Yoga is an ancient art form, designed many moons ago to elevate human consciousness beyond the physical realm. Nowadays Yoga is practiced worldwide and we are lucky to have access to many teachers and guides of the practice, without having to commute to india and back for our weekly fix.
The practice now comes in many shapes and sizes, some are heavy on the meditation, others more so on the physical postures. But what seems to lack variation, is the way the practice is promoted and essentially sold to us. A lot of the information we download and come into contact with on a daily basis, through social media, projects the idea that yoga is only worthy of practice in its tweaked and polished form. We see photos of yogis with their limbs stretched and twisted into other-wordly positions and we say "I could never do that!".
This yogic propaganda can make yoga look inaccessible to those who have never been able to touch their toes, and this is where I want to put the record straight. Yoga is a beautiful journey, but the early days are by far the most transformational. You feel the benefits of the postures almost instantly and the connection you feel to your body is addictive. The beginning symbolises change - when something that was once still, begins to move. Where the stuck becomes unstuck. The beginning takes a leap of faith and a trust in oneself and this is powerful beyond measure.
At the beginning of your yoga journey, it is possible that you may have experienced some trauma, maybe it was a break up, maybe you were under a lot of stress or feeling unconfident in your life situation. Someone may have suggested that you try a yoga class or maybe yoga had decided to come for you.
My own journey started following a difficult time in my life, where I felt very underwhelmed and disconnected. I decided to quit my job and go travelling around the UK, visiting family and friends, on a quest to gain some clarity. As i left for the train station that morning, I left the medication I was taking at home. When I got to the station, I decided to have some fruit over a sandwich and I got on the train. Through this choice, I started to notice how light I felt in my body. This almost mini fast had allowed space within my digestive system and this created a feeling of airiness in my mind. My head had been so heavy and overloaded at that time, that i welcomed in this new feeling of lightness.
Over the next two weeks, I made a conscious decision to eat very lightly and very healthily, which as those who know me, was very unlike me. I started to feel cleansed, and my body was thanking me for ditching my prescribed medications. I didn't know at the time but i was unconsciously cleaning my body, ready to being my yoga practice.
During my time floating around the UK, snacking on fruit and taking it slow I started to notice a patterns of events. People were coming over to me, in cafes, on the street, and talking to me about spirituality. Every person that I visited seemed to have yoga books on view in their homes and I started to pick them up and read them. I felt instantly drawn to the postures displayed and the benefits described on the pages.
When i got back home I signed up for a six week yoga course, and began practicing immediately. I think the yoga was ashtanga inspired, and i remember wondering why everyone was breathing so loudly. Now I understand that it was the oceanic sounds of the Ujjayi breath that i was hearing! I struggled to follow the poses exactly, I fell over so many times and was definitely not breathing properly, but i persevered and i kept attending the classes.
Following the course, I practiced every single day and as the months passed, I watched my heart open, my breath deepen and my body strengthen. I would carry my mat everywhere with me, incase i could find a spare ten minutes to practice. I remember being so excited that I had found this new passion. I was obsessed, like a child with a new toy!
Once you bring the physical practice into your life, you start to become much more aware of your body. You become in tune with your strengths as well as your weaknesses and your limitations. You realise that these all vary from day to day and a perfect headstand one day will be a pile of a limbs another day. We all hear yoga teachers tell us to be aware of the present moment, and to respect our bodies as they are right now, within this moment. They tell us that it is not a competition and to only go as far as is comfortable.
These gentle reminders to leave your ego at the door are vital. We can get so preoccupied with what we ‘can do’ in yoga, which completely misses the point. In the beginning, your mind questions the teacher's unconcerned approach, wondering why we aren’t meant to be progressing or doing ‘better’ than the day before. Learning to become comfortable with the ebb and flow of your practice trains you to become more at peace with the ups and downs of your life. Yoga is about making the choice to be your number one and pushing through the darkness into the unknown. There is no end goal and there is no completing the journey.
There is saying which goes something like “thinking your too inflexible for yoga, is like thinking your too dirty to wash.” This is an open invitation to everyone out there that thinks that yoga is not for them, to come and play. All in all, it’s not really about the flexibility of your body, the practice is much more interested in working on the flexibility of your mind.
Just making the decision to sit with yourself, focusing on your breath and checking in with your yourself, is such a beautiful thing. The intention behind this is nothing other than a pure act of self-love, and even if at first all you do is lie and take deep conscious breaths, you are already healing and the journey has already begun.