Today 2 years ago I opened my doors at Heartspace Yoga in Hastings.
What a roller coaster of journey. So much learning has happened in those 2 years, so much Yin & Yang – joy and exhaustion, confidence and insecurity, growing up and grounding back, learning and unlearning, boundaries and freedom, what do I sweat and what don’t I sweat, I can do this and I can’t do that and I can do a lot more than I think… The more I learn the more I realise how little I know and then the opposite – the more information I absorb the more I know that I know everything I need to know already – I think that by now I might have thoroughly confused you 😉
Most of all I am immensely grateful for all the people who have supported me on this journey. First of all my students (you really are my teachers….) I am so grateful for you turning up on the mat at heartspace, because if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be able to do what I love. Thank you from my heart for trusting me to guide you on your yoga journey. Thank you to my teachers, who started me on this journey and those who still inspire me every day – I can’t thank you enough. My own yoga journey has been the most rewarding right after being a mum & wife. And thank you to my family, especially my husband Tim who supports me on my yoga journey. Thank you to Jamie at Aspyre for giving me the opportunity to have my own practice space.
I would like to talk a bit about my own yoga journey today.
My journey started when I was travelling 15 years ago – with a tiny book and CD I had in my backpack practicing yoga every day. Then Pilates a bit later – I enjoyed the practice, but missed the spiritual aspect in it – I felt somehow drawn back to yoga. I started with Ashtanga and promptly injured my shoulder being too ambitious and ego driven in a practice that my body wasn’t ready for. But I pushed myself to do it anyway, because that’s how I have always done things. I switched to Hatha, which I really enjoyed. I played around with early morning Bikram for a while. I enjoyed the practice and heat, but not the military style instructions and again the missing spirituality and inner connection. Then I tried my first Yin class and that felt like coming home in my yoga practice. For the first time I felt fully nourished in my yoga practice. No pushing, no archiving, no mirrors to reflect on all the mis-alignments and rolls, no teacher coming into my space trying to realign my body into shapes that don’t feel right for my body.
Over the past 15 years I have experienced a lot of yoga classes, different practices and teachers, which have ultimately led me to how I teach today and how I practice for myself. Everyone is different – I in no way want to say that my way to practice and teach is the best – its the way that suits me and my body in my own practice and in my teaching. I find I can’t teach anything that doesn’t really resonate in my own practice. Luckily there are so many different yoga styles and teachers – there is something for everyone.
I would like to share a few of my insights on that journey:
- If something is painful in your yoga session session – I recommend you don’t do it. In my opinion pain is not conductive to the healing journey of our bodies – its your body trying to tell you something is not right. We might experience discomfort in some poses. Its a matter of having the body awareness to differentiate between a little discomfort (which is fine), great discomfort (being cautious and observing if you have to back off) and pain (don’t do it, even if your teacher says so)
- A good body awareness is essential for a safe yoga practice. Most of us have been trained to ignore what our bodies tell us (push harder, one more, you can do it, harder, faster, better, go go go….) so usually for most people our bodies have to scream at us with a proper injury or chronic illness to give us a message we can hear that we are overdoing things. I always encourage my students to close the eyes during the practice / in the poses if it feels safe to do so. My practices are very slow flows or yin, so that is doable. Closing the eyes helps us to bring the focus inward and will help us over time to feel into the poses rather than working on a fixed visual impression, comparing ourselves to others etc. A good body awareness will help you to practice safely, stop when you need to, back off or try a bit deeper.
- You are your own best teacher. The yoga teacher at the front of the room is really only your guide. The person guiding doesn’t know how the poses feel in your body. Yoga was originally taught in 1:1 sessions with a guru – in group classes it’s usually impossible for the teacher / guide to attend to everyone’s different needs / aches / injuries / energy levels etc. so its really important to never feel like you have to do every pose in the sequence that is being taught, you can always rest in child pose or substitute for a safer adjustment / pose.
- If you are unsure about something – don’t feel afraid to ask. Its likely someone else has the same question in their mind. There are no stupid questions. We have all started with nothing and had to learn many lessons on the way (some painful), so never be afraid to ask either in class or before or after class.
- I very rarely do physical adjustments on students. There are several reasons for this. Firstly I have experienced twice myself having an adjustment done on me that actually hurt me. I also found going to yoga classes where I am a student, that having someone come into my space during my practice interrupts my own connection to my body and flow – with exceptions – I do enjoy restorative adjustments in child pose or shavasana for example or verbal adjustment cues that might help me to find a different way into a pose. We all have such different skeletal structures, its impossible for us to all look the same in the poses. Check out Paul Grilley’s bone photos HERE to get a visual experience of how differently we are all constructed. Then there are differences in bone structure in cultures too – like in India and China for example people squat a lot – they have done so for centuries, so their physical physique can be very different from Europeans for example who have been sitting in chairs for centuries or Japanese people who have been walking in tight kimonos and sitting kneeling on their heels. With yoga coming orginally from India the poses have been developed for indian bodies initially – some of the poses are not easily achievable with our perhaps European bone structures. We all have different injuries and restrictions in our bodies too, which will impact our practice. We all have different energy levels every day. I personally prefer to guide my students verbally and by demonstrating options, rather than by touching and pulling them into poses. I have also met 3 students during the last 2 years who came to my classes and told me that they have been injured from being adjusted by yoga teachers. One so badly by having her leg pulled into a pose, that it took her 6 months to recover. I don’t want to scaremonger here, but just to alert you that your body is yours and you know best and if you ever encounter a yoga teacher who is adjusting you in a way that doesn’t feel right to you, please communicate that immediately. It is not only important for your own safety to say so, but also for the teachers learning.
- As I grow in my yoga practice the physical postures to me need to be nourishing – that’s what I need at this stage in my life as a busy working mum, wife and business owner. I want to take care of my body with nourishing practices so that I can do all that I need to do and not stress my nervous system anymore with practices that challenge my body even further. I am looking for nourishment, stillness, connection to self, taking time to listen what my body is asking for, taking time for self reflection, taking time to tell my mind to shut up for once, taking time to process experiences or just taking time rest – Yoga nidra or just being in Legs up the wall pose or going for a walk in nature is also a yoga practice. I do no striving anymore – I do nourishing in yoga. The more you practice and grow in your practice you might find that challenging poses can become nourishing too, once your body is ready for them.
- Don’t take social media & media yoga images seriously. The well formed woman in bikinis at beaches in contortionist poses or men with enormous muscles and 6 packs holding themselves up on their little finger are no reflection at all of a proper yoga practice. These images don’t reflect at all what yoga is about. A yoga practice is a holistic practice with many facets and the asanas (postures) are only a small part. For a large proportion of yoga practitioners that is usually a simple practice to keep our bodies healthy and flexible. There is a yoga practice for every body – its just a matter of finding a space, teacher and practice that suit you.
- You don’t need much to practice yoga. You don’t need the newest Lululemon outfit or the fanciest yoga mat on the market. Sure if you like totally go for it, but don’t feel pressure to look or dress a certain way. Usually comfy clothes that you can freely move in do the trick and most yoga studios even provide yoga mats if you don’t have your own. Don’t think you have to invest several 100’s of dollars to start practicing yoga to get all the newest and fanciest gear.
That’s all that comes to mind for now. Stay safe in your practice. Any insight, any heart warmed, anyone breathing deeper, feeling lighter, feeling more at peace after practice makes my heart sing – that’s what yoga is about – coming back to ourselves and turning the outside noise off.
I am sending you all a big warm hug and thank you again for your trust.