Come exam season in May I was VERY stressed, in fact, I was a little crazy! In a desperate time of chaos, my friend recommended yoga to me, I took my own spin on it…kept spinning and I have not looked back since. Why?…
There are two contrasting areas of yoga: Yin and Yang, Yin is a slow-paced style while Yang is a more active style. Both having elements and personalities of their own contrasting each other for a harmonic balance but rarely practised at the same time. My friend was following a Youtuber called “Yoga With Adriene”- an overall more Yang style. My first class, and now regular class is “Mindfulness Yoga” guided by the Yin style although I have challenged myself to the 30-day TRUE yoga program led by the Adriene in the new year. I now own a thick padded pink and purple ombre yoga mat with an elephant and dream catcher print as well as my white and grey marbled yoga block. These sit proudly in possibly my favourite corner, with my white acoustic guitar, copper basket and full-length mirror wrapped with fairy lights.
My first yoga class ended with me lying on my yoga mat with a purple blanket over my body. At that moment, I realised yoga suited me VERY well! I find the Yin style very comforting and cosy. I now come home from school every Thursday have a shower, put my pyjamas on, make some tea, go to my yoga class (yes, in pyjamas), come home to dinner, get a bit of homework done and go straight to bed for an early night. I have no shame! It doesn’t matter what others think of me, Thursday’s are my favourite! All fresh and restored for that Friday feeling.
Shortly I found myself going to Sunday Yoga Brunches once a month ran by my teacher. I was always the youngest there but I was grateful each time I turned up to my mat. To begin with, we have an hour and a half themed Yang practice. This is quite out of my comfort zone. I always fall over but what I love most is that NOBODY CARES. Yeah, cool, fall over! But stand up and try again. Every yoga movement can be adjusted to every level and I’m actually not ashamed to take the easier poses. We then have our brunch. Always Vegan and themed food. At first, I enjoyed the alternative diet once a month. Over time I started eating more vegan foods in my diet when I feel like it. This isn’t about dieting, I still eat from all food groups. However, I find it extremely empowering to eat foods straight from the group itself. I have a busy life, but to come to food that is so simple yet so delicious straight from the Earth beneath my feet it grounds me.
I think the misconception with Yoga is that it requires you to put your body into ridiculous poses while everyone else practices perfectly, you will fall over. This isn’t right, yoga is a personal experience of adjusting and focusing your mind and strengthing the relationship between your body and mind to become more self-aware and mindful. This simultaneously builds your strength, balance and flexibility. As a dancer, staring at my body for hours in the mirror, I have never had the best body image. Yoga helped me look at my body and feel empowered, not ashamed. I am proud of my strength, of the lines I can generate with my body, of my progress, my improved posture. At a now healthy and stable weight, I feel more body confident but it is completely internally fuelled, I don’t flaunt it or share it to seek validation.
Stress and I aren’t the best of friends. I manage everyday life and more demanding situations with a perfect gloss of denial, progressively making myself worse. I often externalised my problems onto other people to seek validation. Recently, and I mean literally in the past month, have I learnt an alternative: to sit with it. You’re crying and your chest feels constricted? Breathe deep, feel it hurt, breathe deep. Give it all your attention, be sad by all means. Don’t ignore what your body is telling you though! You are hurt. When you break your leg you have a bandage and use crutches. Do the same. Now is when you need love and compassion for yourself. This is when you whip out your self-care box and fluffy blankets. Think: “what soothes me?”. For me, it is a hot bath with bath oils and a mini dance party to my favourite songs. Still hurts? Write it down, pour your heart out onto paper. Still hurts? Sleep on it and get help the next day. For me, nothing beats a phone call with your oldest and closest of friends especially a fierce lady friendship where you both aggressively believe in each other and love each other. In yoga I sat in pain in each stretch, it wasn’t agony but it certainly wasn’t comfortable. With the help of my yoga teacher, I learnt to breathe deep, focus and sit with it. When I learnt to apply this to my emotions in different situations, over time I developed strength I never thought I had.
I hope this has given you a cognitive alternative into the practice of Yoga