A Simple Teaching

It’s been one year since I completed the yoga teacher training (YTT) at Salt Spring in 2016. It was both a beautiful and challenging experience, however I walked away with no clear idea of whether or not I would start teaching.

Fast forward 12 months and I currently work in a retail store in Victoria, hardly a good use of my yoga training it seems.

Yet I have actually found Yoga integrated into my life more now than ever before. Previously, yoga was a very personal practice that was done at a very specific time and place, whereby I would wake early for Pranayama and meditation, with asana taking place upon my return home from work. Now, I try and bring breathing, mindfulness, postures and other yogic practices into every facet of both my personal and work day.

Part of my role is steaming clothes, a seemingly mundane task that has now become a type of meditation, as I focus only at the task at hand and this lulls me into a blissful state of one-pointed concentration. Pricing clothes and goods at the store has turned into a spiritual ritual, as I treat each item as a gift from God and the repetitiveness of the task allows me to be attentive only to what I am doing, free from outside distractions. Vacuuming floors and sweeping the steps outside are done as if I am cleaning a temple and thus I do this with great reverence, while matching my gentle breath to each unhurried sweep. Watering plants outside the store allows me to commune with nature and again be totally mindful to the job at hand. As I do different jobs throughout my day, I adapt the way I do my tasks, to ensure that I assume various yogic poses while doing them, for example, I adopt Chair pose while polishing jewellery.

I do all these tasks with the aim of being present to each activity while concentrating on my slow, rhythmic breathing, rather than rushing to get duties over and done with.

My Interactions with customers and fellow colleagues have also turned into a yogic practice, for example, I’ve seen how the simple act of a smile to greet customers can be so transformatory. This modest deed changes the whole energy of an area, a situation and an interaction. It seems to open and energize a pathway between two complete strangers. No words are needed, yet the symbolism of a smile offers warmth and a direct line between souls.

That’s not to say that words cannot in themselves be healing, for I have found that asking customers or colleagues ‘how are you?’ with authentic intent, as opposed to just using these words as a greeting, and then silently ‘holding space’ for the person to reply with an answer, allows others to feel recognised, understood and valued more than just as a consumer or associate.

The Bhagavad Gita tells readers that you can find God and help others through any profession, from a doctor to a street sweeper. One job is not better than the other, rather, it is our ability to do our work without being attached to the fruit of our actions and then offering the act to god that makes our labour sacred. It is the intention we bring to a task, rather than the task itself that is key. The great Indian saint, Nisargadatta Maharaj, author of the seminal work ‘I Am That’, was merely a cigarette seller, yet his wisdom provided solace and understanding to all.

But beyond all of these actions, Yoga has most illuminated my presence of being. By this I mean that the lessons I learnt and continue to learn from YTT have contributed to making me more calm, compassionate, kind and loving within. As these attributes have flowered inside, they have risen in me and like a cup overflowing with liquid, have naturally outpoured to others in a place beyond both visible actions and audible words.

I never wanted to become a yoga teacher in the traditional sense; who knows, maybe I will, but since YTT I have discovered that bringing yoga into every element of my day through being mindfully present in each activity, means that my practice does not need to be separate from my work life and that is a teaching in itself. Also, the greatest gift I can offer to others is to be the best manifestation of my soul and just like the trunk of a tree which offers strength to those who simply sit beside it, my internal presence of being grounded, centered and balanced, percolates naturally and silently to others.

It is this simple act of being present and offering my presence, that is my teaching.

Contributed by Ankit Rao, Salt Spring Centre of Yoga YTT grad from 2016.

Clothing photo (above) by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

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© Salt Spring Centre of Yoga 2017