We have been on a wild and terrifyingly rapid journey this year. From personal relationships through to the very fabric of our societies, everything has been squeezed, distorted, pushed and pulled until we find ourselves in a landscape that is almost unrecognisable. The changes have been radical.
And that’s exactly how it’s always been.
Transformation (Parinama in Sanskrit) is at the very heart of yoga - Patanjali mentions it eleven times in Yoga Sutras. The word itself translates as ‘Change on all sides’ and describes the process of one thing turning into another.
Parinama is not the same as change. Change suggests that something can alter for a short time or that a new thing can co-exist with the old. Think about a city, for example. Over time, cities change as new buildings and streets are built. But these often coexist with the old infrastructure. Parinama, on the other hand, demands the total surrender of the old as it transforms into something new. It’s the caterpillar turning into the butterfly or the milk becoming butter.
It can be unnerving when something we’ve become used to is totally transformed; the process - and outcome- can be painful. Patanjali tells us as much when he describes Parinama as a cause of suffering in Sutra 2.15.
We have all been acutely aware of Parinama this year. The process of transformation has been swift and irrevocable. We talk about the ‘new normal’ in recognition that the old has been surrendered and entirely overtaken by the new. There’s no going back.
Yoga teachers have found themselves at the centre of this transformation. The nature of our work has made us especially impacted by COVID-19 regulations. Every single one of us has had to change how we serve our students to meet the demands of the new social landscape (hello, Zoom!)
At the same time, students need yoga more than ever. With mental health issues - and waitlists for mental health professionals - growing, yoga teachers are finding creative ways to support them through uncertainty, fear and confusion.
This year has underscored the reality that transformation is inevitable and undeniable. But, as yoga practitioners, we know that there is both external and internal transformation. We cannot always control external transformation, but we can effect extraordinary internal transformation through renewed commitment to yoga practice. 2020 has truly been a year of external transformation - let’s respond with radiant internal transformation through yoga and navigate a path of hope and renewal for our communities.
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