I have dipped in and out of Yoga for a few years now, I have always exercised it is just part of who I am. I started off in my early 20’s with aerobics and then started playing around with weights, and in more recent years found Crossfit, wherever I have moved, sizing up the local gym and what that has to offer is second to looking at the place where I am going to live.
As everyone does, unless it is your profession or job, we have times where we are going religiously and then times when we don’t. It may be due to your job getting in the way, family commitments, or injury, it could be anything really, it might even be that your just in a slump and feeling a bit disillusioned with it all, we have all been there at some point or another.
I am unfortunately not blessed with the genetics that enables me to look the same regardless of exercising or not. If I don’t exercise I don’t like the way my body looks, so my main reasons for exercising have always been primarily focused on aesthetics, and my gym time is the time to go hard or go home. My mentality has always been, whatever exercise I am doing, I need it to be hurting and burning fat, fast!.
Which leads me onto my early thoughts about Yoga. Although I have always wanted to get involved more in Yoga, my thought has initially always been ‘Im not going to stay slim doing Yoga’, and as gym time is limited, I kind of saw it as a waste of a session, after all , if you are not leaving the gym feeling broken what’s the point?. Why spend an hour ‘stretching’?. Well at least that was my thought process then. Which is quite different to what it is now.
As you will know if you have been reading my blog, in September my life was turned on its head and I was put in a position that I never in a million years thought I would find myself in. It was an extremely difficult and challenging time , and it continues to be. I have touched on this in my previous blog posts so I wont go into it again, but needless to say, I was at my wits end and dealing with an awful lot.
It was a very lonely time, and it resulted in me speaking to a very dear friend of mine who I hadn’t spoken to for some time, but ironically, this situation had pushed us to find each other again. We started talking about Yoga and he told me he had started practicing Yin Yoga, he too had found Yoga after going through some personal struggles and now does it three times a week. He told me that it is helping him to manage being in his life, he is in a position where he doesn’t feel particularly fulfilled, but he doesn’t have the courage to change his life either, and he has turned to yoga in order to help him maintain being in his situation, at least for now, with a level of normality, and it is also helping him to alleviate the feelings of being trapped that he has from time to time.
First experience of Yin Yoga.
It was after this conversation I decided to look into Yin Yoga , so I got onto google and up popped a company called Treeliving Yoga, run by Victoria who has since become a lovely friend. I booked onto my first class, it was the 21st of December 2017 and I remember it well. As soon as I walked into the class I felt a sense of weight being lifted off my shoulders , Victoria was very welcoming and friendly and the energy in the room was just one of calm, much the opposite to what I was going through at the time, so perhaps this is why I immediately noticed the difference. I also noticed that there were people of all different shapes and sizes, ages and abilities, and I was immediately put at ease and felt comfortable.
I had read up a little on Yin before I attended the class, aside of the recommendation from my friend, one of the things I had read about that made me think Yin was the right choice for me was that this style of Yoga was particularly good if you were suffering from anxiety or a racing mind, which at the time I was, I was utterly bewildered by everything that was going on around me, and I was struggling to deal with the amount of cards that had been thrown up in the air all at the same time.
I kind of knew a little of what to expect, as it was not my first ever Yoga class, but there was still a little bit of the element of the unknown as I had not tried this style of Yoga before.
As we started the class I realised that we would be holding certain positions for varying lengths of time, and some of the poses were not completely unfamiliar to me. I had used some of them in the gym to stretch with, albeit not as often as I should have been, so I immediately knew that this was going to be a benefit for me in terms of getting me to stretch more and reduce the various niggles I had been having due to lifting weights and not stretching enough.
I was surprised by how much it was challenging me too, given that my previous thoughts on Yoga where that it wouldn’t be challenging enough and it was ‘only a bit of stretching’!. I was certainly feeling challenged to hold some of these positions for the length of time we were holding them, and I could immediately feel the benefit to my body.
Then came the breathing element, obviously breathing is something that we do without thinking about , so to actually focus on breathing, focusing on a full breath that fills your belly then your ribs and then your chest was more difficult than I thought , and even more tricky was to keep this consistent whilst moving between the various poses. I was certainly being put to the test more than I bargained for, and if the truth be told I was starting to feel that I had massively underestimated what this involved!, it certainly was a whole lot more than ‘just a bit of stretching’!.
Next was the mind, listening to Victoria try to encourage us to think about different things , emotions , how our bodies were feeling. I could do this, but I found that I was also thinking about 20 other things at the same time, it was impossible for me to just focus on that one thing and be in the moment , my mind was racing between the past , present and future and I found that I could not just focus and be in the moment, this I found extremely frustrating, after all the purpose of me being there was to try and calm my mind, only my mind appeared to have other ideas!.
The session started to come to a close with Savasana otherwise known as ‘Corpse pose’ which is the art of allowing each part of the body to relax, one bit at a time. Needless to say I found this extremely tricky in that first session. I was lying on the floor and rather than being able to relax my mind was wandering , I was wondering what everyone else in the room was doing? , I was thinking about when we would come out of this pose?, how long I would be there for?, what I was going to have for lunch?, where I would be in a years time?, should I go for a coffee afterwards?, and before I knew it, it was time to come out of the pose and bring the session to an end with three Oms.
The first time I did this , I did feel quite out of my comfort zone and again , I wanted to open my eyes and see what everyone else was doing!…however by the end of the third Om, I could feel a very relaxing vibration running through my whole body and it felt amazing. It is a sensation that I hadn’t experienced before and I am not sure that I can find the words to describe it, but I felt really peaceful and I felt very in tune with what was going on in my body, when Victoria asked us to open my eyes, I almost didn’t want to, which was the complete opposite to how I had felt at the beginning. It was an incredibly peaceful moment.
When I came away from the session , I had a lot of different feelings about it. When it comes to starting something new, like a lot of people I am very impatient and I just wanted to get to where I wanted to be straight away, there was a little sense of frustration because I was unable to clear my mind and stop it from racing, but the over-riding feeling was one of relief, in that something had clicked and I knew that this is where I needed to be and it was something that I needed to be doing , I knew at that moment that I had just made the best decision in a long time and I was definitely going to book into the next session.
The energy of Victoria and the people in the room was so opposing to the energy that had been surrounding me. I realised that I needed more of this, in order to outweigh the level of that. I was feeling like a fish out of water in my new life at this point, nothing was in my control anymore, and I needed to get that control back , and I was sure that Yoga was the way to do it.
3 months later.
So here I am coming up to 3 months since I stepped into my first ever Yin class and I have never looked back. In fact I had to check that it was only three months as it feels like much much longer.
I have been doing Yin on a weekly basis since then and also dipped into Vinyasa and more recently started Ashtanga , and I love them all for different reasons.
My ability to think more positively and look at my situation with more of an open mind is much better than what it was. I am still not where I want to be, far from it , but I am more open-minded about just being here for now and making the most of the journey in the moment. I think a good way of putting it is the ‘element of panic’ is not what it was, I still have my moments of feeling overwhelmed by the massive change of circumstances , which I would have never chosen had I not been forced to, but I am also able to see the positives more clearly now.
I am also more aware of the kinds of people and energy that I am able to tolerate and want to be around. I genuinely feel more in tune with what makes me feel good and what I find upsetting and I have no guilt over walking away from people or situations that make me feel uncomfortable without feeling the need to explain myself. I have compromised this in the past , but going forward this just isn’t something that I am willing to do.
Although I cannot say for sure , I do think that Yoga has helped me with my other gym work too. About a week ago , I finally achieved a movement I have always struggled with which is called ‘toes to bar’ , (it is pretty much what it says on the tin, you hold onto a pull up bar and swing your toes up to meet it , and repeat, over and over), I cannot say for sure that it is down to what I have been doing in Yoga , but nothing else has changed in my exercise regime apart from adding Yoga , so I am just putting it out there ! 🙂
I can honestly say that finding Yoga has changed my life , my outlook and definitely increased my ability to be able to navigate my way through what I have to say is the most difficult time of my life. It has opened a door for me that I am embracing with open arms and I intend to learn and grow as much as I can along this journey. I was on my way to becoming very unwell, I was hanging on by a thread and the best decision I ever made was to step into that Yin class on the 21st of December 2017 and I am very excited to see where the next phase of the journey takes me.