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  • Casey Giovinco

Finding My Truth

After I made the decision to enter a bodybuilding competition, I had the weirdest sense of anxiety. You might think that it was about being on stage near-close to naked, but it wasn't. I made my peace with being in the public eye long ago. Whether we're talking about me being Chief Elder of Gala Witchcraft, a published author, or simply having to get up in front of a yoga class, I live my life in the spotlight. The "on stage" aspect of the goal really didn't bother me much. Not even the idea of being in a state of "undress" added any significant pressure. I was upset because I felt like I was abandoning my yoga practice "just to sculpt my body." I've spent most of my life doing yoga pretty much every day, and it just felt somehow "wrong" to consider the idea of giving it up … even for a little bit.

Satnam & Laguz

For the last couple months, I have been grappling with this discomfort, trying to rationalize my way out of it, but nothing seemed to work. No matter what I did, I struggled with that eerie, uneasy feeling, like I was doing something wrong.

Have you ever had that feeling? You know the one where you just feel naughty for some totally innocuous reason? Rationally, you know you're not doing anything wrong. Emotionally, however, you feel like the child who broke Mom's favorite Tiffany lamp while roughhousing with your brother? Personally, I hate that feeling! Any way, after a few months of ridiculous self-flagellation, I finally brought my concerns to my Kundalini Yoga teacher (Samadhi). And, am I ever glad that I did! She made me feel so much better in just one conversation.

We talked about why I was convinced that I had to give up yoga to succeed at bodybuilding. We talked about all the places that the two practices seemed at odds with each other, and we talked about how I felt about the situation. All the while, she just nodded and smiled patiently. Then with one single word, she reminded me of something that changed everything: Satnam. In Kundalini Yoga, satnam is a word used at the end of a practice (like namaste) to bring us back to the awareness that we are seeking truth. In a direct translation, the word gets broken down into sat, which means "truth," and nam, which means "to name." However, it is more often translated as "I am truth" or "truth is my essence."

Basically, what Samadhi was reminding me about with that one word was that there are no hard and fast rules to our practice as Kundalini yogis. There are certainly guidelines and suggested practices that have centuries of tradition behind them. There are tried-and-true methodologies–sure, but, at the end of the day, the yogi is still free to deviate as he, she, or they feel necessary. Yogis are encouraged to follow their individual truths.

Samadhi applauded me for listening to my body and following the natural ebb and flow of my life. Where I felt guilty for deviating from my yoga mat, she saw the intuition of the yogis of old. She reminded me that a yoga practice might be a 2.5 hour long sadhana (a Kundalini yoga term for "spiritual practice"), but it might also just be sitting in quite contemplation over a cup of coffee or tea. Some days, a yogi might go through hours of mantra and meditation. Other days, that same yogi's practice might just be a brief focus on one pranayama technique.

Historically, Kundalini Yoga was the advanced form of yoga. (It was called Tantra, and it's yogis were called tantrikas.) It was something a yogi would do only after studying Hatha Yoga for nearly 20+ years. These people were experts at their practices. They didn't need hard and fast rules any more. Instead, they needed to listen to their bodies, and go with the flow while maintaining a "yoga mindset."

Samadhi's reminder conjured up thoughts of my own experiences as a witch, and how the further one gets into Witchcraft, the less structured or regimented things are. Black and white thinking falls away, and the gray areas of life become so much more apparent. During the period leading up to my third degree in Wicca, I came up with a motto to help me navigate this shift in perspective. Whenever I struggled with wanting a hard and fast answer to something, whenever I wanted to control a situation or force an issue, I said, "Let go and laguz, Casey."

For those of you reading this who don't know, Laguz is the rune associated with water, but it is also heavily associated with the Willow Tree and the flow of life. Ultimately, what this rune teaches is to "go with the flow," to bend like the willow tree in the breeze in order to avoid breaking. For me, at this time, the flow of life is leading me to explore my yoga through a more muscle-building practice, to expand it beyond the mat and into the gym. Now, I have a choice. I could choose to fight that process and suffer because I want to do yoga by some non-existent book, or I could go with the flow and expand my own understanding of both yoga and weightlifting in the process by taking my practice off the yoga mat and onto the gym floor rubber mat.

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