I am a girl who fell in love with yoga 4 years ago. First of all for the flexibility it gave me, which helped me in my dance class and then, while finding myself deep in the clutches of a corporate 8am - 8pm, for the space and calm it brought to my life when I found myself feeling anxious, or simply unable to switch off.
This led me to a crossroads where I made the concious decision to take time to delve into the practice of self-care. I was the sort of person who would feel guilty if I wasn’t using every moment of the day ruthlesssly efficiently and the thought of taking time for myslef was a concept I had never entertained before. Yoga allowed me to “breathe and reboot” virtually guilt free, which was a novel and wonderful concept!! The increased flexibility and strength turned out to be just a wonderful side effect of my new found “me time.”
I completed my 200hr yoga training with the fantastic Sally Parkes and can honestly say that the year for 2017 will forever be one that changed my life. I met some fantastic friends and learnt so much more about myself as a person, another lovely side effect of yoga!
I am now on a journey to share the wonderful effect yoga has had on my life with others. If I can change your life even 1% of the way it changed mine, then that would put a HUGE smile on my face :)
This month’s theme at Roma Loves Yoga is all about belonging. Knowing where you belong whether it be with friends, family, work colleagues can be a huge source of happiness but also a source of discomfort.
When we feel like we belong, we feel warmth, acceptance and love. We can be our true selves, let down our walls and let others in.
When we don’t feel this sense of belonging, it can feel lonely, we remain on guard, protecting and shielding ourselves in case someone see’s the true you and casts you out of the group.
I will share my journey I have with belonging and the journey I still find myself on today. I am a mixed-race brown woman and although it sounds a bit silly; it took be a long time to figure that out and understand what that meant to navigate the world.
Both of my parents are Mauritian, from this utterly beautiful island off the coast of Madagascar. This island was colonised by the British and celebrated it’s independence on March 12th 1968. Mauritius has a diverse array of people, which makes it a truly beautiful place (in my opinion).
My dad comes from Indian descent, Hindu, his skin colour sets him apart, deep brown, like his mum and dad… like his brothers and sisters… My mum comes from French and British decent, Roman Catholic. Her skin is fairer… like her brother and sisters…
They came to England when they were 19, separately but following a similar journey. They left their families and flew 6,079 miles away from everything they knew to try and make a better life for themselves and their families. I think about how scary this must have been, how sad their parents must have been to let them go. Not knowing when they would see them again. When I was 19, I was bar hopping and getting my degree at Reading and STILL taking my laundry home to be lovingly washed by Mama Choo.
When you’re young, you so desperately want to fit in, to be accepted even if this means compromising who you feel like you really are. Somewhere deep in your bones you feel it’s wrong, but u do it anyway… because acceptance is the MOST important thing. At least this is how I felt.
The friendships and relationships you form over this time look ok from the surface but there are very few people who actually know you and that can feel pretty lonely.
Over time, your bones start to scream at you that not being your entire self is exhausting and can you please stop pretending. I remember getting some feedback at work that I was a chameleon, I could adapt easily to the people I was faced with and my environment. I thought at the time that this was a good thing. It meant I was good with people. Or does it just mean that I am not authentic? Is this why I find it hard to connect with people on any real level, because they don’t know who the real me is? Do I even know who the real me is?
When you are a blend of things, it means you are obviously unique. You don’t fit neatly into a box… you spill over into several and make everything messy. When you spill, you don’t quite fill the quota in any box to be welcomed with open arms… and this repeatedly shakes your sense of belonging.
For years I identified as “black-other” as that’s the box I ticked on Job application forms. I knew I was a minority, but even in that minority, I was the alternate, I wasn’t the main thing. The world doesn’t see me as black though. They see me as Asian… but I don’t quite fit in here either…
I would quickly discover that I was not the ideal for beauty standards either… when the first boy I had a crush on told me to “get away from me you P***i.” I didn’t understand what it meant but I knew it wasn’t nice. I remember asking Mama Choo what that word meant and seeing her face fall. I don’t have children yet, but I can only imagine the pain she felt on my behalf.
These accumulations of things, things that your friends, partner or colleagues don’t experience sometimes leaves you feeling without a sense of belonging. When the BLM movement happened in 2020, it shook me in a way I had never experienced before and sent me on a path of discovery.
It was and still is a lot to process and I started speaking to someone to help me through it. She recommended I read “Braving the Wilderness” by the truly amazing researcher and author Brené Brown and oh my god… I felt like that book was written for me!
There was something that spoke to me so loudly that I want to share with you:
Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own. No one belongs here more than you.
Brené Brown – Braving the Wilderness
The definitions that kids in year 8 came up with to distinguish between fitting in and belonging just nail it on the head for me…
Being somewhere you want to be, and they want you
Being accepted for you
If I get to be me, I belong
Being somewhere where you want to be, but they don’t care one way or the other
Being accepted for being like everyone else
If I have to be like you, I fit in
What a bunch of highly intelligent year 8s… I mean, jeez if I’d have been told that, at that age… (I may have still desperately tried to fit in), but wow!! That was such a revelation to me. That true belonging comes from within, no-one else can give it to you.
Searching for it in others is somewhere in the “fitting in” category. You have to “belong to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world.”
So I will stop looking for the confirmation that I don’t belong in situations and instead show up as the “me” that I am and know that if I do that, I will ALWAYS belong to myself.
Thank you so much to every one who came to our retreat last weekend. It was such a lovely morning and the turn out was really touching. A special thank you to Aneeta from Action Village India who came and introduced the session. A very big thank you to the host Alex and to Nicky for giving us a really special Yin Yoga practice.
We managed to raise £830, which will really change people’s lives in rural India and this is all down to you!
Our theme for February is about unlearning… I saw a quote from Alvin Toffler, an American writer, who said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
From when we are small we are learning new things… exposed to new situations, influenced by our environment, the opinions of our parents, what we read, what we are taught at school, what we absorb through the media. We develop our own attitudes and beliefs based on all of this and carry them through life.
These are the values that guide us through life and often remain steadfast and while this can be a positive thing, without the space to unlearn and relearn we stay stuck in the same place.
Unlearning is the process through which we break down the origins of our thoughts, attitudes, behaviours, feelings and biases. Unlearning can pave the way for relearning over a period of time. It’s important because the circumstances in which we learned something the first time might be different from where they are now… All we have to do is unlearn what we learned then and try to re-learn it now in our new environment.
2020 was a year where we had time to reflect and look at the world though a different lens…
But unlearning isn’t necessarily easy. It means discarding what you have already learned and this is the tough part. Even if what you have learned isn’t serving you anymore, the fact that a certain amount of time and energy has already been invested into it makes it hard to let go and discover a new path.
It can feel scary and challenge the things you thought you knew or had learned previously, but this is where change happens. It allows us to reject old biases and stereotypes that may have affected our conscious or unconscious attitudes towards people, places and the systems in which we operate in.
The emphasis from birth is to always add to our knowledge, to build upon what we learn when we are small until we know it like the back of our hand and we no longer have to even think about it. Then we learn something new, and so on… and so forth.
But we don’t ever think of the fact that some of those things we learned need to be unlearned… before we can add anything to it. So that we build on stronger foundations and what we’ve learnt is still relevant over time.
A few questions to help you start the unlearning process.
My personal unlearning today was:
Things always have to done the most efficient way….
I miss out on the journey, always only concerned with the destination
There are many paths to end up in exactly the same place and my path isn’t everyone else’s choice.
If you want to join in, you can find the template on my instagram @romalovesyoga and answer the questions for yourself. If you want to share then please tag me so I can see them too!
We often begin a new year with resolutions to change ourselves, our circumstances or our situation… and that’s okay… but we have just come out of a year where survival is something to be celebrated… so I want you to be kind to yourselves this January.
As we continue to navigate a world unknown to us… it’s okay to take things minute by minute… hour by hour… day by day… The future remains uncertain but what we always have is hope… even if sometimes it’s just the tiniest glow…
I want to share a poem from Maya Angelou “Still I Rise” which, whenever I read the words fill me with hope and wonder that I will be able to rise from anything that happens…
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
This poem gives me goose bumps and the will to keep going, even when I don’t feel strong. I’ll be using it in my Yoga Nidra in class this January, to inspire hope in you too.
Aparigraha or non-possesiveness: ‘We live in a material world but don’t be a material girl (or boy).
Greed is not the aim, take what you have earned and leave the rest on the table…
Sharing is caring… really…
Satya or truthfulness: unfortunately this doesn’t give licence to say what you think ALL the time.
It’s about finding the right balance between “Honesty is the best policy” and if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
This one gets a bit tricky for me and I have to work on it EVERY day.
Ahimsa or non-violence: this one feels like an easy one for most of us.
Essentially though, throw kindness around like confetti but here’s the hard bit…
Even to those who don’t deserve it…