Yoga and the Beast

To ego or not to ego?  That is the question, isn’t it?  Yoga teachers are not perfect and putting anyone up on a pedestal has a ton of drawbacks that eventually play out in some way or other.  I have put a few teachers on a pedestal at some point in my ten years of practicing.  Now that I am teaching, I am being made aware of just how easy it is to ride that ego-magic-carpet and think that you know “better” because you are “teaching” people.  Hot26 yoga has a ton of instructions that need to be clear, concise and in an ordered fashion – that is the style.  It demands discipline. I can only teach you from my body and my experience, you get to do all the hard work yourself.  There is nobody that can save you from your own self.  You have to put in the hard work.  This is why the dialogue is so specific.  The words do not make me a guru or anyone else a guru for that matter.  I think it’s important that you know this if you are practicing any yoga; it is not a religion and your teacher is not a god.  Don’t give away your power like that.

Standing Head to Knee
Standing Head to Knee Posture, Dandayamana Janushirasana. Newtown Johannesburg, South Africa, 2106. Photography by Sean Brand (c).
There are times when the ego can come in handy.  For example, as a television producer and director, my ego helps me get things done quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively.  I need to be able to confidently tell a large number of people what to do, how to do it and when to do.  Add in travelling to different African cities on the continent, working with many other egos and personalities in often very short time frames, I can tell you now: I would not be able to do my job well without my ego.  But do I need my ego at the yoga studio?  Hell no.  I’ll gladly leave that at the door, it is such a relief!  So, in short, I both embrace having an ego and not having an ego equally.  The context really does make all the difference.  It is wise to know this difference.

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Backbend. Newtown Johannesburg, South Africa, 2016.  Photography by Sean Brand (c).
There is still so much to learn along this journey.  The biggest lesson I’ve taken from becoming a Hot26 yoga teacher is that it isn’t easy, it doesn’t get easier – it gets different.  I still practice as often as I can and teach as much as I can.  Each class brings with it new rewards and insights.  Seeing people smile at the end of class after working incredibly hard inside class feels good in my heart. I live for the transformation and growth.  If I can grow and transform the way I have, so can you.  It’s a commitment to yourself that you get to keep and see results with.  See you all in class! xx Eliza 

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Standing Bow Pulling Posture, Dandayamana Danurasana. Delta park, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2016.  Photography by Sean Brand (c).

On Yoga and Reclaiming your Power

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Neil Joss and I inside Ponte Towers doing a pretty slick Tuladandasana, Balancing Stick posture.
What does it mean to really feel your power?  There are so many postures in yoga where the teacher says: engage your core, that’s where your power comes from.  For the longest time I didn’t quite understand what it meant in concrete terms.  Of course, in abstract terms, using your core is a lofty ideal, but which muscles are you physically using when you engage your core?  Your abs?  Your pelvic floor? Your psoas?  Your bandas?  It’s one thing to feel your power on an emotional and energetic level, and a whole other thing to feel it physically in your body.  I know the three are connected.  Feeling it in your physical body is the easiest way because you can see measurable results.  For example, in any balancing posture you need to engage your core to balance and hold the posture in stillness.  Feeling strong emotionally is the least easiest way because emotions are subjective.  For example, today I may feel strong and confident about myself, while the next day I may not.  Feeling strong energetically, well some people would call that charisma, magnetism, attraction or power.  Here, you need feedback from your environment and feedback from the people around you.  I have been playing with this form of power recently and I have questions.  What is this subjective power all about then?  Is it inherently something you already have that you need to re-discover or is it something you build from scratch, piece by piece?

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I am of the opinion that reclaiming your power is a process that takes time, moment by moment, experience by experience.  It is a combination of both being born with power and of cultivating power as you grow.  In my yoga practice, I have learnt to feel what my inner power feels like:  physically in my body, emotionally when sitting with difficult emotions and energetically when I leave class feeling absolutely rejuvenated.  It is an ongoing process.  It is a daily  journey. Then, the tricky part is taking that power with me into the world and interacting with the people around me.  Can you relate to giving your power away to people who you secretly think are ‘better’ than you or ‘know more’ than you or ‘have more’ than you?  That feeling of not being good enough; that feeling of striving to be more and give more?  The need for approval from others?  These are all ways that we unconsciously give our power away and leave ourselves feeling depleted and ‘less than’. When you subordinate to others and inject their values into your life, that’s a sure fire way of dis-empowering yourself.  Equally, if you over power others and inject your values onto them, it is also dis-empowering because unconsciously you know that the power you hold is an illusion.  You can read more about values here. Or click on this article for a more in depth look.

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I have found one of the most practical ways to empower yourself is to align your goals with your highest values, do the things that matter most to you and make you feel fulfilled.  Surround yourself with people who inspire and uplift you, people who think big and allow you to expand.  Your happiness is your responsibility.  Do what you love and love what you do.  Yes, it is easy to say and sometimes difficult to implement.  But trust me, it is possible.  I have a few workshops coming up in the next couple of weeks that address practical steps you can take to doing what you love and loving what you do.  I will keep you posted.

In the mean time, I will see you all in yoga class!

xx  Eliza

On Yoga and Fully Embracing your Adventures

The Kids of Berea
Inside Ponte City Apartments. Photography by Sean Brand Photography.
If there is one thing that I have learnt well, it is that life is too short to not fully embrace all your experiences.  Whatever shape or form these experiences come in, embrace them.  If you meet the Universe half way, the Universe will meet you half way too.  The same goes for your relationships: you give 100%, you get 100% back.  My yoga practice has taught me to give myself over to the moment and the love I have been receiving lately is absolutely incredible.

This week, I travelled to Malawi again for work.  This time we spent four days in Blantyre.  As poor as the country is, it is richer in spirit and heart than anything I have ever experienced.  The people are warm and present.  I interview a lot of top end banking executives and if you know the corporate banking sector, it can be a little stiff and formal.  Not so much in the rest of Africa.  When people greet you, or give you a hug to welcome you to their country, they mean it.  And that kind of connection is what I am talking about.

In between filming and interviewing, of course, I managed to get onto a rooftop for a quick little customary asana or two:

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Warrior, Trikonasana.

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Standing Bowpulling, Dandayamana Danurasana.
And then over the weekend, just to add a cherry to the top of an already awesome week, Steven over at Yogaworks held a Hip Hop Yoga event inside Ponte City Apartments with Safiyah, and they killed it!  We had to go underground because of the rain, and it was PERFECT!  My highlight was getting to take some beautiful photographs inside the tower.  It was pretty trippy.  The building has a lot of history which you can read about here.

My heart is feeling open, more open than it has in years.  It’s the kind of openness that shines right out of your eyeballs when you smile.  And that kind of human to human connection is what I have been moulding my life around.  It feels oh-so-goooooooooood.  What on Earth are we here for then, if it is not to fully embrace our humaness?  Live yours exceptionally well 😉

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These kids are everything!
If you are not following me on Instagram or Facebook, please do.  There are plenty new yoga photos in the pipeline as I continue to select the best ones for my yoga book in collaboration with Sean Brand Photography.  Please send me your feedback and your own yoga stories, I always love hearing from all of you!

See you all on your mats.

xx Eliza

 

On Yoga and Giving It All You’ve Got

Bow pulling
Dandayamana Danurasana. Standing Bow Puling Pose. Photography by Sean Brand.
I am sure you will agree with me, but getting sick is probably the worst part about being human; having a body that can feel a lot of pain and produce a lot of gross stuff when it is sick!  I travel quite a bit into the rest of Africa and I had a malaria scare this last week.  I took the week off work to prepare for my final teaching exam, but my body had other plans.  I was all like: yay, a whole week off to practice and focus 100% on doing my yoga, bliss!  But my body was like, um, n0, let’s get awfully sick instead! Lols. 😳

I hate being sick, it is my worst.  Thank the heavens, I do not have malaria (well so far, it is not showing up in the blood tests!)  It has taken me five days to recover – oh the horror! So, I have postponed my teaching exam to a later date in May.  It has been emotional, but it is what it is, all in good time.

Here is what I have learnt:  Not beating myself up for getting sick and not being able to do what I really, really want to do, feels so much better than beating myself up for getting sick and not being able to do what I really, really want to do.  I know that I give of myself completely when I love something I am working wholeheartedly on.  And like most people in this Western world, I can push myself so hard to accomplish the end goal, even if it means working myself sick.  Can you relate to this?

I have learnt that it really is ok to take the time to rest, recoup and heal when you need to.  The body always tells you what it needs.  Learn to bend a little and be flexible, so that you don’t have to break in order to learn your lessons – this can happen from being too rigid and stubborn.  I have learnt that taking the time to do things properly is acceptable – the time limits we put on ourselves can be unrealistic sometimes, it has certainly been the case with me.  I have taken the time to heal, to feel and be more whole.  Slowly and mindfully is ok.  It takes as long as it takes, sometimes.  I can have peace with that.  I do believe this is the art of keeping the sweet, sweet balance in your life.

Taking the time to do the things you love, to really give yourself space to breathe and be, truly has it’s own gifts and treasures.  I am grateful for the lesson and so lucky that I can share that with you.

See you all on your mats.

xx

Eliza