I practice yoga for many different reasons; my body, mind, happiness, to move away from a back injury, to not return to life with an eating disorder, to prevent illness and because I love it. It takes quite a lot for me to not practice, and I was back in class two weeks after giving birth to my daughter. When I found out I was pregnant, I had to think about whether I should continue with my hot yoga practice, and the advice I was given was ‘do whatever nurtures you.’ The one thing in my life that is always nurturing, whatever else is going in, is my yoga.
I have been practicing yoga since 1997, and to begin with, yoga was very much about my body, and working with my lower back pain. Things shifted when I took my first Bikram Yoga class in 2004. It was accessible, incredibly therapeutic for my back, I loved the postures, and it supported what I was working through personally.
I had an eating disorder for many years, and it took a huge amount of work to change deeply rooted emotional patterns. I was very uncomfortable in my body, overweight, bad skin and not taking very good care of myself. After a year or so of Bikram Yoga, I remember feeling like I had found my own body. I’m more comfortable with my body now, than I ever was in my 20s. The yoga made me want to change things, and helped me realise I could. It gave me a different structure to my life, and was the beginning of something new.
Sometimes the thoughts associated with my eating disorder creep up on me, but I have the tools to deal with them, and one of them is; go to yoga. Look after your body, clear your mind by focusing on what body parts do in a posture. Think of nothing else. Be in the moment. Even if that moment is uncomfortable. There are times in class where it’s uncomfortable, and in that moment you have a choice. Do I distract myself? (Drink water, move mat, fidget, look around), or do I just stand still? What happens if you don’t move when you feel uncomfortable?
What happens is things change.
Practicing yoga is not just about the shapes we make with our bodies, it’s about focus, concentration and learning to live well. One of my favourite teachers is Mary Jarvis, and I remember her saying; ‘the posture, and the stillness afterwards – they are two halves of the same thing.’
The moments in between postures, the not moving, and not reacting, that is the yoga too. The Hatha Yoga – the postures – will make your body strong, healthy, flexible and balanced. The focus, and concentration, the Raja Yoga, is to learn control over your mind and emotions. In order to develop more patience, compassion, trust – for ourselves and others, and the ability to let go of knee jerk reactions, to be kind, to be wise, to be light and to live well.
Yoga is part of my daily life. I’ve been practising yoga since 1996 and teaching since 2006. It took a while to make sense, repetition over time, but slowly and surely its changed my life. Like so many other people, its helped heal my spine, changed my body, improved my focus, cleared my mind, and opened my heart.
Teaching is a pleasure, I learn something every time and I am constantly inspired by the changes I see in people, the injuries that improve and the incredible focus that develops. All you have to do is turn up.