My Yoga journey-
Yoga was something that I had dabbled in for years, but time and time again I stopped because I lacked the motivation to roll out my mat. I found it boring, slow and too long. It always looked like something that cool people did, but it was never something I could muster the will-power to actually do, like running or getting up early in the morning.
At this point in my life, I had moved to a new city where I had no real friends and I thought I should probably start a hobby to meet some new people. I was trying to find something that would be a fairly easy start so I wasn’t double-y humiliated by turning up alone, and then also being really shit. I had spent my childhood in dance lessons, so I had retained some flexibility, and I was under the illusion that yoga was fairly chilled so I knew I wouldn’t be beet red and sweating my ass off in a class*. So I turned up to my first proper class in ages…. and it was good!
*PLOT TWIST this happened nearly every class.
Turning up to that first class fell at exactly the right time in my life (thank you universe). I had just started a very stressful job, and at this point in my life, I had developed very little coping skills with life stressors. That is…aside for clubbing. And when you reach a certain age it is not possible to go out all night and work the next day anymore. Sad times.
These classes had become my sanctuary. I could brush off the stresses of my day as the frustrations from work sweated out of my skin. As my job increased in stress, these yoga classes were becoming one of the only times in the working week where I wind down and return back to my usual self. Yoga had changed from being an exercise class to becoming a gift to myself. It was my hour of inner peace.
What I now realise, is that in these classes I was being truly mindful. I had always struggled with meditation before, but just by allowing my body to move with my breath, everything else faded, and my peace to returned.
My passion had awoken. I had always wished I was one of these people that knew what they wanted to do, but I think by accident I had stumbled on it by chance. I wanted to teach yoga. But more than that, I wanted to help people’s mental health. To allow them to find their inner peace, in a healthy, scientific and gentle way. I suppose that desire is reflected a bit more in my blog now. Afterall you can only write from the heart!
Since that fateful yoga lesson, I suppose a lot has changed in my life. I mean to start, I certainly do yoga more than once a week! But more than that, yoga has started me on a journey of truly looking after myself.
I have taken the time to listen to what my body is saying to me, and really paying attention. Each day I meditate a little. I make my relationships a priority. I am more careful about what, or who, I surround myself with. For once in my life I have a proper sleeping routine, rather than a daily coffee intake that would rival a Cuban grandma. I make a point of spending time in nature. Each day I learn something new to keep my brain healthy. I could go on but that would make for a very boring blog post.
In essence, yoga was the start of treating myself like a temple. It was the start of proper, deep self-love and self-care. Living like this is a privilege, and I want to make sure I treat it as such.
CONFESSION TIME- Now I must be honest, I have been doing yoga for longer than a year now, however it is a much catchier title than ‘What doing yoga on and off for years, but now on for a year and half…and a bit has taught me’ so bear with!
Some people call yoga glorified stretching, but time and time again, I see so many life lessons reflected in my practise.
So enough with the ramblings and onto yoga lesson number one!
Yoga Lesson 1- Balance is not static, life is not static.
When I first tried any type of balancing yoga poses… well it was a shit show. I was falling everywhere to the point that even my teacher looked worried which is never a good sign. I am glad to say I have improved since, but that doesn’t mean I am shit hot every single day. My yoga teacher always says ‘balance is not static’. I mean quite literally you are not still as such, you are using every muscle to try to keep that swaying to a minimal. Balancing asanas may look effortless but it is one of the hardest things you can do. It is the yoga equivalent of a swan paddling frantically under the water.
Balance is not static, it is something we are constantly working at to stay ‘balanced’. And this is like life. Life is not static. We do not remain novices or masters forever. Everything is always in a constant state of change. Somedays I may feel like I have the grace of a flamingo, and on other days Nelly the elephant feels more appropriate. And guess what? Both are ok!
Each and every day is different to the next, and we need to acknowledge this. We cant live a life without any context. Sometimes we find things harder for a multitude of reasons like fatigue, mood, environment. Whatever the reason it doesn’t matter. There is no point in beating ourselves up because we are not as good as the day before in any area of our life. It is a matter of self acceptance. We are constantly changing and our environment is constantly changing. So when things are tough, sometimes it helps to know all you need to do is wait a little, and things will be different once again.
“Everything changes permanantly. How boring it would be if it wouldn’t”Klause Schulze
Lesson 2- Great things come through baby steps.
I wrote this exact thing down on a post-it note for me to look at whilst I do yoga actually. Sometimes it is really easy to get frustrated with where we currently are, whether this is something trivial like an inability to do a headstand, or something more serious like your career. We live in a society of instant gratification. You can message someone half way across the world instantly. Or microwave your whole dinner in 3 minutes. And that speed of life can be easy to get used to.
But our bodies do not run on 2021 timing. They run on the same timings as they did when we lives in caves. If you want to get stronger it takes a lot of time, effort and protein intake #GAINZZZ
The reality is, most things that are worth doing, take time, effort, and are usually a culmination of loads of tiny baby steps. If you want a PHD, think of how many individual essays that takes. Now lets break that down even further. The amount of sentences you need to write over your academic career is immense. BUT it takes every single one of those each individual sentence to achieve the end result.
Great successes, in any area of life, are not achieved overnight. They are a result of hours, and hours, of work. So for now, all we can do is continue to put one foot infront of the other until those baby steps have created something bigger than we ever expected.
I still have not achieved that headstand, but I am working on it one step at a time.
Yoga Lesson 3- A holistic view of things is helpful.
To view something holistically means to look at things as the sum of its parts rather than individually. For example, the femur is an individual bone, but collectively it is a part of our skeleton.
For ages I was having issue in my knee, and I was convinced it felt a lot like runners knee… which felt like an unusual diagnosis for someone who hadn’t run in years. So having convinced myself something was seriously wrong, I hopped off to the osteopath to tell me what was wrong with my humble knee. Now, I paid £50 for the priveledge to be told that my knee issue wasn’t really a knee issue at all. I just had weak glutes.
Its true… my butt was dead. RIP my ass :'(.
And let me tell you, as someone who has been thoroughly blessed with some junk in my trunk, this came as a surprise to me.
Though yoga is great form of exercise, like most other sports, it does not IMHO constitute a ‘full body workout’. Yoga asanas primarily focus on the front of our bodies mainly the quads (upward dogs, lunges and balances), the abdominal muscles (twists, boat pose and any plank variations) and our shoulders (chaturanga, planks and downward facing dog). However, it tends to neglect the backside of our bodies, namely our backs, hamstrings and those sweet sweet glutes.
In doing only yoga my body had become out of alignment. It had stopped working correctly as a whole structure. My quads had become so strong (and my hamstrings and glutes so weak), that my quadricep muscles was pushing my knee cap onto the bone. Ouch! The only way to get rid of this pain was to treat my body holisitically. To heal my knee problems, my glutes and hamgstrings needed to be strengthened, so that they could probably support my leg.
I needed to regain alignment.
So as much as I loved yoga, I needed to supplement it with something else, to keep my practise as smooth as possible. With a major focus on hamstring and butt strength I expanded my working out repertoire and to be honest it has been great and has kept things really fresh. For a good hamstring and bum workout I recommend this one by Boho Beautiful and basically everything by Madfit.
And all this made me think…
In life sometimes we need to take a step back from a particular issue to see what the larger problem is. And sometimes we realise the thing we thought was the problem, was never the problem at all. The problem was something else all along! When we get distracted by the tiny details, we stop treating things as a whole, and it becomes really easy to lose sight of the real issue.
So moral of the story;
- We need to sometimes take a step back to look at the bigger picture. What you see might surprise you.
- If you love yoga, but you want to both protect you knees and keep that butt juicy, do some glute strengthening exercises on the side!
Lesson 4- Flexibility is not always a good thing.
Hypermobility is when you joints are like the person at the party that’s had a bit too much to drink. They are all over the place, and are doing things they probably shouldn’t. All jokes aside, hypermobility means that your joint moves further than its healthy limit . It usually effects areas like the knees, elbows and hips, but can extend to the neck. In my case I can just be chilling with my arm on the ground feeling comfy, but to anyone else, it looks like my elbow has dislocated.
Interestingly, because hypermobile people are naturally more flexible it is quite a common condition amongst gymnasts, yogis and dancers alike. Because your joints move beyond their natural limit, it is easy to enter into poses that you have the flexibility for, but none of the strength. If you are thinking ‘uhh that doesn’t sound good’ you are right. Continual over-extension in our joints will damage them in the long run, which is why it is so vital to focus on alignment.
And I think this mega flexibility that hypermobility provides is an interesting parable for life. Just because we can do things doesn’t mean we should. Much like my elbow joints, sometimes it is easy to over-extend ourselves, sometimes without even noticing. We commit to things we don’t want to do, or we spread ourselves too thin. It may feel fine at the time, but if we continue to over-extend in an unhealthy way, it will come back to bite us on ass, much like joint pain does. Flexibility with our time, boundaries and our commitments is not always a good thing.
As the saying goes ‘if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything’. Think of us like trees. A tree with no roots, has no foundation, and will topple over as soon as a heavy wind arrives. Our limits, our boundaries and our fundamental values are our roots. They help to ground us, to keep us true to ourselves, and to keep us healthy. Our roots mean that when something comes along that isn’t right for us, we can say no, without worries. Our foundation helps keeps us strong, much in the same way that our joints and bones keep us upright. After all we are not all bendy cheese-strings, we have limits and bones for a reason. Its time to honour them!
Lesson number 5- The things we find the hardest are the things we need to work on the most.
I can almost hear your groaning. This is the thing people want to hear the least. If you hate push ups why would you do them? Well, my bet is, that it’s highly likely that you hate push-ups because you are not very good at them due to weak shoulders/chest/arms. You take your pick.
It is a very natural thing to be attracted to doing things that we are good at. It feels enjoyable to be good at something. And chances are we get even better at it because we practise so much. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, annoyingly this works the other way round.
The reason we are bad at things (normally) is because we haven’t put a lot of practise into it. And the irritating truth is that the only way to get better at something is to practise. If you suck at something, this is a big red flashing light showing you that this is the area to improve.
No-one is going to be a master at everything, however being well-rounded does help. No-one would want to be in car with someone who is great at accelerating, but pretty bad at braking. And for your own peace of mind, its great to know that the thing that is holding you back isn’t yourself. Trust me on that one.
So, even if it is difficult, put a few more hours in that thing that you find difficult. Maybe it is press-ups, talking to new people or just going to bed at a sensible time. And as time passes, and it gets easier, maybe you might not hate it quite as much.
Yoga Lesson Number 6- We can all create our own inner peace.
And so I will end my little ramblings today with my final lesson. We can all find our inner peace if we carve out the time for it. For me, I find my inner peace in yoga. It is my moment to turn in on myself, breathe and just focus on the present. There is nothing like ending a stressful day of work with a yoga flow, and as your body stretches and your mind relaxes, it feels like you can leave everything else behind because you’ve been reborn into the day again.
And yoga has truly taught me, that no matter what fuckery is going on around me, everything I need is within me. I ALWAYS have this place of calm in my yoga practise that I can turn to when things are difficult. Nothing else can invade this space, not other people, not work, not my environment. It is my place alone, which I can enter whenever I like. It is like my own little island oasis in this sea of anxiety inducing concrete madness.
Maybe you find that sense of calm through yoga, or collage, or even synchronised swimming. Whatever tickles your pickle is a-ok with me!
It is an act of self-care to gift ourselves these moments of calm. Having your me-time is not selfish. It is fundamental to our health. We cannot give anything back to anyone, be it our children, partners or community, if we are giving from an empty glass. That is no use to anyone, least of all yourself. And the only way to fill your glass is to do things you find fulfilling, to show yourself acts of self-love.
So please, take the time to make this peaceful me time. It is beneficial to everyone in your life, most importantly yourself.
The universe is kind of funny sometimes. I walked into that yoga class with literally 0 expectation. It was just something to do. And yet that single class has caused so much change. It has made me fit, provided me peace, and changed what I wanted to do with my life. That chance lesson ended up being something life changing. I suppose life is like a puzzle. Sometimes we don’t really understand the pieces, but bit by bit, as it all fits together and you see the picture and you think ‘Ahhh it all makes sense!’.
Song of the day!
Song of the day is Rocky Mountain High by John Denver because this song gives me that inner peace feeling. It is just such a beautiful melody, with such thoughtful and interesting lyrics.
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