A colleague of mine asked me to write up a few words during the week about how I first started Yoga. As I wrote, it got me thinking about what Yoga means to me now and why I continue to practice.
Often people in my classes ask me the question, 'What is Yoga?' and its funny, the more I learn, the harder and harder it gets to answer the question in a concise way. I begin to feel like Yoga means so many things, and different things on different days!
It has been the same to an extent with Climbing, when people would ask 'why do you climb?' and 'what does it mean to you?', the answer feels a little more difficult to source the longer I am involved in the activity.
Both Yoga and Climbing offer me so much in terms of overall happiness in my life and contentment. The truth is, this joy can be found in many activities in your own life but for me the wonder of yoga is the non invasive way in which it allows you to open, heal, strengthen and relax your body and mind that means at any age one can experience a sense of health and peace in themselves.
Below is my story of how I began practicing and what Yoga means to me now.....
When I was a teenager, I found some of my Mums old books on Yoga and spent some time copying the postures and reading about the benefits and deciding on the ones that I thought would be best for me.
I first attended yoga with my friend in University, (at the time she was helping some students with a research project to discover if breathing practices such as those taught in yoga classes could increase her lung capacity and transfer to activities such as free diving.)
I cannot remember if I and any idea of what the class would be about or what would be involved and to be honest I can even remember what we did, I do remember lying on the ground though and hearing the music outside in the sports hall for aerobics and thinking I would have of preferred to be there! As I was quite active in my college course, studying Physical Education and being involved in a number of sports, the idea of relaxing didn't quite come to me at first!
Some time after University when I moved to Dublin, I took a 6 week course of classes in UCD where I also trained for rock climbing at the time. I remember really enjoying the classes, the teacher was really nice and I felt really inspired and interested in trying out Yoga more. I began to feel the links between effective breathing and moving and allowing myself to feel a little more at ease with relaxing and not having to push all the time.
Following that course I spent a year travelling the world and tried more and more Yoga in India, Nepal, New Zealand and America. I tried varying styles, in very different settings, from Ashrams in the mountains to city studios.
When the practice on my own really began was during the summer of 2010, I spent the time in France with my now husband, he had given me a book by Godfrey Defraux and I spent time everyday, reading and practicing outdoors. I loved reading about the benefits and all the facets of Yoga as much as physically practicing. The practice was providing a medium through which I could answer questions about myself, the world and how I understood myself within the world.
I undertook my teacher training then in 2010 in Dublin. The teacher training at the time suited me perfectly as I felt I was moving into a sense of my own practice and discovering what Yoga meant for me. Since my original teacher training, I have travelled to India to complete a Diploma in Advanced Yogis Studies and have continued to study with national and international teachers. The practice is always evolving for me and changes as I change.
I know now, more than ever what yoga means to me and what it meant for me when I first started. I have always been a thinker, mulling over situations in my head and trying to find my place as I grew up.
I find it hard to make decisions and often find it difficult to find clarity admits confusion. Yoga provided a medium for me to enjoy my body, to feel active in a calming and relaxing way and in that way to find moments of clarity, to find peace from thoughts, to gain a greater understanding of myself and of others. Yoga enabled me to feel more grounded, to accept my flaws, embrace my strengths and work on my weaknesses.
Yoga has given me a means to find a great sense of compassion and understanding for others, to find less at fault with myself and in turn those around me.
The teachings of Yoga have served as a platform for me in the last number of years in which I can feel I can now move through with world with greater ease and contentment.
If I was asked to some up my practice in one word, I would say ‘Balance’.
Providing balance when you have a lot of energy, when you lack energy, when you feel weak, when you feel strong, when you feel happy or sad, insecure or confident, the practice can compliment and balance and enable one to move freely rather than spiral or burn out, to move with clarity rather than stumble off track. It can enable me to balance the use of my body in activities such as climbing and running and most importantly keeps the ego in check if it starts to control the show!
I certainly owe as much off the mat to Yoga as I do on the mat!
As I continue to learn, I always seek to find ways in which I can improve as a teacher and enable others to open up to all the beauty they hold within.