How yoga improved my Pilates

Sometimes life presents us with opportunities to expand our knowledge, our awareness and our self. And when we give space for this offering, beautiful things can happen for us and those around us.

This week I was invited to a yoga retreat. I have not practiced much yoga and what I had been to exposed to was a franchised, physical version of what the philosophy was created for. Hence, I never really resonated with anything I had been exposed to. I understood the physical benefits but I can get what I need from Pilates and so I never looked past what I thought I knew.

Similar to Pilates, yoga has been gentrified, bastardised, raped and pillaged, brought to the masses as a shiny new object for people to add to the ‘things they do’.

So, I came to this retreat with little to no expectations, okay with the fact that this may be little more than a get away from my every day.

Three days into this retreat and my mind has expanded and I have been introduced to the true spirit of yoga.

We have spent 3 days working on breath, 3 days in meditation through movement and 3 days stripping away the polished surface that we hide behind. I have witnessed tears, felt sorrow and laughed with joy. I have been humbled and honoured, shared secrets and whispered in song. I have found my mantra in the sun and comfort in my soul.

We are staying in a simple, run down, locally owned community surrounded by the familiar sounds of Bali village life. With little more than a stand fan to cool the air, a far cry from the luxury I am accustomed to.

Each morning we gather in time for the 6am Hindu mantra or geity that is played over loudspeakers for all the villager people to hear. We are steeped in culture, soaking in yoga, coming back to breathe, coming back to where we all must return .

Yoga is not about the Iyengar or the Ashtanga or the most powerful sequences often performed in mass production at our local yoga class. Yoga is the very act of exhaling, only to exhale and start again, the same as Pilates, it all comes back to breathe.

It is our ego that gets in the way of the foundations, the fundamental expressions that allow us to actually experience the very shift we are all seeking, the pressure we feel in a large group to move forwards, to be able, to be seen to be seen.

This week I am humbled and I am learning to come back to breath. Even more so than I have ever practiced, although I preach it every day, understanding the importance without taking away the benefit for myself. And so here I am. Guided to take away nothing else until I learn how to breathe and then to allow the breath to take me towards movement in the end.

Yoga and Pilates have a lot to learn from each other. We are a union of mindful potential, with the movement only an extension of our very being, rather than the ulterior motive of what we may think we must become. Becoming is breath. Becoming is the meditation of breath and from the depths of quietness will come joy and purpose that will leak out of our limbs through the movement that follows.

The lesson that is being passed on resonates. We are not the physical. Our purpose is not physical. And if we never move past this understanding, we are cutting ourselves and the journey of our students so short that none of us will ever reach our fullest potential. To truly teach we must expand our knowledge, our beliefs and go beyond our comfort. We must look elsewhere from where we may have begun and be open to the teachings that may seem so far from our perception of truth that dared not step towards what we did not know. Seek more truth, seek answers, seek more questions, seek for the sake of looking and be found.