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Coming Home To Myself

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Coming Home To Myself

When you apply to yoga teacher training programs (well, the good ones at least) they make you complete some sort of application questionnaire, all of which inevitably ask “What does yoga mean to you?”

This past summer I completed a few different applications for yoga teacher training programs (and am proud to report I was accepted into all that I applied to, and am even happier to report that I am so thankful I chose the Yoga Ed program that I am currently enrolled in!) Although I often tend towards more elaborate and long-winded answers, my answer to the “what does yoga mean to you” question was always my most succinct answer; Yoga to me is the ongoing practice and exploration of “finding home” in my own body, mind and spirit.

I first came to naming this concept of “finding home” in my own body while I was living in Los Angeles this past winter. Now I realize that it may sound like a lot of fun to live in Los Angeles while simultaneously avoiding winter in Canada, but my time in LA was actually a very difficult experience for me. Timing was a big factor. I had spent the preceding two years touring throughout the USA as an actor in several different theatrical productions for young audiences. At various times throughout 2008-2009 I’d lived for 3 months in St Louis, 4 months in Orlando, one month in Phoenix and spent about 8 weeks driving all across the entire USA, performing in a different city every other day! Touching back down in Toronto for a mere few weeks or months at a time in between each tour. The only constant factor in my life during this time was my yoga practice, for which I remain eternally grateful. However unsophisticated or unpolished it may have been, I still found solace, nearly every morning, practicing my “sun salutations” and occasionally finding the time to expand my practice a little with the help of a drop-in class somewhere or one of my yoga dvds.

So when I found myself in Los Angeles this past January, dealing with a myriad of choices that I’d made that had led me to great dissatisfaction and “unhappiness”, I turned with vigor to my yoga practice. In LA, if you want to practice yoga you simply have to open your eyes and you’ll see a yoga studio to your left, to your right, in front of you and behind you. Arguably, some of the “greatest” yoga teachers live, work, practice and run studios there. I ended up taking classes at some of these famed studios and even had a couple of these teachers teach me! During a workshop with Michael Stone last weekend at the new Octopus Garden Holistic Yoga Centre he spoke briefly of his experience with some of these “celebrity yoga teachers” and how they all have very impressive physical practices but often lack in the spiritual/mental understanding of yoga; That they are extremely proficient in only one limb (asana) of the eight limbs of yoga, neglecting the spiritual and ethical guidance of the other seven limbs. Although I did not possess the specific knowledge and understanding of the eight limbs while I was practicing in LA, I felt the void in many of the classes that I took. Sadly, practicing at these famous studios started to make me feel disillusioned about yoga itself…

You see, when I had practiced at various studios throughout North America in the past, even when I didn’t know a single other soul there, I always had this feeling of “coming home.” I think I got this feeling because I had always been fortunate enough to practice somewhere where the energy of the students and the teachers was focused not merely on the physical fitness element of yoga but also on the calming and meditative potential of the physical postures. In many of my LA classes, I felt like I was in yoga boot-camp, mere “physical training situations” devoid of soul and spirit. And everything else was hard too; My living situation was not what I thought it would be (to say the least), the intensive acting course that I was enrolled in was proving to be emotionally abusive, and I was spending about 60% of my day in my car, often lost! I was speaking with a wise friend on the phone, lamenting my lack of feeling any sense of security and stability and longing for a sense of home, when she pointed out that I was home… That my body is my home.

This became my new mantra: “My body is my home and I am home.” I took it with me into every yoga class, and it helped me to remember to breathe and just “be at home” whenever my teachers attempted to push me beyond my physical limits. When I was at a standstill in LA highway traffic in a torrential downpour of rain, already 20 minutes late for my rehearsal with my scene partner, and crying because nothing was going the way I had planned for it to go and I just wanted to book myself on the next plane back to Canada, I took a deep breath and tuned in to my fingertips wrapped around the steering wheel. I felt the back of my spine against the seat of my jeep. I tried to relax my jaw, and I quietly whispered to myself, over and over, “my body is my home, and I am home.” During my second major confrontation with my acting teacher, when I told him that I had consciously reached my own personal limits of how far I was willing to go emotionally in his class, and he accused me of lacking the courage to be a great actress, I checked in with my body. I could feel deep within the depths of me that I was making the right choice to protect myself, and I felt so grateful for this physical-spiritual connection that I had nurtured within myself over the years. In a way, this is my yoga practice…

Although I definitely recognize yoga as a physical practice with many practical health benefits, I am drawn to practice yoga more for what it offers me in terms of its many lessons in finding mental and spiritual acceptance and peace. So for me, deepening my practice means inviting more of yoga into my life through regular physical practice and my enrollment in the Octopus Garden Yoga Education program, while also allowing all that I continue to learn about myself through yoga (and about yoga through myself) to spill over and affect everything else that I do. Yoga is an ongoing learning experience for me about myself on all levels: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. The key word here being: Ongoing…

– Meghan Marie McClenaghan

2 responses »

  1. Meghan, I am so proud of you!
    And the idea of home is one I don’t believe I’ve considered often enough, but it’s a super powerful message, and one I’m so happy you’ve touched on!
    Thank you for your wonderful work!
    xok

    Reply
  2. Meghan – this is such a beautiful article – what a great perspective on yoga. You’re going to make a wonderful teacher one day soon!

    xo

    Reply

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