I find myself in the picturesque little town of Greyton in the Western Cape. Its situated at the foot of the Overberg mountains and we, over the course of three days, have been blessed with both sunshine – allowing us to bask in its powerful, yet soothing rays- and rain, breaking the heat and allowing relief to yogis and nature alike. We “get it” more here – we are all connected.
The Yoga Sanga festival (sanga meaning “gathering”) is just that – a glorious and joyous gathering of about 200 yogis – a term used loosely for people who love yoga: yoga asana, yoga philosophy, yoga clothes, yoga ‘lingo’, yoga attitude – or lack thereof. That is always the first thing that strikes me at a gathering of yogis – the openness and acceptance of whatever or wherever you’re at. Here it is cool not to judge, or be opinionated, or care too much what anyone else does. It’s liberating to be free, even if only for a few days – from the prison we create from other people’s opinions.
I have been fortunate enough to find myself in such gatherings on numerous occasions in various countries around the world. The similarities in topics of conversation in all of these communities are uncanny: “I just love the energy here”; “your aura is so pure”; “I have an energy block in one of my chakras that I’m working on right now” – all of these met with affirmative and empathic nods.
Here too I came across ‘the animal’ conversations: “The mosquitoes are annoying, but in the spirit of ahimsa (non-violence) I wouldn’t dare to swat them” (followed by a nervous and slightly irritated giggle); “I have my toes and fingers crossed that my cat will be okay when I take her on holiday. I give her homeopathic drops to try to ease her stress” (of going on holiday? Yeah, man, its a dog’s life isn’t it!?).
The food conversations are endless: “Are the wraps gluten and/or dairy free?” Asked at the one and only food stall, serving the entire festival with two people manning the stand. Needless to say the question was met with: “No but its made of eureka wheat (Who knows what that is? I probably didnt even spell it right!) so you’ll be fine” (Obviously); “I’m vegetarian – kind of… I only eat animals with 2 feet or less” (i.e chicken and fish).
Not everyone seems to adopt the yogi principles voluntarily: “I’m not allowed coffee or beer and I can’t eat meat….my life is pretty miserable right now” – begrudgingly whispered by the husband whose wife thinks he’s about to willingly convert to the yoga life; and even devout yogis miss a beat sometimes: “I can’t believe I left my gratitude journal at home” (shock and horror on faces all round). The true Cape Tonian yogi exclaims to sympathetic listeners: “I ran out of dishwashing liquid and was mortified as I can only get my brand at Wellness Warehouse!” (Even if supermarkets were open on Sunday the 15th of December – Wellness Warehouse is three hours drive away and it wouldn’t be environmentally friendly to drive that distance for dishwashing liquid.) Thoughtful bunch us yogis are!
Me commenting on these yogi-isms is really tongue in cheek and it is said with the kindest of hearts because while they are amusing in their own right, from what I have observed, they are said with the purest of hearts and intentions and that in itself is so refreshing. It really is true, that in this beautiful enviornment – and with that I am not referring only to the breathtaking scenery- you do feel free, relaxed, released, and content. With the constant awareness around your breath and constant stretching and opening in your physical body there is little room for tension or stress. It is almost frigthening when one realises how much time we spend stressed and in a state of tension – in complete ignorance.
In this environment you are constantly reminded of the amazing and beautiful being that is your true nature. In fact it is enough to bring me to tears when I think how we beat ourselves and others up- day in and day out – survival of the fittest, right? There is an immediate sense of ‘ease’ of ‘coming home’ when we can rest in the knowledge and awareness that our true nature is that of pure love, and eternal peace…and that is about it. When we embody that which we truly are – our world becomes beautiful, restful, calm and easy. The tension, pain, and discomfort takes over because we are constantly engaged in an inner struggle – fighting our true nature.
So the yoga sanga has revived my sense of connectedness with the Divine. It has breathed a sense of calm back into me, knowing that I can go with the flow of life at ease with the fact that whatever is, is perfect. Yoga is so much more than what you do on the mat. Yes, the physical postures on the mat provides a symbolic platform for the challenges or even the ‘battleground’ that life can present as for us, most of the time. It also provides immense insight into how we deal with ourselves and others in this battleground. Most importantly though it prepares you to approach the battleground in a different way: to know that both pleasure and pain will come AND go (whether you seek it or try to avoid it) and, we have a choice in what we hold on to (and how long for) and what we let go of. Most things are more bearable, manageable and tolerable when you meet it with a deep breath, and when that brings you right into the moment – you really are free from your anxieties of tomorrow and chains from yesterday.
Life is better, NOW.
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