Beginner’s mind is a crock

‘You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state...’ – Sharron Gannon

What my practice is not.

What my practice is not.

None of us, really, are beginners to yoga. We’ve just forgotten our true state and we’ve returned to yoga seeking answers to questions like: how do I stay fit and strong and resilient? How do I heal this physical and/or spiritual injury? How do I calm my mind and stay focused? Yoga can and will inevitably answer these questions if you stick with it for long enough.

Whenever I hear a yoga teacher say ‘beginner’s mind’, I wretch a little (and I’ve actually blogged a lot about it here). Returning to my mat now, with some significant, complex, interrelated injuries, and a healthy cynicism for the current climate in the yoga community, I cannot forget how I got here. My body and my mind are intensely aware of my past abuses. Their bitching and moaning is a huge distraction to an ego that thinks even one of my feet can still be placed behind my head. So, NO, I can’t get on my mat every day and pretend I’ve never been here before and everything is fresh and new and my mat is the idyllic field of buttercups and daisies it once was.

I have a new approach: I am not a beginner, I have been here before, and I am my own best teacher. Because recognizing you’re on the wheel is the first step to getting off. When I practice I am the practitioner and the teacher. I watch myself go into the asana, I observe the breath, I count the vinyasas, all as student and teacher. Would my teacher allow me to skip that vinyasa? Would my teacher approve of practicing that posture out of sequence? The teacher me sees injuries before they occur, because teacher me has been here before. Above all this teacher side of me is observant, supportive and compassionate, and far more forgiving than I am.

This method has worked so far, I’m not getting re-injured, and some of my injuries have started to heal. Most of all I don’t sweat the small stuff, because I have faith in my teacher and in the practice, it will eventually bring about healing, and strength of body and mind. You are not, nor were you ever a beginner, so get off that wheel and have faith in yourself!

1.2 yogasgchittavrttinirodhah (Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind.)

1.3 tada drastuh svarupe ‘vasthanam (Then the seer abides in its true nature.)

If you’re interested in the deeper discussion of how to detach yourself from your karma, read Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras Sadhanapadah (Chapter 2) and check out these links:

What’s made me happy this week: I’m still rocking out to MC Yogi’s Mantras, Beats & Meditations! And thankful for the reinforcement offered by the track ‘Truth Seeker’. Pay attention to those you meet on your journey, you don’t have to experience everything personally to gain knowledge or make good decisions.


Renewing my practice, my 5 values:

I’m blogging again. Shocking I know, after such a long hiatus. But it’s time. I’m embarking on a 12-week mission to renew my practice and reclaim my inner yoga space. Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with a long dark night of the soul kind of story, that’s not what it was. But needless to say we all lose our internal compass sometimes. We allow life’s burdens to build up rather than fall away. So I’m getting a little help from Jo at and looking forward to strengthening myself, body, mind, and spirit. And what better tool than yoga for the reawakening?

I’m not a self-help or life coaching kinda girl. As you all know I’m a goal setter, a list maker, a DOER. But somewhere along the way the goals stopped being interesting and I updated my New Year’s Resolutions this year out of habit rather than out of a true contemplation of where I really wanted to be.

Enter Jo! After a priorities check-in, Jo had me identify my values, so here they are:

  1. INTEGRITY: the closest yoga concept is satya or truthfulness, essentially I must live my truth, aligning my actions with my beliefs.
  2. PASSION: my favourite niyama, tapas, the internal fire that drives us to act.
  3. ACTION: karma, or affecting change in the world, I’m not the kind of person that just sits back and let’s it all pass by.
  4. GENEROSITY: complain as I might about having no money, I still offer my skills and whatever else I have to those in need. This niyama (roughly translated) is dama.
  5. CONTENTMENT: santosha is being happy where you are. Happy people don’t complain. I hate people who complain! I hate complaining!

What are your 5 values, those concepts that you come back to as fundamental to your being, the good habits that you practice and repeat, even if they’re not exactly self-serving?

Things that have made me happy this week:
MC Yogi released a new album: Mantras, Beats & Meditations! Rock the block party, manipulate the body!

Along the same lines, some old parkour/freerunning friends of mine were recently in a very visually interesting Skrillex video “Ragga Bomb”. For my friends and family abroad, this is what normal daily life is like in Joburg.

making some noise for the beastie boys

i know i’m a little late for this, but in case you live in a cave (like any self-respecting yogi) the beastie boys have come out with a new album: hot sauce committee, part 2. don’t ask where part 1 went, i don’t know (inside joke: it doesn’t exist).

i’m not an obsessive follower or connoisseur of music or rap and i don’t know a lot about the beastie boys as a group, but i love them. i’ve been listening to them a lot lately during my commutes to pretoria twice a week, so i’m going to make some noise…here’s why:

1. they’re my age, a little older (i.e. over 40). i remember listening to them for the first time on a marching band trip (stop laughing!), head-banging to ‘you gotta fight! for your right! to paaaaaarrrtty!’ that was circa 1988 (license to ill came out in 1986). i remember getting my proto-feminist knickers in a knot with ‘girls’ and ‘she’s crafty’, but now i think ‘she’s crafty’ is one of the funniest songs i’ve ever heard (‘she said her name was lucy, but they all called her loose!’).

2. they don’t rap about titties, bitches, hos, pimps, putting caps in people’s asses, etc. ok, yes there are quite a few references to guns and caps (and laaaadies) in license to ill and paul’s boutique (espPaul Revere), 1989, but it’s tongue-in-cheek and pokes fun at all those lame-ass posers. i hate lame-ass posers (yoga people aside)! so i’m going to write those albums off to their adolescent boy phase.

3. they do rap about stuff i grew up with (‘flame on, i’m gone’, hello nasty, 1998) making references to tv shows and commercials (“nothing’s impossible, i taught my dog to say ‘i love you: rrri rrrooo ruuuu'” (ill communication, 1994), movies, personalities, and events that are sort of my mac & cheese (comfort food). some of the references i don’t even get until i’ve listened a few times and remember, nostalgically, why it feels so familiar.

4. i’ve never liked NYC, but when i finally got there i felt like i had stepped into all the beastie boys albums at once (‘the albion square mall, brooklyn, downtown’, to the 5 boroughs, 2004)! they really love their home town and i can respect that. their ‘an open letter to NYC’ is a cool send up to post-911 NYC. so the beastie boys kinda made me love new york city.

5. they’re intelligent and politically conscious (‘the kyoto treaty he decided to neglect’, to the 5 boroughs). what a relief (see #2)! and they’re for sharing music on-line. and they like to invite other artists to work with them on their albums. and they don’t advertise (‘and you’ll never see me in the advertising’, to the 5 boroughs). i get the sense that they’re really trying to get the global community interacting together in a positive way (U.N.I.T.E!, hello nasty). peace!

6. MCA raps a lot about different kinds of cheese and star trek. i also like cheese and star trek so i can identify. ‘gorgonzola, provolone, don’t even get me started on this microphone!’ and ‘communicator check, one two, one two…’ from to the 5 boroughs (2004) come to mind, but there are plenty of others. i like MCA’s voice, it’s rough and smooth all at the same time.

7. Mike D was interviewed in ashtanga, NY, he’s an ashtangi! that makes him, and by extension the rest of the b-boys, totally awesome! mike D (and the rest) can practice at Ekam anytime.

8. i think because they’re a bit older, and a bit wiser, and have done some yoga, and might even be vegetarian, a lot of their lyrics have hidden yogic gems in them: ‘and she said, dark is not the opposite of light, it’s the absence of light, and i thought to myself…she knows what she’s talking about…’ (check your head, 1992, the song is called namaste).

9. they mix styles and sounds and licks and tricks. they love the bass (‘and if you ask me turn up the bass’, hello nasty). an album, or even a track, can go from rap to jazz to punk to reggae to latin and back again. they don’t take themselves too seriously, but they take music very seriously. i can’t help but move my body (body movin’!) to most of their songs, their albums aren’t just a bunch of tracks, they’re an experience.

10. they’ve endured for over 20 years, and they’re still fresh and fun and make me look at the world in a new way. i love, love, luuuuuuurve them!

a recent funny link: the onion infographic.

a short list of my favorite tracks (and i still need to get a few of their albums):

  • she’s crafty, license to ill
  • shadrach, paul’s boutique
  • lighten up, funky boss, check your head
  • body movin’, unite, i don’t know, 20 questions version, hello nasty (it’s a long album)
  • sabotage (used in Star Trek 0!), get it together (with q-tip from TCQ), ill communication
  • hey f*?# you, crawlspace, to the 5 boroughs
  • i like that the mix up is just instrumental, it’s nice to groove to
  • make some noise, ok, hot sauce committee, part 2