I think I only went to one yoga class in my late teens and that was with my mum. She giggled for most of the second half of the session after her feet flopped down on the floor and made a loud bang when she couldn't balance in an inversion! That set me off giggling too and we ended up leaving the class early, out of sheer embarrassment more than anything!
This yoga malarkey is not for me I thought...
Fast forward 30 years or so and here I am in India, not far off my 50th birthday, grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat as I receive my 200 hour Yoga Teaching Training certificate...and still giggling!
So what changed?
Photo: Eric Pye
About 7 years ago, I'd just arrived at a yoga retreat in Andalucia and during that small talk phase when you first meet someone, I remember asking the teacher how often he practiced yoga. After a brief (tiny awkward!) silence, he replied, "Yoga is everything!"
He didn't offer much explanation at the time and I felt a bit of a twit to be honest, like, was I supposed to know this already?
I only managed a few hours a week...if that?!
But over the years, I've come to understand this for myself and it's helped me get through some pretty dark times.
I returned to yoga again during my 30's in an attempt to find some ease for my lower backache, but also to help ease my troubled mind, trying to deal with personal tragedy. To begin with, I was mostly concerned with the asana practice - you know, the 'stretch your body, do the poses, try and get more flexible' thing that most of us associate with 'yoga'. But over time, through more practice, more study, more self-awareness, I began to see that not only was I feeling physically better (stronger and more free in my body), but also, I felt that I was changing as a person too.
To help me explain, let's first dive into a little background information...
The word 'yoga' means to yoke together, and when we yoke or join things together, then they become inseparable. So too the parts of ourselves (mind and body) are inseparable. Sometimes we might feel at odds or conflict with ourselves...mind going one way, body going another (that's not just me right?)...but they are in fact yoked together. So what we are trying to do through our yoga practice is to bring ourselves back into harmony, back into alignment, so that the body, mind, breath, our deeper intuition and the source of our joy and our purpose in life are all aligned.
And when we feel aligned, it's beautiful no? You can feel it can't you? There's much less conflict within us, so we feel less torn, less depleted and run down because all our forces are assembled in the same direction.
So when we find ourselves coming into misalignment, it's a signal for us to pause, reflect and take the time we need to return to this harmonious integration.
Type in 'benefits of yoga' into your search engine and there'll be oceans of information on how it calms the mind, boosts your immune system, builds muscle strength, reduces stress and tension, improves balance, helps with insomnia, improves energy flow and so on. Who wouldn't want that?
But it's when I've really embodied it that I've personally felt the most benefit. It's like a little life hack, the optimal self-soothing practice for when I'm feeling anxious, or in disharmony or dis-ease. I'm always learning of course...a perpetual student at life... but this yoga malarkey is teaching me to feel good in my mind and body. It frees me up and calms me down.
Yoga is living in harmony with yourself, so I guess yoga is everything... who knew?
Photo: Eric Pye
I don’t ever crave extraordinary moments anymore. Just small, gentle hums of beauty streaming from below, above, and beyond simply from paying attention. Sound. Light. Shadow. Art. Warmth. The night. The morning.
Dreams that are not faraway but exist right here - already in my days, hands, and heart.