Photo: Erik Brown
I discovered yoga when I was 19 and a student in Bergen. At first it was just a physical exercise, but in later years it has taken a bigger part of my life as a philosophy and spiritual practice.
Yoga was at first something i did on the side of the other sports I passionately pursued. I’ve always been addicted to adrenaline infused sports. Whether it was snowboarding, kitesurfing, surfing or marathon running – these sports played a major role in how I identified myself. Of all the other things I didn’t do well enough in life (according to my own standards), at least I was mastering a sport, and sometimes I was even great at it.
Adrenaline sports and yoga were similar to me in that they both put me in a state of flow. I forgot about everything else, and nothing was as important as the exact moment I was in. The moments of ecstasy I experienced in these activities made me want to rebel against the norms and boundaries put on myself by society and my own limiting beliefs. Feeling so alive made me want to eliminate out the mundane aspects of my life.
The problem with being addicted to a sport is that you are constantly left longing for the next fix of adrenaline. To find contentment in the status quo was something I had to learn through the practice of yoga. I found a different sense of self-esteem that was independent of the sport I was pursuing.
Yoga isn’t the answer to everything, but…
I enrolled in teacher training in 2014, and early 2015 I completed my 200 RYT with Global Yoga Shala. Since then I have been trying to balance being a kitesurfer, yoga student and teacher, and working a full-time job. The urge to learn more led me to apply for a spot in the 300 RYT teacher training with Basia at Hiyoga. In February 2017 I started the training.
The reason why I introduce a bit of my life outside of yoga is because to me, and I think with most people, yoga and what you decide to spend the rest of your day doing is inseparable. Yoga will inevitably infiltrate everything you do if you dive just a little bit further than just the asana practice. At least with me it allowed me to see everything around me from a different perspective.
A couple of months prior to starting the teacher training I had just come back from a six month long trip. One of the many trips I’ve done the last few years to follow my passion, kitesurfing. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I came back to Oslo, but I thought it safe and reasonable to continue on the path I had left earlier – working in Communications. So I applied for a few jobs and got a job in a marketing and design firm.
It all seemed to go very smoothly for a while. I would do Mysore every morning at Hiyoga, and then rush to work right after. On the weekends I would either be on the teacher training or teach snowkiting in the mountains.
Searching for your dharma but getting served your karma
It’s hard to point out exactly what it is about studying yoga that makes you reevaluate everything you do in your life. For me it’s both the physical practice (asanas) and studying the philosophy. It took me two months to realise that working with marketing – creating things for brands that just adds to our consumerist society – was dragging the life force out of me. After weeks spent struggling with the decision, I handed in my resignation and said to myself I was going to be a full time yoga teacher and kite instructor.
I thought to myself: Why would I spend eight or more hours a day doing something I didn’t enjoy – and for what cause? Why does our society measure an individual’s worth by how much money they make? Finding your way and your calling in life is a lifelong process, but a step in the right direction is to identify the things you enjoy doing, and the things that you don’t enjoy doing.
I wanted to do something that contributed to a better society in some way, and I knew couldn’t work with anything that had to do with consumerism or capitalism. As naive as it sounds, I wanted to inspire people to see that the world is really limitless and exactly just what you make it to be.
Of course reality strikes. It’s hard to make a living as a yoga teacher. People in my life probably thought to themselves “how the hell is she going to make it?” The honest ones advised me to think it over. In the end I found a compromise, working 80 percent to allow more time to kite and focus on yoga.
Gymnastics and dance party you say?
Attending teacher training is a mix of going to gymnastics, a university class, an AA meeting, and a dance party all at once. The mix of people and topics you study is odd at best. There are no dull moments. I sucked in all the knowledge I could. And despite being sleep deprived because of the early mornings, I rarely felt tired. My mind was singing of curiosity and eagerness to learn more.
The people I met at teacher training were brought together by the possibility of what yoga could bring to their life. The students that struck me as most fascinating were the ones that had realised before or during the training that they had to change paths. Some had quit their jobs before starting the training, or some had experienced grief or trauma.
The stories and aspirations shared openly by my fellow students were inspiring. Some were doing the teacher training to learn more tools they could use to cope with life better. Some were just curious about yoga beyond the asana practice. Some knew before they even started that they didn’t want to teach. And then there were some aspiring teachers.
I seemed to be mostly drawn to the “misfits”; the ones who had realised that the life they had created for themselves didn’t serve them anymore. I got the sense that a lot of us, either prior or during the teacher training, felt a creeping urge to expand outside of the dreadful box of ordinary life.
Can people really levitate?
Most of what you experience in teacher training is very tangible. You get to study the poses in detail, you learn about anatomy and the various ways people relate to their bodies. You learn about philosophy, nutrition, creating flows, yoga off the mat, finding your voice, and so on.
A times yoga philosophy seems magical and mythical. At one point the philosophy teacher said she had seen a man levitate while meditating. A few years ago I would have laughed out loud hearing this, but I have learned to see the world with different eyes. There’s a saying: “you see what you think”, meaning we are so stuck in our heads and sense of reason that we close ourselves off from experiencing anything that might obstruct with or differ from our own perceived world view. This saying rings very true to me, and has become more so over the years.
When we stick our heads through our legs or lift our whole body over our heads like we do in yoga, we experience what it really means to experience things through our emotions and as a bodily experience. We rely so much on using our reasoning in everyday life, it is only healthy to get out of our heads in order to really feel and see things with clear eyes.
Photo: Erik Brown
Solving world problems by putting my feet behind my head
I have never been a fan of delving in my own problems, and I prefer keeping some things unsaid. Not healthy some people would say, but each to their own I say. When you practice yoga you are forced to meet some of your demons. But the nice thing is that you can do it your way. You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to. You can literally pour it out while sweating on your yoga mat.
Needless to say, nothing comes for free. Yoga requires discipline. Lying in Savasana and decorating your bookshelf with the Yoga Sutras will only take you so far. Being able to see outside of your own mat and bring the philosophy out into the world is what makes a practitioner really powerful.
Doing a teacher training forces you to be disciplined. Getting up at 5 am to do Mysore practice feels gruesome sometimes. What I need to work on is to trust in the process of yoga, and not always reach for the next goal. It might take a lifetime to get both of my legs comfortably behind my head, but the discipline and patience I learn from the practice is what I take with me out of the yoga studio and into the real world.
The unglamorous fruits of the practice
Waking up before sunrise every day to spend hours on my mat trying to get my feet behind my head must seem ridiculous to some. Yoga at its simplest is just a series of gymnastic exercises accompanied by creepy, loud breathing, but it’s so much more than that. Sure, you’ll have some profound moments when you practice, but what does it add to your life?
I used to think that yoga helped me to achieve more rainbows and unicorns in my life, but I’ve let go of that idea. What I’m left with is maybe not so glamorous, but at least I have made peace with the idea of me being the rebellious adventure seeker unwilling to settle for anything less than awesomeness.
Yoga has helped me to find ease, and not always seek for immediate gratification and pleasure from external experiences. Dropping off a cliff is an adrenaline rush caused by something external. Yoga on the other hand, has taught me to find contentment from the inside. I could fill my life with numerous adventures and thrills, but in the end it wouldn’t mean much without the ability to also enjoy the simpler moments in life.
Practicing yoga has made me a more content person. I still search for those moments of adrenaline that I experience kiting or surfing. That’s an addiction I wouldn’t want to lose. Yoga is different, it has taught me to find ease and contentment in my ordinary life. These are the fruits of the practice.