Yoga: Freedom in Practice, by Parvati Devi

For years, I was religious about my yoga asana practice. I woke up and first thing, practiced every day without fail. I had to. Somehow I felt wonky if I did not. My day would unfold more smoothly when I did, and I loved that feeling. Yoga and meditation provided (and still provide) an unequaled opportunity for centering, inner spaciousness and evolutionary support. But anything we do can turn from expansive to constrictive. Soon I began to feel confined by my yoga and meditation practice.

In my highly disciplined Hatha yoga practice, I hit a wall. I began to feel stiff rather than relaxed. I began to feel agitated, rather than expansive. I was no longer getting my fix from what I called my meditation medication. So I went deeper.

The practice started to reveal to me ways in which I was hard on myself. In some unconscious way, I felt that if I did not do the practice, I was a bad person. The drive that had led me to doing very well at school and university, that also drove me to wanting people’s approval, had now shown up as a sour motivator in my spiritual pursuits.

I turned more inward and listened to the impulses that made me feel expansive. I listened to joy and how it moved through my being. How did joy express itself through my being? I knew enough to know that living by “shoulds” would only lead to unhappiness. I knew that trusting that still small voice within would lead to greater and greater joy. It, after all, had led me to meditating and doing Hatha yoga in the first place. Where did that voice want to lead me? What did it want? How could I get out of the way and serve it?

Having become stifled by my rigorous Hatha yoga practice of “shoulds”, I went through a two-year period when that still small voice told me to lie there, every day, for an hour. Each day, during my regular practice time, all I did was savasana (lying on the floor, face up), allowing myself to dissolve into the ground, into my body, into the moment.

As I followed the spacious impulse that fed my yoga and meditation practice, I was drawn to express that same joyful expanse through my musical compositions and performances. I became clearer about the spiritual impulse and intentions that fed my musical compositions and performing.

At that time, I was also guided to take more modern dance classes, including a workshop with Margie Gillis. At that time, I was regularly teaching yoga classes, using similar vocabulary to what she was now using to teach me. In her, I saw an aspect of myself that had become bound by yoga routines. My world expanded exponentially when she invited us to begin exploring all of life as choreography, doing the waiting-for-the-bus dance, doing the sitting-in-a-chair dance, doing the getting-dressed-in-the-morning dance. Life is dancing, so dance it.

I translated this guidance to my yoga and meditation practice and started doing waiting-in-the-supermarket-line tadasana (standing tall pose) or cleaning-in-the-shower tadasana. I began to see that wherever I stood was my yoga mat. Life became more of a fluid dance in which I could play, moment-to-moment with what is. The possibility of yoga, union with the divine, began to flower everywhere.

When you move through your day today, ask yourself, in which way are you practicing yoga, right now? Do you feel connected to something greater than your limited ego or will? Are you aware of how your individual self fits into the whole? Do you feel rooted and connected to the Earth and open to the vast sky? How does expansive expression arise through you? Do you speak reactively, to defend your sense of divided self? Do you express yourself from wholeness, from spaciousness, from joy and delight? Does your soul guide your actions and move you to express? What drives your life?

Parvati Devi is the editor-in-chief of Parvati Magazine. In addition to being an internationally acclaimed Canadian singer, songwriter, producer and performer, she is a yoga teacher and holistic educator, having studied yoga and meditation since 1987, and developed her own yoga teaching style called YEM™: Yoga as Energy Medicine. Her current shows, “YIN: Yoga in the Nightclub” and “Natamba”, bring forward a conscious energy into the pop mainstream.