“The modern yogi’s path”
An Online Yoga Festival
Part I: Iyengar Yoga Intensive: Monday 24 – Friday 28 July, 2023
Part II: Open Weekend: Friday 28 – Sunday 30 July, 2023
Personal Statements by Carol and Kofi Busia
Sponsors & Organizers of the Navayogimārga Festival
Carol Busia: My initial yoga experience was pretty detrimental. So I had good reason to be wary of marrying a yoga teacher.
I was encouraged to go to my first Intensive by my first teacher. This proved to be a mixed blessing.
I did not look or feel anything like a dance or workout junkie when I went. To this day, I still don't. When I compared myself to others around me, I was still—back in those days, and at that age—extremely self-conscious.
I was unfortunately relentlessly body-shamed and abused by a fellow student every single class, twice a day for three solid weeks. She constantly highlighted the differences between me and her. She made me wonder why I had come to an Intensive when I was clearly—in her eyes—not ready.
Her actual remarks never seemed like much. But like every practiced abuser, she carefully chose her words to deliberately both hurt and gaslight me, diverting all negativity from herself and onto me. And I of course chose to believe what she meant when she said that her ‘beautiful body was no accident’, and that the only thing I was good for was to make her look good when she practised on her mat next to mine. And because I chose to believe her, I even allowed myself to become physically ill.
I don't know how I made it through that Intensive. Luckily Kofi was in fact the teacher at that first Intensive of mine. He noticed my discomfiture; put two and two together; and not only tried to put an end to the abuse, but also to make me stronger in myself to handle what was being said to me.
But I only really made it through all that, and into the future, because of the other students in that class. They became a part of my community. Once they also saw and heard what was happening, they did not hesitate to step forward and to help, protect, and support me.
It still took me quite a while to recover my equilibrium. And today, we all still remember, but now with much communal laughter, and with eye-rollings, at the memory of some of those one-line insults I had had to endure back then.
And this has been the recurrent theme of my life in yoga. When things get difficult, I turn around and yoga and its community of helpers and supporters is there. I am so grateful to yoga for bringing not just its blessings, but so many kind, wonderful people into my life. I will always be grateful to yoga because without it, my life would have been so much harder.
And it has been the same through this pandemic. There has been all the practical love and support my family and I have received through my husband Kofi’s operation, his ‘dice with death’, and his long and difficult diagnoses and recovery.
I think it fair to say that yoga—both the practice and all it brought with it of students, teachers, gurus, classes, workshops—rather took over my life, and in a way I did not expect when I went to my first class. But there is no doubt that I am deeply grateful to the practice itself and to its life-saving properties.
I am co-sponsoring this Navayogimārga Festival with Kofi so others may have an opportunity to enjoy all the benefits that have come to me since my first encounter, all those years ago, with yoga.
Kofi Busia: I was born in a non-privileged British colony. I spent my early life there. Even today, life expectancy remains short. Many of my relatives and family have died young. It is simply taken for granted that death is an ever present companion. So I had always accepted that that is simply how things are; and that I would follow suit.
When March 2020 came along, I was already close to 10 years older than my father had been when he had died some 40 years before. I had also already lost my brother—some six years younger than me—several years prior. So already, I was feeling so very grateful for the inestimable health benefits I had already received from what was, at that time, 50 years of consistent yoga practice, and 48 years of teaching.
And then suddenly, as the pandemic was ramping up around me, I had to give yet more thanks. I had to have an elective but somewhat savage surgical procedure. It was the only way to rescue my body from some malignant tumours residing in my duodenum. And due to that, I discovered that I have been unknowingly suffering—my entire life—from two quite rare genetic anomalies. Each, separately, has a 50% chance of mortality by age 20 (at which point I was already practising yoga, and so survived both); and, even worse, each has a 90% chance of mortality by age 40 (and I by then had over 20 years of a strong practice, and thanks to which I am still going strong).
No-one has found any reason for my survival against those joint odds; for my good recovery from the surgery, or my excellent prognosis for the future … excepting only my practice of and life in yoga. And for these reasons, my gratitude to yoga, and to my many friends in yoga, has increased immeasurably.
I am joining with my wife, Carol, in expressing our joint gratitude by being the co-sponsor, with her, of this Navayogimārga Festival, and so that others can come to benefit from the practice and its community, and in the same way we have been able to do.