Over the last few years, I’ve become jaded and disillusioned with many aspects of some yoga traditions and the modern yoga ‘industry’. I realised this morning that, because of this, I have been unconsciously denying the fundamental importance and place of yoga in my life and work. It’s time to stop that pattern and set the record straight. This is part of my commitment to aligned action and speaking my truth during 2017.
I have had the privilege of spending most of the last four weeks with my dear friend, mentor and long time yoga teacher Swami Satyaprakash, aka Ann Fletcher, at Zion House Retreat in Barbados. We’ve had a proper chilled-out holiday. I had time to reflect and reassess my work and life alongside Swami Satyaprakash, my husband Simon and a new friend Christine. We’ve taken the opportunity to do our practices throughout the day and enjoy being in nature and the lovely space of the retreat.
Yesterday, we held a havan (a yogic fire ceremony) to release obstacles to divine order and welcome in the creative, abundant flow of energy for ourselves and the world around us. It was so beautiful to sit in the peaceful garden together with our improvised fire pit. It was a glorious evening with the moonlight shining down on us as we chanted and meditated for the good of all.
During the havan, I woke up to the realisation that it is essential for me to integrate yoga practice into my ceremonial work, training courses and inspirational speaking. It is an essential part of how I show up fully and authentically in the world. I cannot deny it any longer: yoga is integrated into my body, heart, mind and soul.
Feeling disillusioned by the state of yogic current affairs was not my only problem. I had also been struggling with how to openly reconcile my multiple roles of yoga practitioner, teacher and trainer with my more recent roles of interfaith minister, inspirational speaker, spiritual counsellor and holder of bespoke ceremonies for secret rebels. It all felt disjointed and confusing. I’m sure if it felt that way for me it must have felt that way for my previous students and current clients.
I have been asking for clarity over the last three years of transition and in the fire I found it. I recognised that I need to let go of any attachment to the labels, the expectations, restrictions and forms of what it means to be an interfaith minister and a yoga teacher in the modern world. I need to redefine what I do on my terms. That’s why the nickname “Rebel Reverend” is so apt for me!
Being with Swami Satyaprakash reminded me that I have a long history with yoga of over 30 years. Yogic practice and philosophy are fundamental to how I operate at home and in work. Let me be clear, I’m not just talking about postures on a mat. My big sister first introduced me to yoga at age ten. Yogic practice, in some form or other, has been a companion either in the background or forefront since then. Yes, my initiation came initially through hatha yoga practice but I’ve also had the blessing of immersing myself in the philosophical, energetic and devotional aspects of other forms of yoga – including karma yoga, kundalini yoga, kriya yoga, gyana yoga, bhakti yoga, the list goes on… I have received such loving care, support, direction and guidance over the years from my teachers in India, South Africa and the UK.
Satyaprakash reminded me how grateful I am for the practices that I have been given through my local teachers from The British Wheel of Yoga, Satyananda Yoga Centre Birmingham and Mandala Yoga Ashram in Wales over the last 16 years. Yoga has seen me through the ups, downs, breakdowns and breakthroughs of life. Even though I maintain the status of perpetual beginner, I’ve been a dedicated practitioner for 20 years and have been sharing the gifts of yoga in various guises as a student, teacher and foundation course tutor since 2001. I’ve also had the privilege of serving as a tutor, assessor and trustee for Mandala Yoga Ashram over the last decade supporting several yoga teacher training courses and teachers to share the unifying messages of yoga in their communities. I’m deeply grateful to my other beloved teacher and friend Swami Nischalananda who has also been a great support over the years. I also need to acknowledge my other yoga teachers, students and supporters who have helped me to deepen and simplify my practice over the years so that I could arrive at this point today.
Following the havan, I now have space and clarity about what I need to do to enable me to share the gift of yoga within the context of the current work that I do. I now see how I can integrate the essence of what I have learned into a grounded foundation that supports my work as Rebel Rev. Monica. The way through is not to abandon my yoga teaching and sharing (as previously thought) but to find ways of supporting the sharing of what I know while creating space for the development of the global work that I do for people of all faiths and none. On reflection, I also see that the majority of my clients also share this connection and love of yoga so it’s important for me to acknowledge and be open about my lineage, tradition and training so that I can effectively support the work that we do together.
The fire of the havan and the chanting has changed everything. I don’t have to throw the yogic baby out with the bathwater. By letting go of how I ‘thought’ I needed to practise and share yoga I have been opened up to a new path of possibility and integration. I now know that I still need to support yoga practitioners and teachers to integrate yoga more effectively into daily life. I can do this in a way that feels spacious and joyful. I can find a way to deliver the training that is powerful, supportive and transformative. I can do this in a way that fits perfectly with the retreats that I have already planned in Barbados. I can do this in a way that honours and supports the current work that I do as an inspirational speaker, spiritual guide and holder of ceremonies. Hoorah!
Until now, I’ve been unable to launch The Space for Nurturing Yoga because it didn’t feel right. Now feels like the right time. I’m not going to wait to have a fancy website. I’m just going to email people and have a Facebook page ‘The Space for Nurturing Yoga’. I will signpost people to events and courses on this page when it feels right to provide that support. I’m going to keep it simple.
I am starting the programme with a weekend of ritual, yoga and meditation with Swami Satyaprakash at my home sanctuary in Burton on Trent on 17-19 March 2017. It’s a residential weekend called “The Beauty and Simplicity of Yoga” for a small group of yoga teachers and practitioners to reflect, take stock and prepare to move forward into spring. We’ll be holding a nurturing space of ceremony and ritual while we go back to the basics of hatha yoga, pranayama, yoga nidra and meditation. It’s going to be a lovely way to take the next steps in this adventure.
After the “The Beauty and Simplicity of Yoga” weekend, I’ll be rolling out a spacious and light core programme for The Space for Nurturing Yoga. I’ll be sharing any yoga specific events on The Space for Nurturing Yoga FB page and there will be a link to the page from rebelrev.net. If you are interested in following my progress with this or joining me, like and comment on The Space for Nurturing Yoga FB page.
Big love M xxx