I just finished a vigorous (for my anyhow) 90-minute guided vinyasa yoga practice and reflected afterwards how my yoga practice has changed and evolved of the years. Here are my reflections:
I liked the idea of yoga for a very long time. When I was travelling over 20 years ago I bought myself a small yoga book with a CD and started practicing as often as I could in the spaces I would crash. I dropped into an Ashram for 1 week when travelling in India, but that wasn’t a very good experience, due to it being very spontaneous and not well researched. Then I got into running briefly when I gave up smoking, but my knee joints did not like that at all. After that I came across Mat Pilates, which I practiced for some years and really enjoyed. I did some pregnancy yoga and then once the kids were little found myself drawn back to a yoga practice.
I started with a very vigorous Ashtanga class and promptly injured my shoulder, because I wasn’t listening to my body and just following instruction in a practice that was really way too strong at the time for me and of course the Ego – wanting it to do the poses just as good as everyone else when I very well knew it didn’t feel right – too fast, too strong.
After recovering I switched to a more traditional Hatha class which I loved and then trialled Bikram, also a very strong and vigorous practice. But I loved the heat with the Bikram. I found that the heat actually helped my body to make the poses more accessible. However I didn’t like being yelled at in military style for long.
When I went to my first Yin class it felt like coming home. It was so different from all the other yoga styles I had experienced and my body just soaked it all up – it felt sooooo good.
I also dabbled in Kundalini Yoga over the years and love some but not all aspects of it. So I pick and choose the practices I like.
Yoga Nidra is one of my favorites and its on my bucket list to do a teacher trainer in this modality once I can save up enough money to do it. Locally Kate McLeay guides beautiful regular Nidra sessions I try to get myself to her sessions when I can find free time. There are lots of guided online Yoga Nidra sessions and I do them whenever I feel I need rest and restoration.
At some stage I wanted to look into yoga deeper. I started reading books about the philosophy and learn the other aspects of yoga. So I looked into teacher trainings. I did a traditional Hatha teacher training and shortly after a Yin Yoga Teacher Training. In the past few years I did so much learning of complimentary or related practices as well- Sound Healing, Reiki, Aromatherapy, Breathwork, Anatomy, Mindfulness, Meditation etc. and I love all of it. I read countless books, did many courses, studied with different teachers. At the moment I am quite happy to just practice, absorb and try to live the wisdom. Its all good and well in theory, but to apply all the practices in everyday life is where the real work starts.
I also loved Kirtan for some time, but I haven’t been recently. It just never pans out to get to the sessions. I can still remember my first few mantras, some of which moved me to tears on many occasions and touched me very deeply. It also felt like a home coming. I still listen to Mantra’s most weeks, I can highly recommend to give Kirtan a go if you feel drawn to it. There are regular Kirtan sessions at The Yoga Space in Hastings. There are lots of yoga mantras on Spotify or Youtube. See what resonates. The first mantras I was introduced to my yoga teacher Doris Blum were by Deva Premal. The Gayartri Mantra was one of my favorites. I also loved the Hanuman Mantra a lot – there are lots of versions on Spotify.
First I guided both Hatha and Yin Yoga separately in my studio and really loved both for their different aspects. Then I had to consolidate some classes and trialed a mix of Hatha and Yin in a class for the first time, which was well received by most students as it gives us a little bit from both worlds. Life was very busy at that stage for me and in my personal practice I definitely preferred Yin to come down from the busyness.
When I was travelling with my family and more rested I rediscovered a stronger Hatha practice. I had the energy to move into a stronger practice once more. When we returned to NZ and life felt like a landslide descending on us with new challenges on a regular basis I only had energy for a slow and mindful yin practice and often no practice at all, other than moving as mindfully as possible through my days.
Now that life seems to normalise I try to practice a mix of Hatha, Kundalini and Yin Yoga. I realised I had lost alot of strength through just practicing really gentle and slow movements and that doesn’t feel right anymore. I also noticed that my students at times lack strength and as we age I think its important to maintain some degree of strength and steadiness. So now I really love a slow flow of Hatha and Yin to get the best of both worlds in my weekly offerings and in my personal practice. Now over the holidays I moved into stronger Vinyasa flows. I guess its all just a daily figuring out what we need and what feels right.
I still do love my 2 hour super slow and relaxing Yin Yoga classes to dial the Nervous System down, move really slow, tune in, listen and observe more deeply. I might give these a break over summer and recommence my monthly session in Autumn.
What your body needs will change over the years and the practices and teachers / guides that resonate might change too. Also what your body needs might change on a daily / weekly basis. Some yoga practices you you might have to take more rest, while in others you might be able to follow through. I feel so much more comfortable in my practice now that I have the confidence and awareness to do what feels right for me, rather than what is being instructed. When I do a guided session with a teacher I quite often choose to do something else in between or take some rest when I feel I need it. I hardly do any guided session these days where I follow 100% of the instructions like I used to when I first started. The main thing is that you feel comfortable, pain free (that might not be possible if you have chronic pain) and safe.
Its really good to try different styles and teachers to see what works best for you at this time. We are so lucky in Hawke’s Bay to have so many different movement practices on offer. I really hope you find what nourishes you and your body.
Photo is from the boat in Turkey when my body felt rested, strong and healthy. Practicing on the front of the boat was such a joy and to have time to practice when I felt like it was really special.