So you think yoga's not for you? I used to think so too ...
It was a dark winter’s evening in 2008. Mid 20s, I was having the time of my life living the dream in Edinburgh! I had gotten in from a long day’s work and was taking a moment to catch up on my emails. Tending to avoid marketing emails generally, on this occasion one from Groupon caught my eye; 6 ASHTANGA YOGA CLASSES FOR £25.00. BUY NOW!!
At this point, yoga had long been in my ether, but more from a pop culture perspective: images of lean, lithe women walking down the street, mat casually strewn over shoulder, latte in hand. Or the oh so cool Carrie Bradshaw from ‘Sex and the City’, intricately bent whilst discussing her love life with Samantha. All very aspirational images of a modern, carefree existence for the young, independent gal I was! My next thought on seeing Groupon (after imagining I was Carrie’s BFF meeting up in some hip yoga studio in downtown NYC) was, could this person be me?? I tentatively pressed ‘buy’, and wondered excitedly how this may change my life…
… My first foray was to a yoga studio in the New Town in Edinburgh some weeks later. Alongside 20 other newbie yogis, I began to cautiously feel my way. It turned out upward and downward dog poses whilst trying to coordinate breathing, my (what it turned out were not so long) limbs and attempting to keep my mind free of disturbance was tricky work. On reflection, my objective back then was exploring the physicality of yoga, how it may burn calories and ultimately impact upon my shape. I found the ashtanga practice challenging and the quick change from pose to pose was something that appealed to me in my quest to get closer to my desired body. After the block finished, my intention was to return for a second one. As can often happen however, life got in the way and yoga slipped further down in importance on the activity continuum.
When I found yoga again, some years later, a lot had happened in the interim. Because of a series of life events, I was becoming practised in the art of meditation. Such was the impact meditation had had on my life, I had also decided to train and then go on to work as a hypnotherapist. My return to yoga was precipitated by a change in attitude broadened by my new skills. Having a toned, flexible and strong body was great. What I really wanted though, was to marry some of the things that were missing from my practice when I first stumbled across yoga many years ago.
The yogic sutras focus on sravana (listening), manaana (reflecting) and nididhyasana (experiencing). Though not aware of these principles at the time, I instinctively began to live them through my meditation and self hypnosis. ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’ as the Chinese proverb goes. Or maybe a single downward dog in my case. But that first downward dog, led to a cascade of beautiful events where, with time, I began to ask myself what it really was I wanted from my yoga practice and I suppose ultimately, my life.
Whilst I enjoy the speed and challenge of ashtanga, it is the gentler elements of yoga that is more important to me now; connecting with my body and mind and reflecting on its needs at that particular moment. Then guiding it through appropriate poses (asanas) combined with effective breathing (pranayama) resulting in a deeper connection of body and mind. With time and the benefit of experience, I have learned that plasticity of mind is equal to if not more important than flexibility of body.
Yoga has become so much more than exercise and now filters into many areas of my life. On those occasions when I am struggling to sleep for instance, knowing that a sequence of poses such as cow and cat followed by a seated forward fold and a plow finishing with a shoulder stand can aid this process. When I am anxious and my mind is refusing to respond to the inner dialogue that is telling it to settle, simply starting my sun salutation sequence and engaging thoroughly with my breath, anchors me into the present moment; a gentle reminder that everything is ok if I just remember to breathe. In other times, when that anxiety is harder to shift, an understanding of the various posess – how they work and why – can work as a mini miracle for a tired and stressed soul. Backbends such as Camel and Bow open up the heart in a safe way and also bolster that personal sense of fearlessness. It’s remarkable really, to think that simply by positioning oneself into a particular pose, it can connect to emotions, feelings and states that we want to enhance to help us live our lives more fully.
The development of my yoga practice has instigated decisions in other areas, notably choosing to train as a yoga teacher. Over recent years, it has been my privilege to work with individuals to support them to develop their practice and that body and mind connection. Now as the world continues to open back up, I want to support others to develop or even reclaim that body and mind connection. I want to demonstrate to people that yoga is for everyone irrespective of shape, fitness or flexibility (even my animals get involved!!). Fundamentally, I want to share how to translate yogic principals into real life.
I am so excited to be offering a new block of classes run on Sunday evenings from Robertson Dance Academy in Dalgety Bay. I plan to keep this class on a rolling 4 week block so if the dates don't suit just now, you are very welcome to join at a later point.
For more information, or to book, get in touch with me here: firstname.lastname@example.org