So that's it. I've finally plucked up the courage to look into my students' eyes and say it out loud. I'm leaving. I'm leaving the UK after 10 years, London after 6.5 years.
I'm going for a long journey around South East Asia and I cannot predict how long it will it take me. It would have probably helped if I was more precise about my plans to return. But all I could say is that, very deliberately, I didn't have a plan. The entire idea is based on that: not to have any rigid framework, neither in terms of route and activities nor the duration of the stay.
I'm a free spirit. Staying in one place for so many years felt almost like a burden. Don't get me wrong, London gave me so much: the opportunity to come across myriads of styles of yoga and plenty of brilliant teachers, the discovery of Thai Yoga Massage and the honour to study with the best of the best in this field. It is here that I taught my first workshop and lead my first retreat. I cannot imagine learning that much if I lived anywhere else in Europe.
And yet, I felt more strongly with every year that I needed to get out of London. I had to quit the routine and do something both me and my partner dreamed of for a very long time : Travel.
And yet, I felt more strongly with every year that I needed to get out of London. I had to quit the routine and do something both me and my partner dreamed of for a very long time: travel.
I do not fool myself into believing I can become a different person just because I move to a different continent. Yet something about travelling without time limits makes it easier to let go of overthinking, overplanning, overdoing. I would like to live by what I preach and truly be in the present moment, trust my intuition in taking the next step. I 'd imagine I'd be able to stay longer where I feel I belong and carry on with my journey if the place just doesn't feel right.
There are so many things to discover and experience out there! I'm going to the region where the style of meditation which I practice (Vipassana) is prevalent and where Thai Yoga Massage has its origins. I can practice those two arts at their source. I was always curious to try WWOOFing- voluntary work at organic farms in exchange for board and food. Can there be a better way to get to know the country, the people, to connect with the Earth? I'll not lie to you, the idea of spending a very long time in a hot climate was also a huge factor in making this decision!
Yet the faster the date of my departure is approaching, the less I feel the excitement of leaving and the stronger I feel the strings of attachment pulling at my heart. Many of my students have been with me for years. They were 'growing with me' as some of them said to me, witnessing the shift from teaching strictly and devotedly Sivananda sequence, through a major yoga identity crisis- the period of complete confusion- to slowly finding my own path in functional yoga approach.
So when I said I was leaving, my heart was pounding and I suddenly felt really scared of how would everybody react. Would they feel betrayed, abandoned? Or maybe they wouldn't be that affected at all? Seeing my long-time students with tears in their eyes, coming to hug me and wish me well yet sharing their sadness made me very emotional, too. It's actually the second time I'm leaving my students. Having done that already moving out of Edinburgh in 2011 I know I can cope with that. I can let go of attachment to people and places. But what about my students? Don't I have obligations to stay with them as long as they need me?
Everything depends on the perspective, but for me, coming and going is just a part of life, something one needs to learn to accept. Nothing is constant therefore attachment inevitably leads to suffering. It might sound very philosophical yet always proved true for me. I take and cherish what I learned but I'm not afraid of change.
As for the sense of duty, I did the best I could not to leave my students forlorn. After months of discussions, I managed to convince my very dear friend Sigita to quit her office job for the sake of following her heart and doing what she really loves doing. Sigita discovered yoga by chance during backpacking in India. A short stay at the Sivananda ashram triggered in that party girl a gradual yet profound transformation. I got to know her when the transformation was already on the way. We had different paths of interest regarding yoga practice, her being drawn to a living guru tradition while I was growing increasingly wary of the school I used to follow for years. Yet in different ways we both shared passion for yoga, as well as meditation and Thai Yoga Massage. We learned Thai Yoga Massage together, often practicing on each other. We are soul sisters and if there is anyone in the world I could trust leaving my students in the hands of, that's her. And it doesn't matter our teaching styles vary. What matters is the enthusiasm, dedication and the open heart, being ready to listen. Sigita definitely has all of that. So no, I don't feel guilty because I'm leaving. If anything, I believe this would give my students an opportunity to try and learn something new, gain a new perspective. Besides, they are not MY students – I do not claim any ownership to them. Whatever they ever achieved, it is because of their own effort- I was there just to gently encourage and awaken it.
Last but not least, I'm not going away forever. It's true, I have no idea if it'll be half a year, a year or two years and life is unpredictable but I definitely do intend to be back. And in the meantime, technology for once will be of some positive use. I'll keep on writing a blog as that's the best way to express myself and keep you up to date at the same time. I'm also hoping to see some of the students in South East Asia. It was such a great feeling to teach a retreat at Braziers Park this February to people I know well and I hope I can repeat that somewhere in South East Asia. I might even follow a growing trend and teach yoga via Skype. Or at the very least shoot a whole series of yoga videos. So, really, there is no reason to despair. This change happens for a reason and there is always a lesson to be learnt, always something positive that can be found.