Why I practice by Michael Olivotto
I practice because I am love. A bold claim, I know, but there is no more concise a reason. I practice every day whether my foot steps on a mat or not. Because, for me, yoga is a state of being. It is a perspective that shapes my world rather than some outward force that I must make manifest in the physical reality. My Asana practice is but one form that helps me to connect to my soul, to my light and to my darkness. Moving my body is but one tool in my little yoga box. For a philosophy that teaches non-judgment we seem to place a very positive label on our physical practice, as though moving the body is the answer to all of our suffering. Don’t get me wrong I love Asana, it opened my heart to the truth of my soul, but why is it all that we see? I will confess here that sometimes my daily practice consists of getting out of bed and having a shower, of affirming my love and experiencing my darkness.
For most of my life, and it continues to this day, I have been battling with depression. Now those of you that know me may find this hard to believe, but I am just that good at dawning my masks. Before I started to practice I cowered from my darkness, built walls around all my suffering and waged an internal war to be happy. I created a terror state, an apartheid system in my soul. It was a dark place to live, and I almost gave up several times. I kept fighting and running until I was broken physically, mentally and emotionally. In this state I came to yoga, reluctant, fearful and dismissive. Yoga didn’t care, it took me in its arms and showed me a different way. As the walls around my darkness came crashing down I discovered that there was nothing left to fear, that it was all light, even the darkest crevices. My suffering resulted not from the darkness but from my segregation, from my denial of love, from my fear. And what was I afraid of? Funnily enough, my love.
So how do I practice yoga? Every day I practice compassion for my wounded child. I practice true sight to see my darkness and my light. I practice letting go of my fear of the past and the future to stop stealing from the present. I practice honouring the divinity inside of me. I practice gratitude for everything in my life, what I see as good and as bad. I find cleanliness in my thoughts, contentment in my perception, discipline in my actions, an inner focus of my awareness and surrender to my guiding light. I experience ease in my body, I sit with myself. Sometimes I stand on my hands or tickle the back of my head with my toes. Sometimes I cry in a shower and experience connection with myself. Whatever I do, I find ease in this body and love for my soul. I find stillness with every breath that I can. With every step in my practice, I am present. As I sit with friends, I am present. As I cry out my pain, I am present. As I live, I practice yoga.
Namaste my beautiful friends.