What I’ve Learned from 12 Years of Moksha
Twelve years ago today, I wandered into Moksha Yoga London for my first ever hot yoga class, completely unaware of how much my life was about to change. Now, more than a decade (and countless sweaty classes!) later, my love for Moksha still burns bright. Though I’m sure I still have LOTS left to learn as my practice matures even more, I’d like to share with you a few of the most important things I’ve learned so far…
Expect nothing. Just like that first class, I still have no idea what to expect when I come on to my mat. Sure, now I know the technical aspects of the class – what poses we will do, for approximately how long, and in which order – but I still have no idea how it’s really going to feel. Sometimes I am so tired I can barely find the energy to drag myself from the lobby to the hot room, but once I start moving, I feel an energy I didn’t know I had, and my practice is on fire! Other times, I’ll show up fully energized, but my body has other ideas, and I have a super mellow class. I’ve learned that having expectations of myself most often leads to disappointment, and so now I just show up, do my best in the moment, and let the proverbial chips fall where they may.
Boredom happens, and it’s okay. I used to wonder, if I weren’t a Moksha Yoga studio owner, would I still be practicing Moksha after all this time? Because let me tell you, there have been times where I have been capital-B Bored! I have, at times, dreaded the heat, despised the repetition and begrudged my obligation to keep doing this practice… But what I’ve learned is that boredom and resistance just show up to alert me to something else that is going on. So, when these feelings come up, I now know to just pay better attention, to dive deeper into my breath and to commit even more fully to being on my mat, because when I am clear-headed, that’s when I’m able to see what’s really up, and only then can I actually deal with it. As Winston Churchill once said, “the only way out is through.”
It feels better to work hard. Being a naturally kinda lazy person, I was delighted when I first heard my yoga teacher say that it was okay to take breaks, and that I should listen to my body and rest if I was tired. Yes! I could still enjoy all the self-satisfaction and smugness of going to yoga everyday, but I didn’t actually have to do anything when I was there! Win-win! Except that it wasn’t. Now, I’m not talking about truly listening to your body and resting when you really need it – this is a necessary part of any practice, especially in the heat. I’m talking about how I never did Camel pose for years because I didn’t want to face the discomfort it brought up, so I always chose that moment to “listen to my body” and take Child’s pose. I’m talking about how I stopped pushing myself, both physically and mentally, to deepen and grow in my practice, because I used “listening to my body” as an excuse to be lazy. But what I’ve learned is that working hard (even though it’s, um, hard) feels way better than going through the motions, and that you truly get out of this what you put into it. So now, even on my crummiest days, I still try my best. Some days, “my best” might look more impressive than other days, but no matter what, the deep knowing that I’ve done the work is the best feeling of all.
Your body will change, and so will your practice. The first time I did a yoga class after the birth of my first baby, I remember thinking “whose body is this?!?” Nothing felt the way it did before, and now, 4 years (and one more baby!) later, it still doesn’t! It’s not better or worse, it’s just different. There are things that I used to be able to do that I may never do again, and conversely, things that I can do now that I previously couldn’t have imagined. So I try to roll with that. Aging, pregnancy, injuries – all of these things have affected my body and changed my practice in their own way. Sure, sometimes it’s frustrating, but I don’t think it’s productive to fight it. Rather, I try to accept it and just keep showing up. My practice still serves me in the same way, so why does it matter what it looks like? Which leads me to…
Fancy yoga poses aren’t the point. I have, at various points over the last 12 years, done some impressive things while standing on my hands and on my head. I’ve done some crazy, super deep, super hard yoga poses. And it was fun! And it would have looked awesome on Instagram! Most of those fancy poses aren’t in my practice any more, though, either because I can’t do them now (see the previous point!), or I’m just not super interested in pursuing them. Don’t get me wrong, I still love working on new poses, but my desire to accomplish has definitely softened. What I want from my yoga practice is to be more peaceful, more grounded and more connected. I’ve learned that I can find those things by simply standing in Tadasana. One of my teachers once said something along the lines of “If you can do Scorpion pose, but you’re still an asshole, then what’s the point?” Fancy poses don’t mean anything if they don’t serve you on a deeper level than satisfying your ego.
If you’re lucky, as I have been, you’ll find a practice – be it yoga, meditation, art, music, running, whatever! – that fulfills you and grows with you in the way my Moksha practice has for me. If I’m lucky, in another 12 years I’ll write another blog post (or like, zoom my thoughts into your brain through the space-age technology of 2029) about what I’ve learned after 24 years of practice… In the meantime, I wish you many happy hours of curiosity, exploration and discovery, both on and off your mat.
Joanna Thurlow Murphy
Owner, Moksha Yoga Halifax