to it.

Isn’t that the point of yoga?  To show us where we get caught?  To make us aware of the stories we tell ourselves and our reasons for doing and giving up?  It’s like vipassana meditation but with movement and stretching.

As I close the internet panic grips me, what shall I do now?  I’ve nothing to do until I go to my yoga class tonight.  There’s two hours to go before the class starts how will I fill the time?  So I open a word document and begin to write…  Writing’s something I enjoy, it’s something productive, something worth doing.  But as this piece comes to an end worry arises in me, because what will I do next?  It’s not taken me two hours to write this…

The dense, intense heat of Kerala feels like it is getting thicker with each salutation we make to the sun.  The lake stretches out in front of us to the hills on the other side.  Tall trees overhang our dried earth floor on which we have spread our mats a hundred metres along the lake shore, protecting us in their shadows from the glare of the late afternoon sun.

Two hundred people move in perfect symmetry on multi-coloured mats, our teacher conducting our breathe, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.  Our bodies flow to the rhythm of our collective breath as we stretch up once more to the sky, the big blue open sky which stretches out above us, and we lower our hands to our sides as we exhale.

We relax down onto our mats as one, abdomen rising, abdomen falling as we inhale and exhale.  Lying side by side on our mats, arms away from our bodies, hands almost touching our neighbours as we lie in corpse pose feeling our hearts beating against our ribs, our breathing steady, our bodies relaxed.

Eyes closed in this most idyllic setting, but it’s beauty is not lost, the gentle lapping of the water on the sand, the sound of mosquitoes in our ears, the rustle of the leaves in the trees high above all sing around us as we relax on our mats.

Our teacher moves his ensemble into headstand and we balance, legs in the air, shoulders relaxed but strong, focused on a single point on our mats.  For me, a single piece of earth which has blown onto my purple mat becomes my focal point as I breathe into my abdomen and in the blurred background I can see ants filing along in line, marching across the edge of my mat.

As we come down into childs pose and then into savasana again I catch a glimpse of the blue water stretching across to the hills in the distance, the quiet cool of a slight breeze makes no ripple on it’s surface.

Hundreds of people just like me from around the world lie on multi-coloured mats, side by side, each with a different motivation for coming here, each with different lives but all with the same dream, of becoming a yoga teacher.  We are living together, eating together and moving together through the daily practice which everyday becomes more familiar and everyday teaches me something more.

Maniji, our teacher walks through the students, conducting our breathe with his smooth calming voice, keeping us in tempo through the flow of postures, forward bends and backward bends, everything in balance, sitting followed by standing, balancing postures and inverted ones.

And the sequence is over.  Two hours have passed and it feels like just a moment ago the orchestra were warming up.  But the sun has moved below the hill behind us, the sun is setting, and the day is ending.

We are lying gently down on our backs once more for final relaxation.  The hard floor beneath me, my body supported and relaxed.  Tension dissolves into the ground, washed away by an invisible force into the lake.  My body breathes.

A month has gone by.  A month of 18 hour days full of intense learning and change.  In a few days we take our exam and we will each take the next step on our journey towards our dreams.  We will be able to share this with others.

As we sit after final relaxation, cross-legged at the top of our mats, I open my eyes and gaze out at the lake.  It’s totally flat.  The gentle breeze which rustles the palm leaves high above is causing just a gentle ripple on it’s surface.  It is relaxed, flowing and breathing deeply, perfectly in tune with all that is happening around it.


Donna Farhi, in the introduction to her wonderful book “Yoga mind, body and spirit” says: “Like the botanist who finally breeds the perfect rose only to discover that in the process he has lost the fragrance of the bloom, when we strip yoga to its mechanics, we also lose something essential.” (more…)