October’s theme at Falmouth Yogaspace has been storytelling, giving both teachers and students the opportunity to explore the colourful and fantastical myths told about the various Hindu deities that give us insight into the teachings of yoga and that we embody through our practice on (and off) the mat.
Most cultures on earth have their roots in storytelling, and through the stories that appear commonly in our own culture we have access to these roots, to recognise what influences our sense of identity, to which tribe we belong. Stories enable us to put things in order, to make sense of our world and to understand how things came to be the way they are. This might be the tale of how Ganga came to earth to create the river Ganges in India, or how the magpies raised the sky in Australia, or why we rest on a Sunday in England.
Stories can connect us to our past and shape our present reality. On an individual level, the power of story is potent, as we weave together our own stories of how we came to be this person and take it with us into our futures. The story we create becomes our identity, told and retold to accommodate new experiences and perspectives as they come to us.
Sometimes these stories become a prison or a protection, putting limitations on what we believe we are capable of. When a story is given enough currency it can seem to simply be the natural way of things. But thinking about reality in this way, as a story, can also be our liberation. A story only has power over us for as long as we believe it to be true, just like the bogeyman that lived under the bed used to stop us from sleeping at night.
The stories we share in yoga classes allow us to confront aspects of ourselves in another form, to recognise our own stories in others, and also to imagine what our story might be, to recognise our power to change it and how we might respond when there are unexpected twists in the tale.
Yoga also invites us to step out of our story entirely. We give ourselves the time and space in our practice to consider who we are without our identity, underneath the labels and the expectations, the roles, responsibilities and in relation to those around us. Who – or what – is left?
When we step onto the mat, we can play with standing in the shoes of warriors, heroes, goddesses, serpents, destroyers and all manner of other beings as we act out their stories, feeling in our bodies what it is to be that. Discovering that somehow we already know. Realising that somehow we already are.
While we play with imagination through the creating, telling, hearing and transmitting of stories, we cultivate a skill that enables us to project into the future and explore our own true limitlessness.
Stories come to us in all forms, with endless variations and agendas. What they all share with yoga is the purpose of recognising how and where we are (or aren’t) connected; to one another, to ourselves, and to our ‘dharma’, our reason for being here.
October ends with the festival of Halloween, celebrating the dead, and also Diwali, the festival of light. I hope that by delving into storytelling this month we can all find liberation in honouring and letting go of the parts of our story that we no longer need to carry with us, and shed light on the true parts of our being that are able to shine without them.
‘Everything is shown up by being exposed to the light, and whatever is exposed to the light itself becomes light’ – Ephesians 5:13