For some, yoga practice is about maintaining mobility, reducing physical pain or recovering from injury. Others find yoga for its incredible emotional health benefits, from managing depression and anxiety to finding better ways to cope with whatever life throws at them. Some simply enjoy the chance to move their bodies and detach from the outside world for a while. The reason I found yoga probably has a bit to do with all three of these things.
I’ve never really been what you’d call sporty, although at primary school I loved all of the races we took part in on Sports Day. Sadly secondary school knocked that enthusiasm for physical activity out of me. I came to dread PE, to the extent that I once hid in the athletics equipment cupboard with a few other ‘PE haters’ for a whole lesson, just to escape cross country! To me PE was just a chance for the teachers’ favourites to show off their sporting prowess while the rest of us languished in our mediocrity. Whereas at primary school it had all been about enjoying the activity for what it was.
But it wasn’t all their fault. I’m also not really that competitive. I care passionately about doing whatever I undertake with great care and to the best of my ability, but not necessarily in comparison to others. I think that’s why yoga and I get along so well. Yoga teaches us to care about how we behave towards ourselves and towards each other (see the Yamas and Niyamas of the Eight Limbs of Yoga). And a big part of this is conditioning ourselves not to pass judgement.
So many yoga classes are mixed ability because there’s always an alternative pose, a prop, or a modification a teacher can give, to either accommodate someone who’s more advanced or someone who’s newer to the practice. It’s this sense of ‘we’re all in it together’ that I love about yoga. It encourages us to wish everyone well, whether some of them are your kind of people or not. What’s the harm in wishing someone well? There is none, and you might even experience that warm fuzzy feeling as a bonus. What’s the harm in wishing someone harm? You hurt them and you hurt yourself, through your own anger, stress or resentment.
I found yoga while studying for my law degree in Aberdeen. At the time I was quite low due to a messy relationship situation, not knowing where my life was headed and, looking back on it, some body image issues too. I was looking for a distraction, and I found it in Les Mills’ BODYBALANCE™ at a local gym. This yoga-based class got me into exercise – and into caring for my mind and body. I remember the teacher was a South African bodybuilder. She was amazing! And so lovely. For the first time in longer than I could remember I was paying attention to my body in a positive way, not only the shapes I was making on the mat but also how I was treating my body outside of class.
From that point on I practiced yoga at home with DVDs. I went to yoga classes at a gym while living in Edinburgh, and I continued with home practice and the odd yoga and meditation class after I moved to London. I even went on yoga holidays in Thailand and Morocco. But it wasn’t until my move to Brighton in 2011 that my eyes were really opened to the wide range of yoga styles, teachers and studios on offer. It’s a city with something for everyone when it comes to yoga. I’ve enjoyed Hatha, Vinyasa Flow, Ashtanga, Scaravelli Inspired, Restorative, Yin and Vajrasati yoga classes in Brighton, and they’ve all given me something positive to take away. They’ve shaped how I teach and, to some extent, they’ve played a part in shaping my life.
I did my 200-hour yoga teacher training with Sally Parkes, and I loved every second of it – even the times of serious self-doubt, which were great opportunities to learn and grow. Inspired to keep learning and growing as a teacher, I’m now looking into training to teach yoga to teenagers.
If you’d like to share your yoga story with me you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook @greenlotusyogauk. Otherwise you’ll find me teaching a steady yoga flow at Studio iO every Monday, 1 – 1.45 pm.
Thanks for reading,