• Nadya Booyse

People have only as much liberty as they have the intelligence to want and the courage to take. ― Emma Goldman

All humans want to matter. We want to believe that, even in being so infinitely small in this great big universe where any one of us is so easily lost, that we are important enough to be seen, to be counted, and to be looked for. We want to know that who we are, what we do, what we have to say, our lives, and our deaths, have reason and purpose. We don't want to be just another number, and we definitely don't want to feel as if we are expendable to some other human who feels that they have some manner of power.

There are many people to whom the larger number of souls are expendable. Throughout history, we have challenged those. Whenever the general population felt that the powers that be - whether church, rulers, governments, or policemen - were acting in ways that disregarded the fact that they (the people) were alive too, the people would rise up and revolt. But what happens when you give people a global presence, popularity that can be tracked, a voice that echos eternally in the ether, a platform which allows their lives to be seen and makes them feel like they matter more than they normally would, and once they are thoroughly integrated into this 'service' you provided, you have them sign a legal regulation that basically states that you own their shit and will do with it whatever you want and they may not hold you accountable for anything that happens after? What happens when people have to face the conundrum of either revolting against this and losing the space where they showcased their lives, or continue using the 'service' and having no say over how they are used? How many ways will people validate and justify the abuse that is taking place simply because they love being seen?

To be clear, I don't have an answer, and this is also not entirely the thought pattern that I had before I left social media. This is today's journal entry. I had to leave the platforms (which I loved once) in order to see how weird my thinking had actually become. I am reminded of how I wanted to quit smoking (also a decade long habit) and one of the reasons that I wouldn't was because I had such an awesome lighter; I had to quit in order to understand how bizarre that thought was!

I have been on the Book and the Gram since their inception, and I have loved them both for different reasons. Both these platforms were invaluable during a time when every choice I made was at odds with nearly everyone around me; these spaces gave me support, connected me to people who were making the same choices, and provided knowledge and advice to understand and learn more about the things I chose.

I met some amazing people! I also met some amazing people pre-social media, and people in-between who had little to no social media presence. I have experienced both platforms for well over a decade; I am neither disregarding their value, nor abolishing them without knowing them, the flaws they came with or the weaknesses they exacerbate. To some degree social media has helped me to stay in touch with people all over the globe, but after I sent out an email to explain my reasons for leaving these platforms, it dawned on me that it has also made me lazy: with me posting my life and seeing other people's lives on social media, we had less motivation to actually get together and have the coffee we always promise we would. We were staying in touch after all, weren't we? On the other hand, the people I really loved and were intricately connected to, hardly ever looked at my social media pages. They also didn't know every detail about my life, but they checked in with the most important bits:

how are you?

what's happening?

how are the kids?

can I help?

I need help...

and always, let's do coffee!

To make another thing clear: I am not anti-tech or anti-internet, and I have never been under any delusion that anything that we put on the internet has not been available for those that wanted it (ok, two points). The problem that I saw was that up until now anyone that wanted the information had to break through or down walls into order to get to it. And even if they were given or sold it, should any harm have come to myself, my reputation, or my business because of it, someone could have been held accountable in a legal manner. The chances are next to nothing that I or what I have or do am of enough importance to anyone out there, but at its very foundation the reason for my exodus was the blatant disregard for accountability or ethics: I matter enough to myself not have someone else use me (whether my data, my photos, or things taken that I cannot see) in ways that I do not agree to, especially if there is not going to be any accountability; I matter enough to not have someone else disregard my rights to myself, even if the potential of their abuse is very minute.

There are no easy or absolute answers, but for me it was at least clear what I needed to do. I honoured my boundary without judgement of those who choose differently, and with absolutely no desire to enter into an argument or to try and convince anyone to do the same. I am talking to a lot of people though, and I think that these discussions are both due and important.

The changes to my life, my time, and my way of thinking have been sudden. I no longer see the world through a lens or with the subconscious idea of posting every major event/thought in my life. It took me a couple of days to stop thinking in terms of what I need to capture in order to send it out into the ether, but getting there was much quicker than I anticipated. Turns out I have actually been yearning for this unexpected freedom for a while now.

When I do take photos, they are few and they clearly mark a memory I want to retain. Mostly I am just experiencing moments as they pass without the need to hold on to them.And isn't this what life is actually about? Moments. Forgetting. Remembering. Basking in the live you live(d) and the people around you.

Sometimes a well lived life with those you love is all the importance you need.

  • Nadya Booyse

The age we live in is not ours to decide. Our decision is only how to use the few fleeting moments the Universe has given us. - Paris by Starlight, Robert Dinsdale

This physical manifestation, this body and mind that you inhabit at the moment, is really just about being alive and living your life. Anything else you add to it. You get to decide what this means for you, what has meaning for you, and how you want to spend the time allocated to you, while also being aware that you have no concept of how much time you have, whether it is pre-designated, or whether it is assigned as you go.

The ripples of your life will always be more than you can see, and deeper than you can know, whether you are a super famous movie star, or an unknown person living an average life. And you decide all of; all the extra little bits and values you want to add to it. Or not. It doesn't need to look like anyone else's definition of anything, and you aren't allowed to say someone else's is less than yours because you decided different things.

Maybe being a present parent feels like all the life you want.

Maybe you want to be a corporate high-flyer and rise all the way to the top.

Maybe being surrounded by nature is your happy place.

Maybe you feel comfort in the beauty of the high rises and bustle of the city.

Maybe you want to work with people, learning to recognise when you need quiet.

Maybe you're good at flying solo, learning to recognise when you need companionship.

Maybe avoiding everything is where you're at and you don't want to learn shit.

You get to decide whether you want to numb out or face your shit.

And maybe your scars are too big to face right now.

Healing for you may be about learning to set boundaries, or understanding what real nurture is.

Healing for you may require a deep dive, hard work, and a willingness to deal with intense discomfort.

Or healing may just be finding compassion for yourself, learning about softness, and moving past survival.

And when people look from the outside, will they see all that has affected you and why things look the way they do?

There is a tiny part that comes with everyone's software, which is a desire to grow and having the freedom to do so. Whether or not you listen to it, or what that looks like for you, is totally up to you.

No one will understand your journey, exactly what you've been through, what processing skills you were born with or taught, or what you are dealing with right now on top of what has gone before, so no one gets to judge your steps or what your journey looks like. Although they will.

Each of us gets to decide whether any other person or the things they throw at us gets to be a part of our journey. Sometimes this looks a little like judgement, but the difference between judgement and discernment, lies in our aggressiveness and compassion towards that which is not for us.

There will be those that will be willing to sit, to listen, and bring with them compassion enough to understand at least part of what is yours. There will be those that won't.

Only you define what or who has meaning in your life.

  • Nadya Booyse

With the onset of LockDown in South Africa, every studio and teacher did their best to pivot their business in order to best serve their students. Fast forward to just over 2 months and entering into phase 3, a lot of studios are closing their virtual (and sometimes physical) doors due to lack of support and attendance. My studio has closed its physical doors, but we are still dangling on in the virtual world. We only carried about a third of our students with us into the virtual world, and with every month, a new wave of cancellations come in as people find they don't want to or can't practice virtually. Of course I understand that this whole event has taken it's mental and physical strain on all of us in a different way, but I am also a witness to those that have made the effort and found their practice (not perfect, but present) to be a saving grace, whether they are using online services, or practicing on their own. Which is how it should be; which is the purpose of yoga in a nutshell.

I have been questioning the way that we teach and the spaces we create for a while now, but LockDown has created a situation where it cannot be ignored anymore, and I find myself asking the question:

Are we/have we been doing our students a disservice in the way that we have been teaching, and the environments we have created?

Yoga has been under fire for a couple of years now, and even within the practice itself there are factions and battles between fundamentalists and 200hour teachers and everyone in between about what exactly yoga is and what it looks like. On this I have no clear cut answer, because if it boils down to awareness, then anything we do can essentially be yoga, and if it is self-realisation, then we do need a more disciplined practice to get us there and it can contain things that we don't essentially think of as yoga. I think most factions will agree that it is not just about the asanas, but there seems to be less understanding that most people start with this because the body and movement is the most accessible form to delve into awareness and our physical expression and realisation. Why can I call it yoga when I read scriptures and practice gratitude, but not when I am having fun in the moment with my kids, or moving my body in a way that does not necessarily look like asana? Why when we can see from its history that asana based yoga has never looked the same from one era to the next, do we still argue which practices are yoga and which not? And if yoga is available to everyone and excludes no one, why do I need to use sanskrit and chants if it is not a part of my culture or understanding (although it is a 'damned if you do and damned if you don't situation'), and why can't I be accepting of others, both their pain and their power? In the last couple of days, another can of worms has been opened that yoga teachers loath to face:

Why is racism so prevalent in our spaces and classes? Yoga was meant to assist us in acceptance, unity, and understanding, not to give us a spiritual veil to turn us blind. If yoga is life changing, why hasn't the world changed much?

If right now you are either justifying the parts of yoga you willfully exclude, or you are arguing against the fact that you do (maybe, just don't protest too much), or if you are thinking that my yoga is the best yoga, or if you are unwilling to ask and sit with these questions, can you see your dogma and rigidness as the opposite of self-observation and -exploration that is such a core practice in yoga?

These are tough questions, but the toughest ones always bring the deepest insights if we allow ourselves to sit with them in honesty, to acknowledge the feelings and thoughts - all of them! - that they bring. If we can sit with them and allow them to be, we can create a channel of change and transformation. And isn't this what we preach, after all? Whereas justification is the opposite of growth; justification is the rebuttal that tries to wipe the issue and question away and ask it to not be.

But apart from what we have (not) created for our students, what about our teachers? The yoga teaching industry is not a very lucrative one. Unless of course you create a whole label around yourself or creating a clothing or accessory range, which is not a bad idea, but also not one that everyone can do. It requires time, funds to study, support from loved ones, and perhaps a career that starts quite early on. For many teachers, teaching full time can quickly become a killer to your personal practice or rob you of the joy and inspiration you once held, and results in burn out for a lot of teachers. On the other hand, teaching this as a side-line when you have another job is just as tiring, and my experience is that those that don't really need the income don't really commit to their students in the long run and do this as a hobby almost. We are also flooding the industry, and the West is not the only guilty party here: Hundreds of Indians are promised lucrative jobs through their 200hour Yoga Teacher Training. I accidentally posted a job vacancy on a site that catered to people in India too, and for months my inbox was flooded with CV's and high expectations. I chatted to several of them to explain the situation and how yoga teaching differs in South Africa. It was very disheartening.

Faced with all of this, we have turned yoga into an industry selling a service, rather than an institute of self-development. We have turned our teachers into beggars and servants, bending over backwards trying to accomodate and entice their students to attend and commit. Yoga teachers have become salespeople using all the worst (being the most materialistic) marketing strategies to get people into the spaces they create, instead of creating a practice where the responsibility and effort comes from the students, who have now become clients even if we still call them students. In the average space, teachers also teach to whoever wants to attend, making the journey of growth a little haphazard, instead of intentional.

Within the events of COVID-19, teachers have found their students refusing to practice in the space of their own homes; not trying and struggling, but just refusing to practice in a situation that is less than what they are accustomed to. On the one hand. On the other hand, we have found our students falling for the glamour and names of things, and instead of supporting the studio that had their back (read practice), they have sought out big names and events to do classes with. Not that there is anything wrong with wanting to do a class with someone you have always admired, I am sure many teachers were so happy they were able to do this as well, but what does this say about the connection and personal relationship you had with your teacher if you can so easily shrug them off?

As the world closed down for the COVD-19 virus, teachers and studios were faced with empty spaces, despite being willing to pivot their services online. But I think we need to know that this crisis that we witnessed would have happened anyway: we were training teachers in order to pay the bills, the market was becoming more and more saturated and our module was unsustainable; we were feeding a western mindset that loves to idolise and is drawn by big names and brands and shiny pretty photos; we were looking for numbers rather than for commitment. The shortcomings of yoga have been coming to light more and more; COVID-19 just blew over the house for us. And if we are wise, we will use this time to grow, to figure things out and perhaps create a better practice to serve us and our students.

The practice of yoga is suppose to be a committed, regular event that assists you in navigating life a bit better; it is about the inner journey and the observation of the self; but if this is so, then:

why hasn't the world become a better place with the rise of yoga?

why have so many people been unwilling to do the practice outside of the studio?

why has yoga created a culture that has no skill at dealing with and cannot stand themselves (or their fellow humans) unraveling and dealing with the harder emotions?

Humans love to place responsibility for any part of their own life onto anyone that even remotely looks like it can accept it, i.e. it is the doctor's work to keep me healthy; it is the law that needs to tell me what is right; it is my gym instructor that needs to make me fit; it is shopping/my spouse/my kids that keep my happiness; and it is my yoga teacher's job to tell me what to do, keep me safe, and make the practice happen. We have handed over our responsibility of nearly everything in our lives, but the practice of yoga, being internal, should come with the realisation that we need to look inside ourselves first and foremost, for strength, for responsibility, for light, and for anything else that we wish to create in our lives. As yoga teachers, we seem to have taken up this responsibility on behalf of our students, because we wish so desperately for them to see and experience the same value that we have, but also because we need them to commit and attend so that we can do this as a living, and I don't think we see yet what this has wrought.

Have we done our students a disservice?

Have we created such perfect spaces for our clientele that they have no idea how to practice when things are no longer perfect?

Have we warped yoga into an method to escape life, rather than teaching people how to better navigate it?

Have we allowed ourselves to accept a watered-down version of yoga in order to pay the bills?

As I listen to what people have to say about why they are potentially not practicing, it doesn't really matter what the words are, what I hear is that this practice has been adjusted around the western mindset, and that all the value resided in outside aspects of it: the community, the space, the personal time away from their homes/kids/jobs, etc. None of these things are bad, but all of these things are aspects of the practice that are in addition, and not the reason or the purpose.

Right now I have no real answers. I am doing my best to ensure that those that have been committed to the practice and those that are still facilitating it, are taken care of. Should our virtual doors need to close too, I want to make sure that everyone has a means for continuing this practice that they love. In between this I am rethinking my own way of creating a practice for my students that actually serves them. I don't know what shape that will take yet, but like most things right now, I know it has to.


Gauteng, South Africa