Monday, 3 June 2019

Solo in a Pack

"When you practise on your own, you meet yourself." Giselle, my yoga teacher said softly. She smiled her usual warm smile, her eyes disappearing in the rise of her cheeks, only the shining sparkle of her wisdom shone through. 

I was sitting on my mat feeling at peace with my body. The class had come to an end. Mats were being rolled up, blankets were being stacked neatly and placed in a blue Ikea bag. All the students were in different stages of getting ready to leave. 

It was the last class before a long summer break. To me, it felt like a weaning off session, an attempt by our soft spoken guru to nudge us towards our mats without the scaffolding of her words guiding our limbs, our breath and our thoughts. 

She may have said something after that last sentence. But I didn't hear her. Something about 'meeting myself' made me stop in my tracks. Like a camera lens, my thoughts zoomed in on those two words. The rest of what was being said and done around me faded into a blur.

How easy is it to meet yourself? 

Are we ever ready to make our own acquaintance? Truly and honestly? 

Why do I find it easier to drive to a class to practice than to roll out my mat at home? 

Keeping the raging dialogue hidden inside my head, I  paid up, said goodbye and left. 

When I resist the mat, am I in some way refusing to meet myself? I wondered as I drove out.

I had put my reluctance down to lack of discipline and general laziness. I never thought of it as being unprepared or unwilling to meet myself. 

And what does meeting oneself really mean? 

'Listen to your body', Anusha, my first yoga guru, used to say. 'Don't worry about others, be present on your mat.' 

'How you are on your mat is how you are in your life.' was another one of  Anusha's favourite things to say during a class. 

For me, the words I hear in class are as important as the techniques I'm shown. My teachers' wise utterances keep playing in the recesses of my self, especially the bits that I need to pay attention to. 

Summer is unique in Doha. As the school year comes to its natural end in June, many families move out of the city for good to either head back home, or move to a new place with better job opportunities or to be close to where their children are (at universities etc.) Doha's working population is predominantly ex-pat, so it's natural for the city to be a transient stop for many.

A friend recently remarked how her corner of the yoga class she's been part of has emptied out as many of her yoga buddies have left.

Getting attached to a group of people, a class time-table, your favourite place in the shala to unroll your mat, a sequence of asanas, or even a yoga teacher are all shades of that which yoga is showing us to distance ourselves from: attachment. 

And going back to Giselle's words, only in finding the discipline and courage to make a date with myself to meet me can I hope to distance myself from all the above attachments. Otherwise, any one of the above has the capacity to interfere with my practice.

Being solo in a pack is a beautiful place to be in. 

Often on treks, despite being part of a group and despite respecting the safety codes of trekking (not lagging too far behind or running too far ahead), I often detach from others and walk with myself. It's a beautiful and liberating feeling.

Watching the daisies dance with the breeze, the play of the morning sun on leaves, the dusty clouds that keep puffing out of soles of the one walking ahead of you and rustling leaves are all present like my teachers' words: telling me to listen to the voice inside, to meet the soul that has been given a body that I use to live, to walk, to practise yoga, to write, to cook, to love, to laugh, to sing off tune, to dance with abandon, to dress up in a saree or to spend an entire day in old pajamas, to bathe in waterfalls, to slip on big rocks, to hold a friend's hand, to give her long and tight hugs and to sip hot tea.

"We are not becoming experts.
  We are just finally becoming good students."
Says William Martin in The Sage's Tao Te Ching

As a student, I hope I can use the steps my teachers have shown me to practise the discipline of detachment so that I may meet myself more often on my mat. And in doing so, I can be a better version of my solo self, one day at a time.

Whatever your daily practise, be it a walk in the park, mediation, preparing food for family, writing, singing, dancing, listening, earning money or just being, I wish you all the best. 

I'm writing a blog post after a long time. Bear with me while I flex my writing muscles. The thoughts I've poured out today have been knocking my insides for a few days.

The photos I've shared on this post were clicked in the Himalayas (Maunda and Chakrata) a couple of weeks ago.

Eid Mubarak to all who are celebrating .

I'll sign off with these lines from The Sage's Tao Te Ching by William Martin

"Work with passion and energy
at the tasks you cherish,
but connect often with that part of you
that is watching it all happen
with eternal joy and love."
I'd love to know what you make of Giselle's words. What do you do to meet yourself? Do you do that often? 


  1. Hari OM
    Arti, the progress to that inner self, the "I" which actually knows this all but has forgotten it due to the very attachments and misapprehensions you describe, is one which can be as fast or as slow as we let it be. The very fact you have pondered this point so readily, that you 'heard' it more clearly at this time, means you are ready to take a step closer to yourself. Now it would be lovely to read of your attempts of unfurling that mat in your own space and your own time!!!

    My own daily practice now, having had the wonderful opportunity of meeting myself, is aimed at maintaining the deeper connection. It is a challenge, when we also have to deal with the life which seeks to attach us to it... YAM xx

    1. Hari Om dear Yamini.
      As always, you presence here is a wonderful thing for me and when you share your experiences, it increases my joy manifold.
      Thank you dear soul.


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