Hold your bow steady
Trust in your own unique life path, or Svadharma, writes Louisa Flynn after recently completing her yoga teacher training
"As you breathe in, take aim," I said, as I guided my class in Virabhadrasana (warrior pose 1) with archer arms, "focus your attention on what it is you'd most like to bring to the fore." My voice wobbled slightly, just enough for me to feel it but without being obvious to anybody else, and it was then that I realised something: that I did not know what I was aiming for.
At the time, and under the energy of a waxing Hunter's Moon, my sense of direction was swaying, and I also had other increasing challenges with familiar responsibilities and my own health issues. In short, time had become so much more incredibly precious, and so, I knew, there and then, that I had to acknowledge myself and pay attention to the feelings that were swelling within me. In truth, I had to find a space to pause so that I could listen to my own words.
It's probably worth me stating that for the best part of the three years preceding this moment, I had been working towards obtaining yoga teaching certification. In hindsight, when I started out, I was merely feeling my way along. Blindly. But with something of a guide rope leading me on. I didn't really have a plan, but I knew that I wanted to share yoga with others. That was it. That was my only intention: to share what I had found.
Yoga's effect on me has been so profound because, largely, I am coming from a place where I didn't listen to myself. Not at all. And I was, for most of my early life, entirely unaware that my body even possessed such a thing as wisdom. Like it has done for many of us, yoga enabled me to not only tune into myself, but to acknowledge myself. Yoga's lessons will no doubt continue to remind me of this truth whenever I forget, of that, I am sure.
And therein lies the essence of what I am trying to say: that the yoga journey can often be unpredictable, and that when we get to that place where we are really listening, our insights may be surprising.
Following on from my mini realisation, a flurry of synchronous conversations ensued. Teachers, colleagues, family, and friends – all who lent their ear to my quandary about whether I should pause the treadmill or keep treading, unconsciously echoed, and affirmed what I knew in myself to be of essential value: that I must listen to myself and respond to my needs, and that it's imperative that I create space for myself. This being an absolute prerequisite for holding space for others.
So many of the words that flowed between us, whether written or spoken, appeared to be carried by a messenger that embodies the image of the warrior – something that resonated because it had appeared in my thoughts and class plans in the weeks that built up to my decision to pause.
On a philosophical level, the warrior poses have become symbolic for me, both in my personal practice but also within my classes. No doubt for a reason. When in Virabhadrasana, physically, it's all about grounding, finding strength and balance. On a mythical level, in relation to the legend of Virabhadra, the stories represent the destruction of ignorance, and we can all understand the symbolism associated with archer arms: taking aim, pausing to find our focus, and being strong in the face of our challenges.
Unaware of the content of my thoughts or lessons, a fellow teacher and friend teacher out to me with the incredible Paulo Coelho quote: "An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So, when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it's going to launch you into something great. So just focus and keep aiming."
But it was the words of one of my most treasured teachers that completely floored me. Again, with no real knowledge of the imagery that I was working with, she said: "That warrior is in there... just give her some love." Well, stillness completely enveloped me with that one.
Then, within a day, another seemingly random happening occurred. I was finally reading the end of Suzan Colon's Yoga Mind, a book that has resided by my bedside for the last few years. I started reading it during the pandemic, but, since April 2021, I could only dip into it around my course reading. Completion of the yoga teacher training meant that I was able to indulge in the final chapters, the first of which was, to my utter disbelief, all about Svadharma: one's unique life path. Within this chapter, the author describes her realisation that not all who complete yoga teacher training become stand-up-at-the-front class teachers, and that her own path through teaching, in relation to her Svadharma, led her journey to open up the yoga practices and possibilities (and the Svadharma) of a dear friend. Which reminded me that the ripple effects of sharing yoga can travel, not only far and wide, but also invisibly deep, underneath the surface.
On the morning that I read that chapter, during the time of my inner questioning, I was dumbfounded. My jaw literally hung open, and I looked to the window and up at the huge blue sky that was there, marvelling at the mystery of it all, and I had a deep knowing that this was, somehow, showing me the way.
Walking my path
When walking through life, sometimes there are huge clues as to the way to go, and at others we get only breadcrumbs. But whether it's a thunderbolt showing us the direction, or a tiny glimmer of torchlight, we know it's the way because of how it feels. Likewise, I embarked on the yoga teacher training journey following breadcrumbs, not really knowing where it would lead. I still have no idea. But I trust that the pause will indeed show me where to take my next step, and that one step at a time I will uncover the way forward. In fact, I know it will. I just need to steady my bow.