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Yoga - What the Cat Told the Raven

KSHAMA: A Witch’s Yoga

Kshama (Sanskrit: क्षमा, romanized: kṣamā): Patience, forbearance, forgiveness (among many, many other things)

It’s recently occurred to me that I’ve never really talked about my personal yoga practice. And considering what an important part of my life it is, this seemed really odd to me at first to have not mentioned it. This led me to the realisation that it’s because my yoga practice is for me, just me, and is so personal to me that it literally doesn’t occur to me to share it.

I have a personal relationship with all of my practices. I learned crystal healing because it fascinated me and spoke to a connection I’d fostered naturally with crystals and wanted to dive deeper into. It was an added bonus that I could translate that knowledge into helping others. Reiki was the same – I was aware of my ability to be a conduit for energy, but studying and learning to understand the specific methods of the Usui Reiki Ryoho method brought a peaceful spirituality to it when I was activating it for healing purposes. This all remains true for my love of Tarot and other forms of divination. What started as an innocent curiosity, grew to a relationship, and evolved into a respected practice.

When I say that I found a comfortable place within all of these, I don’t mean to sound as though I’ve plateaued in either my curiosity or desire to go deeper. But I reached a point where I was comfortable and familiar enough to share these practices with others, while maintaining my own personal connection and relationship with them within my own space.

Yoga was different.

My relationship with yoga has been a truly organic evolution of acquaintance, to casual friends, to bonding, to a deep, natural and loving connection.

My first experience with yoga that I can recall was actually well over a decade ago, in a flow class that blended yoga with pilates and tai chi. I dubbed it “Yogilachi” and went in with an open mind. I literally don’t remember anything except my friend and I being introduced to Happy Baby pose (a highlight for any budding yogi), but a seed had been planted that evening.

Body

There is no shame in getting into yoga for physical reasons (in fact, there is no shame in yoga, and many people come to it for physical reasons). I, myself, was searching for something low-impact that would be beneficial for a body that at the time, had been through much and carried varying levels of trauma in many places.

My relationship with my body has not been an easy one, or an entirely good one. I’ll save the details for another post, but suffice it to say that I struggled immensely with finding love for my body (I’m happy – and relieved – to know she and I are in a much better place together now). When searching for a physical practice, I know now that subconsciously I was searching for something that left little room for me to get irritated with my body (and really, literally, with myself). I had learned over many years of judgement and belittlement and punishment from others to judge, belittle and punish myself when I made a mistake. I was still learning how to unlearn this, so avoiding situations it was likely to come up in made it easier (we are still unlearning this).

One thing I did learn rather quickly was that yoga was not as easy as the gentle, flowing media representations suggested. It was hard work, engaging muscles I didn’t know I had, making it abundantly clear where my body struggled, and a few areas she was stronger than I thought. There were absolutely moments I grew frustrated – when my wrists couldn’t hold my weight, when my knees didn’t want to support me, when I would lose my balance over and over and over again. There were moments I grew light-headed, over-heated or flat-out defeated.

But I was learning.

I was learning what my body needed, where she struggled, where she felt unsupported, where she needed rest or more time or less weight. I was learning to listen to her. Because in a practice where I was moving from one position to another, in time flowing from one pose to another, I was really hearing her, really feeling her. We were connecting, maybe for the first time.

Over time, we grew stronger. I stopped avoiding certain postures and instead learned to embrace them, to see them as teachers encouraging me to keep trying. Somewhere along the way, this physical practice was no longer about exercise. Somewhere along the way, something shifted.

Yoga became something more.

Mind

One of the ways I found kept me on track and made it easier to develop a regular practice, was participating in 30-Day yoga challenges online (YWA is my favourite). They’re conveniently virtual, and the videos tend to range between 20-30 minutes, absolutely doable. Best of all though, they offer easy consistency, especially if you can do each video around the same time each day (this is obviously not required; always do what you can, when you can). There were times I lost track, or fell out of my practice for a long while, but I always found my way back. And for me, personally, practicing at the same time each day eventually brought me to a place where my body would recognize that it was time for yoga, and I would wind down whatever task I was doing and head for my mat.

I started to crave my yoga time. It wasn’t a chore anymore, or something I had to do for my body. It was something I had to do because of reasons deeper than my body. I started realising that I used to allow my mental health to take on an unnecessary role, to allow myself to use it as a reason not to practice. “I don’t feel up to anything today so I’m allowed to honour that by doing nothing.” A completely valid thought – when it’s appropriate. Always listen to yourself and honour whatever it is that you need to heal. If you need rest, absolutely rest. But be honest with yourself – are you resting or avoiding? Because sometimes it’s the latter, and sometimes it can do more harm than good.

I started to find that less and less I was seeking out those feelings of not being “up to it”, just so I could take a day off. Instead, I wanted to be on my mat. Those days I wasn’t feeling “up to” anything, I knew yoga would still be a safe space. A space where it was okay to not be okay.

I realised yoga had started to feel good.

It remained physically challenging without being physically demanding. The energy of it was different. The postures came with more ease, because even when they pushed me, I just felt into it, moved into it, breathed into it, without judging or criticising myself. I no longer had to focus as hard to hold my body where she needed to be; she knew what to do. This absence of focus on my physical movements created space for something else.

Awareness.

I became aware of so much more than my body. I began to learn that my wrists struggled to hold my weight because my arms had carried so much over the years that was never theirs to carry. I learned that my knees struggled to support me because of years I’d spent crawling, trying to stay small, to avoid conflict, instead of walking and running and dancing. I learned I was unbalanced in so many ways that were not physical.

In my journey for physical wellness I had discovered something much greater.

I had found healing.

Soul

When I began my yoga journey, for years, I would use a blanket instead of a mat, if I used anything at all. At some point, I got a cheap foam mat that I would sometimes use under a blanket, but it eventually fell victim to my cat’s sensory thrills (oh, Dante 🖤). In early 2019, my practice had shifted. Yoga finally meant more to me than what it could do for me physically. I was taking my practice more seriously, and I wanted to honour the evolution of my journey. So for my birthday that year, I purchased my cork mat.

There were a couple of reasons I went with cork. First and foremost, it was sustainable. Cork oak trees are harvested by hand without cutting down the tree, which regenerates over a period of nine years. During their regrowth, they can remove up to five times more carbon from the atmosphere. Lovely.

But the other reason I went with cork was closer to my heart. I found a company that sourced their cork from areas in the Mediterranean. My maternal grandmother’s roots were in the Mediterranean, so my heart soared at the opportunity to connect with her, with our roots, each time I stepped onto my mat. I think of her each time I unroll it, wondering if I’m standing on a small piece of ancestral homeland. Even if I’m not, it’s close enough to matter to me. Because of this connection to her, a part of me gets to heal every time I feel the soft cork against my skin.

It’s important to know that everyone’s journey with yoga is different, as it’s meant to be. My own path was extremely broken up over the years. Sometimes I went a year or more without practicing. But something always called me back. And for those of us that hear that call again and again, a persistent and patient beckoning, offering more than physical wellness, we eventually find our way where we’re meant to. We find our yoga.

You’ll know when your practice has truly found home. For me, it was during another 30-day challenge. On day 22, my mat became my sanctuary.

It was a hard day. I was struggling badly with my mind, my emotions rolling like a dark storm hovering off a coast. I felt very lost that day. I didn’t feel at home in my body, I felt overwhelmed by the past and the future, I felt I was failing my present, failing myself, failing the person I loved most. I felt broken, and unfixable. My love asked, gently, if I still wanted to do yoga that day. I was surprised by the immediate YES that surged through my body. It was unmissable and I knew to ignore it would cause more damage to my soul. There would be healing on that mat. It would hold me where I couldn’t hold myself. So, silently, I nodded. And we unrolled our mats.

I remember crying during that practice. Silent, sad tears. I remember feeling safe to let them flow. At one point, lying on my back, as I gently let my knees fall to the side, my fingers strayed over the edge of the mat. Without thinking about it, I walked my fingertips back onto the cork, back within its sacred hold.

Sacred space.

And it happened.

I finally understood: why we breathe, what we learn on the way down.

An unexpected challenge, that pushed hard at my emotions, my mentality, and my spirit, that would’ve been a welcome excuse to do nothing, to abandon responsibility and let myself “rest” in self-sabotaging thought cycles, actually pulled me to my mat.

Moving through each posture moved me through my mind, through my heart, and especially through my body, forcing me to feel absolutely all of it, absolutely everything. I released things without knowing their names, and forgave myself in many voices.

I found my yoga. And I found peace.

You may be wondering how my yoga journey relates to my path as a witch. Perhaps you read it in between the lines of this post. My yoga practice connects me deeply to the earth, to my ancestors, and to myself. Which is also what my practice as a witch does. What my love of books, and art, and music does. “Root to rise” takes on a different meaning, I feel, for witches. If you feel called to, inviting yoga into your own witchcraft practice will open parallels unique to you, as it should. See what happens. The choice is yours regardless. Yoga can only deepen your practice; never diminish it.

Let it take time. Listen to your body. My love vocally envies my flexibility every session, but my Crow pose still emulates the grace and coordination of a restless Ewok. My wrists are still learning to carry just me.

Whatever calls you to the mat, if it calls you, answer. You will learn more than how to touch your toes. You will learn more than Happy Baby. You will learn patience, forgiveness, and peace.

Let your mat be sacred space. You, after all, are sacred space.

Honour that.

Namaste.

Sates

This post contains affiliate links that help support The Corvus Circle. I may make a small commission from your purchase, at no additional cost to you. xo

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