These last few days, I’ve been reading Shakta Kaur Khalsa’s Yoga for Women as part of a self-imposed regimen of study accompanying an intention to possibly triple the number of classes I teach. As far as the technical deconstruction of yoga asanas (or poses) is concerned, the volume is easily outclassed by such manuals as Gregor Maehle’s Ashtanga Yoga: Practice and Philosophy. But, and this is a surprising “but,” the book has proven surprisingly thought-provoking.
A lot of it has to do with the spirit that pervades the work. Ms. Khalsa talks about yoga as a practice that’s provided her and countless others with steadiness, ease, compassion and joy. She talks about yoga as a tool that helps women survive hardships, soothe heartaches and, most importantly, nurture themselves and others.
Until I read Ms. Khalsa’s book, it had never remotely occurred to me to use yoga to nurture myself (let alone others). My context for the practice had always been one of discipline, diligence, perseverance and just b—-y hard work. It was about subjugating the mind and the body so both could recover their initial wholeness, about taming thought, about sharpening feeling, about following breath to achieve some semblance of perfection.
In other words—and it stuns me how oblivious I’ve been to it this entire time—yoga’s still about me getting somewhere someday, about being a better, wiser, lighter version of myself.
Amazing how we find all these insidious little ways of doing violence to ourselves, even using the very practices we love.
So to Ms. Khalsa: I owe you a debt of gratitude. My practice will never be the same.