Kay and I smile when we talk about Jivamukti Yoga. Our inner lights blink on. We’ve both been devotees for a number of years, and go as much as we can in London and New York. I started in the London studio, and Kay in the New York center (Kay lived in New York for most of the nineties). Sometimes we meet on the mat for a 10 am class before a day’s work on ThandieKay.
I’ve tried different kinds of yoga. I loved Hatha yoga when I was pregnant, I attempted a vinyasa class with my agent gaby in LA and nearly died (while she had barely broken a sweat), I was hypnotized by Bikram for a couple of years… But my first Jivamukti class with Durga (above middle) was transcendental.
Her I pod playlist (Jivamukti classes use music to heighten your awareness) includedGroove Armada’s ‘Lightsonic’ and Depeche Mode’s ‘Higher Love‘, which was combined with the continual, energetic flow of the asanas (poses), and the encouragement to breathe audibly, deep in the throat (ujjayi breath), all instructed with Durga’s rich, resonant voice vibrating with sincerity and non-judgment. I poured sweat as if I was in a Bikram class, felt alive with tenderness as though I’d been in a Hatha class, and my body was ready to be a fine-tuned instrument in the orchestra of Vinyasa.
On top of all that, Jivamukti even had something extra – each month there’s a new ‘focus’ determined by Sharon Gannon (one of the founders of Jivamukti yoga). Our instructor shares the focus at the start of class. The theme is always focused on tackling the psychic obstructions to awareness and loving-kindness. With that focus in mind, we’re asked to devote the class to someone who we feel might need a silent message of love and support.
Jivamukti yoga was the alchemy of all the practices I’d valued over the years. It magnetized mind, body, and spirit into a unified, powerful force. A force that is compelled to be used for freedom from suffering; toward all living things that come into our path, including ourselves.
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And on a more physical level, a Jivamukti yoga class guarantees pure positive energy. It’s a release of emotional stress, physical strain, and tightness; and replaces that dis-ease with lightness. It’s life-changing, and dramatically more effective than alcohol, sugar, coffee, self-tan or botox. It’s like dancing or sex. It induces a natural high.
I know the gym does it for many people, or boxing, running, jujitsu, etc. It’s about finding our particular groove, isn’t it? It’s about finding that thing that helps us connect our body, mind, and spirit. When that happens, we shine. We literally radiate from the inside. We throw off physical and emotional heaviness – we punch it off, cycle it off, spin it off, run it off, sun salutation it off! We moved towards a clearer, freer place. It’s extraordinary.
It makes sense considering our bodies are made up of 75% water. Think about hydro-electrics: water flowing through a turbine creates electricity. Our bodies are the turbine and we can literally create energy; electricity. We can turn our inner light on, and on, and ON! It’s so exciting.
And guaranteed, we are more physically beautiful when we splash water on our face after a session of action. Our cheeks are pink, our eyes wide awake like a baby’s, our skin tingling and face muscles flexing. And there’s that light turned on – that electricity radiating. Every photoshoot relies on clever photographers using light to enhance the features of their subject. Light enhances our beauty. But no photographer can turn our inner light on; our inner glow – and that’s really what makes us intensely beautiful. Cosmetics can help of course – eye drops, cheek stain, mascara – but all to produce the panting, wide-eyed, energetic look that stares back at you in the gym changing room mirror after a session. ‘Beauty’ is that glow, that positive energy, and life force, that happiness, that love. Beauty=Life=Love.
I go through phases of inaction. I know I’m ‘stuck’ when I find excuses not to practice yoga. Typically it’s brought about by not wanting to face something; sadness over a difficult period, fear that I’ve failed and am not good enough. All fears lodged deep down in my dark pit of shame. I forget that there’s a light switch in the pit, and all I need to do is get the turbine going so I can switch the light on. The longer I leave it, the deeper the darkness. That’s when you need that friend to turn up unannounced one morning and say, ‘Come to yoga’! That’s Kay for me. I won’t find excuses with Kay, I’ll just grab my mat and go.
‘Samadhi’ is the yogic state of enlightenment – it’s the Oneness of being with all living things (the river that our individual 75% of water is connected to). The practice of yoga heals the disconnection between self and other. The obstacle to enlightenment is to perceive other living things as separate from ourselves. It was certainly the key to my unhappiness, my dis-ease. I spoke about it in my Ted talk – which you can see here.
So, whatever your turbine needs to get moving, get it moving.
Feel the energy radiate out of your body and create a forcefield of connectedness with every other moving, grooving, beautiful, living thing.
Feel the life, feel the love, and BE it, right here right now. See you on the mat!