Yoga - what it means to me.

I kind of flirted with yoga on and off for a couple years, mostly YouTube and online programmes.  I enjoyed it but it never really took hold.  I think I liked the idea of handstands and the Insta friendly stuff but let’s face it, all that takes years of work and who can really be bothered with that?  So, once I realised I wasn’t going to be a yogi overnight I lost interest, thinking it’s just for the bendy people in society.

I kept thinking about it though and for some reason kept coming back to it.  About 18 months ago I nervously attended my first Yin class at The Wellbeing Campus in Bebington and I was hooked!  The game had changed!  No one laughed at me, there were other males in the class, I didn’t fart or fall over, and no one tried to convert me to veganism.  I did connect properly to my body for the first time in ages and I’m not sure where I went during Savasana but I knew I could do with spending a bit more time there!  Afterwards I felt more like ‘me’ than I had in a long time, I was hooked.

Most people, me included, start yoga to get more flexible.  For me yoga isn’t really about that.  Flexibility is a beautiful side effect of regular yoga but it’s the journey towards improved movement that really connected with me.  It’s that journey that helped me figure out what yoga means to me.  It’s that journey that keeps me coming back to the mat and it’s that journey that I love and sometimes hate in equal measure.  Make sense?  Nope, didn’t think so!  It’s hard to explain especially as yoga means different things to different people.  I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can write about what it means to me or at least try to make some sense of it!

Even now when I walk in to a class I feel a mixture of nervousness and confidence.  I’m nervous because I’m quite likely to not be able to do something and I’m quite confident because I’m quite likely to be able to do some other things.  A year and a half in and I still sometimes worry about making a fool of myself which is weird because in a yoga class no one cares, they’ve got their own struggles going on.  I know that’s my ego trying to keep me safe by talking me out of something potentially challenging.  The stuff I’ve worked on more, I feel confident with and that’s my ego again, making me feel special which is ridiculous when people are out there doing incredible poses and I can barely touch my toes.  Wrestling my ego is all part of my yoga journey, it’s something I didn’t really have awareness of before but definitely do now thanks to my practice.

When I start to feel challenged by my practice my initial thought is just to quit.  This is a tactic I’ve applied pretty much my whole life.  If I can’t be an expert straight away, then just sack it off!  When life gets hard and I start to feel uncomfortable then I just get out of there.  Yoga is teaching me to be able to spend time in this uncomfortable place, to just accept it and stay put.  It doesn’t get any easier and often gets harder but I’m able to stay put and sometimes even embrace it.  My ego will spark up and tell me I’m rubbish, everyone is looking at me and this is completely pointless.  I just sit and breathe or keep moving and breathe but I stay on the mat, I ride it out and let it pass.  I don’t always feel better straight after, but I know I feel better overall, and I keep coming back.  For me this is the journey, this is what I need from yoga.

I often hear that yoga will find you when you’re ready for it and this couldn’t be truer for me.  In recent years I’ve got married, gave up alcohol, had two kids and walked away from a stable job to be self-employed.  Huge lifestyle changes that all really rocked the boat in some way.  Having children pushed me to the edge of my mental health, the whole experience broke me down well before it built me back up.  Around this time, I started really practicing yoga and it steadied the ship.  I learnt to stop running from difficult situations, stay put, tune in, spend time with the worry and the fear and the doubt then breathe and keep moving on the spot.  It didn’t make things any easier, it just changed the way I dealt with things.

In this way yoga has really helped me to change my life.  It’s helped me face situations where I don’t feel confident, it’s stopped me worrying what people think, it’s helped me to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  It changed the way I think about the human body and in turn changed the way I practice massage.  This led to a complete change in direction work wise, a rebranding, a new premises and becoming a full time therapist.  It introduced me to breathwork and got me thinking more about my body and how I look after it.  Through yoga I’ve made some good friends and I feel part of a community for the first time since moving back to the U.K.  So, when I say the game changed, I’m really not exaggerating!

That’s probably why, at the start of this year, I signed up to do a yoga teacher training course.  I’m over half way and it still sounds ridiculous when I say it out loud!  Even by the ancient standards of yoga I’m brand new, I don’t know half the poses or any of the Sanskrit terminology, I’m not particularly bendy.  I’m trying to be a husband and a father while building a new business, I’ve probably already got enough on my plate with out regular trips to London, but I signed up anyway.  It’s a great group, everyone seems to know what they’re on about, they all teach and I’m the only one there who can’t touch his toes! I’m there regardless.  I want to explore movement.  I want to learn about how my body moves and I want to learn different ways to help other people understand how they move.  I want to do something that scares me and makes me feel uncomfortable and I want to do it anyway because I’ve bailed on too many things when they started to challenge me.  It feels right and it feels like a path I need to walk down.

I don’t want to be a ‘Yogi’ or to be dependant on yoga.  My aim ultimately is to not be defined by anything at all, including yoga.  It isn’t a crutch for me, it’s a guide and so far, it’s guided me well.  I want to explore my practice further, learn more, try more.  Being able to touch my toes would be a bonus!  I’m going to see where it takes me and try to just experience whatever happens next.

If you’re thinking about trying a yoga class, then do it!  It doesn’t matter why or which one, it might be for you and it might not.  Give it a go and find out what the journey can mean for you.  I always recommend The Wellbeing Campus as it’s where I go, and I love it!  They have loads of different classes and some amazing teachers.  The barn has a great vibe and it’s just a nice place to be.  Check out @the_wellbeing_campus on social media for class times and more information about the wonderful things they do.