In my experience, the contemporary yoga scene in the UK and indeed much of the world is being driven by commercial interests which do not often align with the higher purpose of yoga as a spiritual pursuit. Whilst I believe that the vast majority of teachers are working with the best intentions, I also believe that they are operating within a fitness industry which values outward displays of physical ability. The intention of this integrative yoga project is to create space for yoga students to shift their focus and engage with their practice from a holistic perspective. I will be partnering with my local yoga studio ‘More Yoga’ to create an online wellbeing course specifically designed to fit around the participants’ existing yoga practice with a goal to enhance the benefits experienced by practicing yoga. Inspired by Wilber’s Integral Theory and the Alef Trust’s Learning through Integrative Practice module, the integrative yoga course will consist of five pathways (mental, physical, emotional, spiritual and interpersonal). Each pathway will contain activities which will encourage the participant to approach, or reflect on, their yoga practice with a different mindset, whilst using their existing yoga practice as a grounding anchor, as well as a ‘trigger’ to continue with the course and carry out the activities.
I was inspired to create this integrative yoga project following reflection on my five years of teaching yoga and on my experience as a yoga student. Although I immediately found enormous benefit in my yoga practice, I used to feel tension around the fact that I was practicing in a very dedicated manner with regards to the physical postures, but leaning out towards a variety of spiritual traditions in addition to the teachings of yoga. It was difficult to orient myself within a practice that contains so many traditions whilst also living and working in a culture with vastly different values. Looking back at this time, I realise that I was rejecting all existing frameworks for my spiritual/physical practice and yet didn’t feel empowered to create one for myself.
This did start to shift with time as my confidence in my practice grew, but it wasn’t until I began studying with The Alef Trust on the MSc programme in Consciousness, Spirituality and Transpersonal Psychology that I began to be able to find the words to understand this journey. The Learning through Integrative Practice module requires students to construct their own framework of practices that includes the five pathways noted above. The inclusion of practices from seemingly separate areas of one’s life into one overarching system was revelatory for me and my understanding of holistic wellbeing. It is my intention that the activities undertaken by participants in this project will create for them the opportunity for exploration into different aspects of the Self with a whole person approach, and enhance their understanding how their yoga practice can better support them across different areas of their lives.