It absolutely amazes me that a year ago I had no experience of yoga whatsoever. I’m not even sure what gave me the idea to start, but last January I decided I need a new project and started a 30 day practice as part of a New Years Resolution… and I have never looked back!
Having been practising 3 or 4 times a week since, there are so many things that Yoga has given me and /or taught me during 2020. I probably could not have discovered it at a more beneficial time! If you are thinking of starting, I absolutely urge you to give it a go. I can quite honestly say for me, its been life changing.
Firstly, in the most basic sense, it has cured my neck pain with which I suffered for years. As a 20 something, I worked as a sales rep for a greeting card company, and used to lug suitcases of heavy card samples through the town centres of the south and the south west. I’m sure that’s where my neck problems originated. And, after decades of chiropractic and osteopathic treatments, I was still in daily pain. Yoga has got rid of this pain. It would seem that gentle spinal and neck stretches have helped where more traditional treatments have failed.
Yoga is something that can be approached very much on your own terms. You can go to a class, (Covid permitting), or you can, (like me), do it in the comfort of your own home, with the wonderful range of classes available on YouTube. This is especially important if you feel that you would be intimidated by a group of advanced yogi’s. (I know I thought that when first starting.)
Yoga has taught me to to take my time. I have spent my whole life rushing from one task to another, and in many ways, my self care regime was no different. I have done aerobics for years, and the aim was always to get the heart rate going as quickly as possible, do the hour and then get on with the next thing! Yoga is very different. In fact it is the very opposite. Listening and controlling your breath and calming the mind is as important as the moving of the body. Quite a change of emphasis when you first start, but you soon get used to it!
Concentrating on my breathing has actually been quite the revelation: I generally breathe quite shallowly. Now I breathe much deeper and can become much more relaxed by just slowing my breath. Very helpful when I am feeling stressed.
Yoga has taught me to love and respect my body. My 54 year old body is amazing! I’m so proud of what it can do. I have definitely learnt to love it, and consequently myself, a lot more this last year.
I have learnt to be patient and work towards my goals by enjoying the journey as much as the outcome. Yes, I would love to do those inspirational poses that feature so often on Instagram, but that isn’t the key to yoga and it’s certainly not the point of practicing. Yoga is about self acceptance and self love. I still can’t do a headstand without help, or a crow pose …but that’s perfectly OK!
I am more in touch with my limitations and I know that I don’t have to be perfect to reap the benefits. A friend said to me that she couldn’t possibly do yoga as she felt it was too intimidating, which is such a shame. You don’t have to do headstands and crows to get the most out of yoga. And you definitely shouldn’t try any difficult poses without gaining your foundations first. I have a feet up trainer which makes inversions really easy and I get all the benefits of being upside down a few times a week, while I work towards a more traditional headstand.
Yoga has taught me to be in the present moment. To relax my mind and to not worry about later, tomorrow or next week. It is hard to start with, but you can train your mind to do this… and it is so liberating!
One of the yoga teachers I follow, Cole Chance talks a lot about finding your focal point – its called the Drishti in yoga, and is an actual point of focus to help you concentrate. For example if I’m attempting a tree pose, fixing my eyes on a static point in the distance helps me stop swaying and keeps me focused. It is the same in life. Having a point of focus gives you stability. This could be friends, a familiar safe place or a partner. It will help you anchor yourself. I love this about yoga- it’s not only poses and stretching, it’s about a new way of thinking.
Yoga is tough sometimes, and the concentration that is required can distance you from whatever is going on in your life. A challenging practice gets rid of my anxiety and worries not only for the time when I am practising, but also gives me a sense of perspective that stays with me long after I have rolled up my mat.
The amazing Adriene, who is my favourite yoga teacher on YouTube, has a catch phrase “Find what feels good.” And Yoga is about feeling good, not feeling uncomfortable or in pain! The stretches often feel absolutely amazing and I often finish a practice feeling like I have been for a spa treatment!
Remember that you cannot become an accomplished yogi overnight. You won’t be able to master all the poses and positions quickly, and it would be pointless if you did. Yoga is all about the journey, learning and getting in touch with your body over a period of time. Yoga is not a competitive sport!
I have a tried in this short article to give you an idea of how yoga has changed my life … I hope I have done it justice, but I will leave you with the wonderful words of ParaYoga founder Rod Stryker who talks about becoming a “better you” through yoga. Rod says that to truly understand why yoga can be so transformative, you first have to understand the concept of transition. “We’re not transforming into something we aspire to,” he says. “We’re transforming into the very thing that we are innately: our best self.” ❤️