Artwork by Anne Falkowski

I practice yogi and call myself a yogini. Yes, I use the word-“yogini” which is not a term tossed around in our yoga-obsessed culture too often. Perhaps because it sounds too hard core, serious, or elite. Perhaps because we almost never see it used in Yoga Journal-the popular and commercialized yoga authority of our path. On my blog, I will choose to ignore the socially damped down expectations and express my truth….

I am a yogini.

anne-in-backbendMy personal yoga practice is private. Meaning its hard to put into words and if I tried to explain it to someone unfamiliar with yoga they might think I was mad, crazy, or even self-absorbed. Ancient texts state that when doing the deeper practices of yoga, they should be kept secret and withheld from those who don’t practice. To speak of them is to lessen their charge and dampen transformation. So as a yogini on the path to transformation, I have been taught to keep some things I experience private. Mary Oliver says, “Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” That sounds about right. Some experiences are primal and pulse through my veins and never get expressed because doing so would pale them.

My yoga practice is where I seek my soul. Its where I tread into wild and unfamiliar territory. Dark places buried deep in my bones. In order to climb the path of truth, I must do the work in my body. Doing the work of the poses, locks, and pranayama is Hatha yoga. I am practicing Hatha.

I am also on the royal path or Raja Yoga. According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika- Raja yoga cannot be obtained without Hatha yoga. Raja means to shine. Raja Yoga is the yoga of that in you which shines. How beautiful is that? Somewhere beneath my flabby belly, self-hatred and the belief that I am never good enough is a land of jewels. This is the staircase I want to climb.

I am a yoga teacher and good yoga teachers speak the internal private language of yoga in a way that students understand. This clarity provides not only a map of the external poses but also an internal compass of what is happening inside as they move through posture after posture. I cannot teach what I do not know and have not learned from my own direct experience.

Direct experience of yoga is the only way to healing and wholeness. The path up the staircase. This is why my blog is so personal. I am sharing what my yoga reveals and what it means to be a yogini. Through my yoga practice, I am digging up my maggots and rot, as well as my tenderness and gold. Its all in there. I only need to get to my mat to know it.

Just like gravity, direct experience does not lie. Direct experience is not about being right or wrong, good or bad. Mary Oliver says you do not need to be good. “You do not have to walk a hundred miles on your knees repenting…” Same with yoga, do you not need to be good. “You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” If you do the hard work of yoga, eventually Oliver’s words become become truth.

Yoga says be real. Dig up the shame, painful experiences, and strongly held stories that still scare you deep in the night. Let yourself be churned like butter or dug up like dirt. Shine your fears under the light. Be naked inside and dance on your demons. This is the work of yoga. This is the diamonds and gold