How a White Van Man unblocked his energy pipes through embracing yoga
Yoga!!!!! You’re joking in’t ya!!! That’s birds stuff! Is the general response of the average working man when suggested that maybe a yoga class or two may help them with those back and hip issues that have been plaguing them on a daily basis. But the benefits of yoga aren’t just to be reaped by the super flexible Lycra clad crew who live off an organic vegan diet and band about words like ‘universe’, ‘spirit’ and ‘energy’.
Modern yoga is finally starting to reach out to the average bloke on the block, reminding those self righteous skinny minnies in their over priced gym wear that yoga is about all inclusiveness, self love with acceptance, and not about showing off how far you can get your leg behind your head. So whether you ride a fold up hipster city bike to work, or a white van with filthy slogans written in the dirt on the backdoor, yoga is there to be enjoyed by everyone and can help and heal more than just the health freaks and the hippies.
Step forward in this story Jim; An Aussie plumber who is into his surfing, loves his kids and missus, enjoys cracking open a nice cold stubbie on a hot day, and is also a full on yoga lover and now yoga teacher. I first got to know Jim in the taxi from the airport that our yoga retreat had sent for us in Goa. With legs like tree trunks, a respectable pair of guns on him (in a ‘the beach is that way’ type style) and a broad Australian accent with the australianisms to match, Jim was not what one would first imagine when you think of a trainee yoga instructor.
Jim had first been suggested yoga several years back to help him with a work induced back injury and in spite of his initial apprehension at ‘prancing about like a ninny’, Jim discovered that the regular practice of yoga greatly helped him ease not only his injury, but also to approach life with more clarity and tranquility. One of the amazing lessons that we all learnt from Jim on our time spent on the yoga course is that whilst you should be leaving your ego at the door in every yoga class, there is no need to also leave your personality there.
Yoga has evolved into many different facets and styles in the past few decades; from the deeply spiritual practice based on the ancient teachings of Patanjail, to the dynamic modern flows incorporating elements of dance and moving meditation. The advantage of this amazingly broad scope of practices available is that there really is a style out there to suit everyone’s needs. If you’re recovering from an injury then you have Iyengar yoga, which uses props to help get you into correct alignment, or yoga therapy pratices and somatics to help you rebuild healthy neural pathways to and from the area in question. If you are looking to complement another athletic practice such as surfing or boxing then a dynamic Vinyasa will highly complement your overall fitness, and a deep tissue working Yin class will help to ease any more deep rooted strains. Spiritual awakening in the form of breath work and moving meditation can be found in Kundalini yoga, and extreme strength of body and mind comes about through an intensive Ashtanga commitment.
Whatever style or styles you connect to as a teacher or practitioner being true to yourself is paramount to evolving in your own practice. Jim for example would often pepper his yoga classes with such gems as ‘Breath in the good shit…, And breath out the bullshit…!’, and other such takes on his everyday blokes approach to yoga. And do you know what? Such up to the minute interpretations on this ancient practice made his students smile, laugh and feel at ease, making his style of yoga accessible to all of manner of practitioners regardless of their background or level. And this was after all his ultimate goal; he wanted to share the wonderful gift of yoga that he had received and present it to other down to earth ‘normal’ guys such as himself in an easily digestible and highly applicable manner.
The irony in this is that by trying to create a style of yoga for the ‘normal guy’ out there, Jim was actually being quite extraordinary in his vision. Breaking down social preconceptions and stigma should be something that is alive and well on the yoga mats in all types of yoga classes. However, we often find that the very people who would most benefit from yoga feel too intimidated to join class, or have the misconception that yoga isn’t for them because they’re too big, old, stiff, injured, unfit etc. to join a class.
Sure Jim’s yoga for plumbers may not be to everyone’s liking, but as a teacher you really can’t please everyone, so be an informed teacher but ultimately be yourself, giving your students all that you would love to receive in their position. As a practitioner yoga is about YOUR own personal journey and it really is worth experimenting with some different styles and teachers until you find one that clicks for you. Whatever it is that you’re looking to get from the class, whether that’s feeling fitter, empowered, relaxed, energised, more deeply connected to your sense of self or the divine, or a combination of the above, make sure that you find a practice which fulfils your own personal criteria and complements your personality in some way or another.
Whatever your mantras and however you choose to find an expression of them there’s no denying they’re all just trying to lead us to experience the same feelings of inner peace and understanding. So if you prefer to call it breathing in ‘cleansing fresh prana’ and ‘exhaling negative energies whilst opening your blocked chakras’ then that’s great! But in layman’s terms ‘breathing in the good shit… and breathing out the bullshit…’ works just as fine for me. Long live yoga for plumbers! And while we’re at it, for anybody else who fancies giving it a go.