“There is always a light within us that is free from all sorrow and grief, no matter how much we may be experiencing suffering.” Patanjali
I was a yoga skeptic, now turned yoga student, turned yoga teacher. It’s been quite the evolution from my “it’s not worth exercising unless it kicks my butt” days to where I am now.
I am a recovering perfectionist who needed constant validation from the outside world to feel "good". I would always please others before myself, putting others needs before my own. Eventually all this people pleasing wore thin on me as I entered my mid-thirties; causing me to reflect on my own true happiness. This reflection then catapulted me into the scary space of realising I had plenty of interesting baggage to clean up. We all do.
I knew to save my own well-being things needed to change. That is when I turned to raw veganism, juicing and studying the Tao Te Ching. This had a profound effect on me yet I had an inner knowing that I needed something more to complete the circle. I knew it was yoga.
To be honest I tried yoga on several occasions and just could not get into it. However, my inner knowing kept persisting and I did what most people wouldn't - I signed up to a 3 week intensive yoga teacher training.
I knew if I was going to get into this I needed to understand the full fundamentals behind the "Why".
All I can say is that during that three week yoga teacher training I transformed. Yoga was the missing link. What it did for me was open me up and got the positivity and wellness flowing through me. The positivity and wellness was already in me from all the raw veganism, juicing and Tao Te Ching reflecting, however it was buried deep within me - kind of stuck - and I sensed that the positive energy was begging to get flowing through me and out of me.
It was gently nudging me to reconnect back to my own divine light so that I would have the capacity to shine it back out into the world. Ultimately, that is the purpose of all souls - to become beacons of positive light that shine love on all spaces of darkness.
Yoga means "union", union with the mind, body and spirit. It is one of the vital links [or "8 limbs" as they refer to it in yoga} to living a life that is balanced, healthy and of service to all.
Along with deep inner connection to oneself there are many health benefits to go along with the regular practice of Yoga including; increased flexibility and strength, improved and restored posture, boosts in energy levels, relieved tension and stress and an overall relaxation of the body and mind.
Health Benefits Of Yoga
No matter your age, health problem or fitness level – yoga is designed to be beneficial to both the beginners and advanced, every pose is only taken as deep as you can – it doesn’t matter if you can’t touch the floor with your hands or stretch your leg out straight, so long as you are doing the foundation of the pose correctly you will reap the benefits.
With every session your strength, flexibility, balance and mind will grow stronger. Some even say that a yoga class a day keeps the doctor away. Here are just some of the health benefits of Yoga:
Better Circulation: The poses get your heart pumping gently which causes the blood vessels to dilate and the tissues in your body to expand, improving the blood flow and distribution of oxygen throughout your body. This is not only extremely nourishing and healing for your body; it leaves you with an overall sense of well-being.
Flushes Out Toxins: Many of the poses massage the organs whilst increasing your blood flow which causes your body to release more toxins. A 60 minute session will leave you feeling cleansed and renewed.
Weight Loss: Yoga is renowned for its ability to help people melt the fat without working up excessive sweat. With regular practice your digestive system will become more effective, metabolism will speed up and this helps to balance your appetite and stop unhealthy cravings. As you strengthen and develop muscle tone your fat will be burned faster.
Relieves Arthritis: Many students claim that their arthritis pains are reduced after only a few classes of Yoga. A combination of the moving, twisting, stretching and compressing of every joint can alleviate arthritis. A regular practice is necessary for continued relief.
Help With Back Pain: Many of the Yoga asanas are designed to work and nourish the spine; it has helped thousands of people suffering from back pain, stiffness, headaches, scoliosis, herniated disks and numerous other back issues. Before joining a class it is crucial that you tell your instructor beforehand exactly what type of back pain you suffer from in case modifications are necessary.
A Natural Beautifier: After the first session you will notice you get “the yoga glow”, the opening of the body combined with the increased blood circulation will make your eyes brighter and your skin will become noticeably more clear, dewy and soft. Yoga is a natural face-lift as it causes people’s faces to become more relaxed, they go from looking stressed and frustrated to looking full of life and happy
Helps With Diabetes: Yoga can be a perfect complement to the lifestyle changes necessary to help keep diabetes under control. Recent research has found that performing the postures regularly can dramatically decrease blood-sugar levels.
Stress And Anxiety Management: It is a well known fact that mental stress and strain can have an adverse effect on many diseases, and has been shown to flare up cancer, heart disease and pretty much the majority of other diseases. During the practice of yoga your focus is on opening and connecting with your body, as a result you are left with a deep feeling of wellness and balance. A regular practice has the power to lower cortisol levels, calm your mind, increase mental clarity and melt away stress and tension.
Aids Depression: On those days when you wake up and don’t feel like interacting with the world - going to a Yoga class works wonders. After a 60 minute session your mind and body will fall into rhythm and balance, you will become aware of your breathing and the present moment, you will literally feel the life running through your veins and your depression or negative mood will be lifted. Research has shown that many students come off antidepressants and other medications after establishing a regular yoga practice.
Repairs And Strengthens The Lungs: Maybe you suffer from asthma, allergies or other respiratory problems, then Yoga is a therapy that can help you. A combination of the opening of the body, the gentle heat from increased blood flow and the varying array of mindful breathing exercises all work in harmony to strengthen your heart and lungs. You will notice a difference after the first class; you will breathe easier and deeper. Deep breathing heals the body, flooding the cells with oxygen and nutrients – this includes healing your lungs
Develop A Warriors Mind: Yoga helps balance and stabilize your emotions; it heals and soothes the nervous and endocrine systems, leaving you with a deep feeling of well-being, contentment and optimum health. Practicing Yoga cultivates self-awareness, mindful breathing, self-control, concentration, determination, and patience. Yoga helps to shut off that busy monkey mind (the ego) and encourages you to live and be content in the present moment of just “being”.
Balancing The Thyroid: Many of the postures in Yoga are designed to compress and work the thyroid, helping to balance out thyroid levels. As you regulate your thyroid you will notice an increase in energy, weight loss and a more efficient metabolism.
Keeps You Forever Young: Yoga keeps the mind and body young, by becoming a Yoga Devotee, you will be blessed with the radiant Yoga glow, your eyes will sparkle, you will radiate with energy and your body will become open and flexible. Practicing yoga regularly, drinking three liters of water a day and eating a diet rich in wholefoods – this is the best and only anti-aging regime you need.
You’re Stronger Than You Think You Are: Practicing Yoga With Injuries
Like many people I’ve been injured – a lot. I have fallen off horses, tumbled down cliffs while snowboarding, slipped on rocks while hiking and then there is the big ball of emotional pain that I have buried and stored away in my body instead of dealing with it. I can get mired down in that story sometimes, though, believing I’m the only one in the yoga class who’s been through what I’ve been through.
Yoga, for all its feel good niceties, bendiness, and fit bodies, isn’t all sunshine and butterflies all the time. Yoga brings your shit up, too. It’s sort of supposed to but it doesn’t always mean that’s a pleasant experience. Yoga can be the refining fires that we need to walk through, but don’t want to. The question is, how do meet the challenge of the fire without getting burned up?
Admittedly, I usually turn to yoga to make me feel better. When it doesn’t, I sometimes get mad. From time to time I have yoga sessions where I get frustrated with my body: looking and judging (myself). It certainly isn't a nice place to slip into when you started the practice for the purpose of feeling good.
I will be blunt, with yoga it can be a slippery slope! It can take a millisecond to leap from “I am present, I am peaceful” to moving into a posture that challenges you (yet everyone else in the class seems to be able to do effortlessly) where thoughts of “wow, I am so useless and I’ll never be ‘good’ at yoga” take over your headspace.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and I’d have to agree. You don’t know what anyone else has or hasn’t been through. You don’t know if they were recently fired from their job, dealing with an illness, are a dancer, are a footballer, are a newbie to the practice or are an experienced guru. They may look like they’re doing the posture with ease, but there is the chance that they also may be miserable in the pose. Or you could pity someone for not being able to touch their toes, yet they could be thrilled with themselves that they’re even in a yoga class at all.
You have to meet yourself where you are and accept that in that moment, that’s what your mind and body is making accessible to you. “Meeting yourself where you are” is a dance between complacency and perfectionism, coupled with trusting that you are stronger than you think you are. It’s not even about finding balance, it’s about being comfortable with the rhythm of your authentic ebb and flow. Learning to find your intelligent edge that fosters growth versus pushing yourself to further injury, and honestly this is why yoga takes a lifetime to master. Striving for growth is very different than striving for perfection. “Perfect” is an outwardly focused standard based on others; growth is fueled by healthy introspection.
Omni-present comparison isn’t a sustainable attitude. That’s what helps me let go of it. It’s tempting and seductively destructive to self-bash. But it’s not sustainable. Accepting that comparison will kill you will help you work through those painful and frustrating yoga classes. Here are three things I constantly remind myself of when yoga gets tough -I hope they help you too:
Good thing it’s all about the breath: Yes, it’s that simple. Thank God it is. I usually laugh when I catch myself self-destructing about something ridiculous (she is so much bendier than I am), and then I breathe. I take heart in knowing even if I just sit there without touching my nose to my toes, if I am breathing mindfully, then I am doing something good for myself.
Modifying doesn’t equal cheating: There are lot of yoga theories out there, some of which think that props are crutches. I strongly disagree. If I need to modify a posture by throwing a block under my booty or a strap ‘round my foot so I can enjoy the intended opening and keep my breath smooth at the same time, great, I’m gonna do it. Modifying without props by utilizing the diversity of our own body is another way to tangibly meet ourselves where we are.
This is your karma: Injuries are not your “karma” as in “what goes around comes around” or “you deserve this,” but as in “your healing is your karmic action.” As you heal, you make space for others to heal. Doing yoga for you is the action you can take to heal yourself, previous generations, and future generations. We must change within before we can expect to change the world.
Look, I can’t do forearm stand.
I can’t do sundial.
I cant do cow face pose.
I most certainly cannot sit in full lotus.
But I can move. I can breathe. And most days, I can meet myself where I am. When I do, I remember to allow for surprise. When you are feeling a little defeated think of the opposite of fear as you are about to lift up into a pose. For me, that word is “courage.” I silently say, “Courage, courage, courage” and every once in awhile, it gives me wings.
Student. Teacher. Both. Always.
This is my yoga. What’s yours?
Thank You Yoga: The Spiritual Benefits Of Yoga
- Yoga is humbling.
- Yoga is art and self exploration.
- Yoga lights up my soul.
- Yoga is the creative expression of my body and soul.
- Yoga is the key to my freedom and inner bliss.
- Yoga brings me closer to my own truth.
- Yoga teaches me how to love myself more each day.
- I know thyself better through Yoga.
Several years back I was in Perth and decided to try out some yoga class at a city gym, it wasn’t the most tranquil or prettiest of yoga rooms I have visited, however it forced me to look deeper within myself to find that place of peace and relaxation. As I rolled out my mat a little distracted by the "ugliness" and "smallness" of the room I immediately knew deep down that yoga had a lesson in store for me that day.
The funny thing about practicing yoga is that some days you have profound breakthroughs and then other days its like you have taken ten steps back. One this particular day I was struggling with my practice, I just could not focus and turn off the chattering in my busy monkey mind.
I was thinking about my perfume creations. I was thinking that the lady in front of me had the most elegantly defined yoga body. I was admiring the Lulu Lemon outfit to the right of me. And it just went on and on.
My busy mind was causing me to stumble, lose my balance and fall out of all my poses. During a half arse attempt of warrior pose, my body decided to scream “enough” "this is uncomfortable" and "lets quit". I was stumbling, wobbling and hurting, and all I could think about was how on earth does everyone else look so damn relaxed and blissed out.
At that moment I was so close to rolling up my yoga mat and walking right out of that room that seemed so unbearably confronting. Does this sound like any of your yoga practices? I am sure for some of you it would be a big “Yes” also.
As I twisted my body into the triangle pose I had two choices, I could give up right then or I could just relax and surrender into the pose. I chose the second option.
Taking a deep breath I relaxed and surrendered into the pose, and what happened next is why I continue to practice yoga day after day.
The breath softened my body and I felt my myself begin to melt into the pose. I felt a sense of lightness and at the same time a sense of energy radiate from my heart up into the tips of my fingers of my outstretched hands. I transitioned from warrior pose to triangle pose and felt my chest open, while my chest slowly and gently opened up more and more I also felt a sense of warmth circulating around my heart.
My skin was getting warm and flushed and I could feel the physical flow of my blood increasing. As my blood continued to circulate and warm up my body I had a deep knowing that my body was cleansing and nurturing itself. Then the calming silence hit me, and it was so beautiful [it always is]. I was connecting with my inner self. As my body silenced and my busy mind melted away I felt the most amazing love and calmness fall all over me.
It is precisely this moment that I search for in yoga. It is the moment when wisdom and love falls all over me, energising me and giving me reason to continue my practice. It’s the moment I connect with my own inner light and divine wisdom,
After the class, I walked out with a glow to my skin and a bounce in my step, feeling invigorated and alive. Any problems that consumed me before the class had been melted away. I felt strong and knew that I could take on the day, no matter what got in my way. I felt reconnected to all that matters. This is why I love Yoga.