My Yoga Journey

When I first began to practice yoga (in a student flat, from a video, back in 2001) I had no idea that I would end up here.   I happened upon yoga quite accidently, but was drawn to it immediately.  The flowing sequences and the deep stretches reminded me of my many years dancing as a child, and I loved the combination of both gentle movement and energetic vinyasas.  I liked the way that after a yoga session I felt both energised and relaxed.  I started to find that yoga allowed me to connect to my body in a new way, to really listen to what was happening and tune in to what I needed each day.  I was also amazed at the remarkable impact on my fitness levels and my strength.


At this time, I was a student, and very soon student life got in the way of my growing interest in yoga and the video collected dust on the shelves.  A couple of years later, still a student but now studying for my master’s degree and in desperate need of a way to help deal with stress and anxiety, I rediscovered my DVD and began to practice again.  Once more I was reminded of how wonderful this form of exercise made my body feel.  And this time I also began to experience some of the mental benefits.  I found that during my yoga practice I could find some relative peace, I could quieten the chatter of my mind (a little) and escape from the constant worries and pressures that I felt at the time.


In 2005 I met my now partner, and it was he who took me to my first yoga class, quite a different experience from my sessions at home with my video!  This was my first experience of Ashtanga yoga and I loved it.  Although far from a classical Ashtanga class the teacher was very much influenced by the primary series.  I found this extremely challenging physically, but at the same time found that I felt amazing, and I went to the classes twice or sometimes three times a week.  This was also my first experience of adjustments in yoga.  There was something so wonderful about someone having the skills to help support and move your body more deeply into postures, seeming to read your mind and know exactly how much pressure to apply and exactly what was needed on each day.


Over the next few years, yoga became a part of my life.  I found that my life with yoga was much more manageable than my life without yoga, but I had no real understanding of how or why this was.


When we decided to start a family, I knew that this might be a difficult journey as I had been diagnosed with PCOS a couple of years previously.  I was referred to a clinical specialist, but also decided to research alternative and holistic approaches.  This was the first time I encountered the work of Uma Dinsmore Tuli, coming across some yoga sequences for fertility and women’s health that she had devised.  I began to incorporate these practices into my daily life, alongside my regular yoga classes, and now discovered a new style of yoga.  One that was much more feminine and gentle than the Ashtanga based vinyasa classes I was used to.


I added visualisations and meditations to my practice.  I enjoyed these new aspects of my practice, I enjoyed moving away from the purely physical, and found these helped me connect with my body.  Helped me to accept myself for exactly who I was and focus on the positive during an extremely emotional and stressful period.  I still didn’t understand how yoga worked, but it was yoga I turned to whenever I felt that I needed to calm my thoughts, or if I was having a particularly difficult day.


When I became pregnant I was simultaneously elated and terrified, I suffered from terrible anxiety that something would go wrong.  During the early stages I turned to visualisations and meditations to help me let go of these feelings and connect to the changes in my body.  This helped so much with the anxiety, allowing me to relax, letting me fall asleep at night without constant worry, and helping me to get through each day.  I continued to attend my regular yoga classes throughout my pregnancy, and found I experienced these classes in a new way.  I felt completely able to adapt to what my body needed that day, I loved how yoga did not push you to do anything and how there was no competition or comparison in the classes.  I started to feel like I was beginning to understand how yoga joined the mind and the body.


After giving birth to my first child I felt a connection to my body that I had never experienced before.  I also felt completely comfortable with my body for perhaps the first time in my life.  Despite the wobbly bits, the pregnancy weight, the breasts full of milk (or perhaps because of these things) I finally felt that I loved my body, and maybe even more importantly, I accepted it.  Just as it was.


I started to do yoga with my daughter most afternoons (at that time of day when life with a young child is often the most difficult) and I was absolutely amazed by the effects.  Even on the most challenging days, within fifteen minutes of starting our yoga she would be smiling, and afterwards we had a blissful shared relaxation together.  It was at this point that I began to become interested in baby yoga.  On seeing that Birthlight were offering baby yoga training in Edinburgh I decided that this was meant for me and applied for the course.


I completed my first baby yoga training with Birthlight whilst pregnant with my second daughter in 2013.  After initially training to teach mother (or father) and baby classes, I continued my training to teach toddlers, older children and family yoga with Rainbow Kids Yoga, then adult yoga through CYS.  With each course that I took, I felt that I learnt something new and started to understand a little more.


I began to understand that yoga is not just about the physical asanas, it is not even just about the breathing practices or the meditations, it is about so much more.  We may not necessarily mention any yogic philosophy in a class, but we can incorporate it through the atmosphere we create, the way we treat the people in the class, the way we encourage people to treat themselves and each other.


It was during my baby yoga training that I encountered the idea of yoga creating joy for the first time.  This is an idea I have come across again and again in my reading and study, the idea that the main aim of yoga is to find a joy in living. This idea has really resonated with me, I think it is a truly wonderful thing to aspire to.  The true power of yoga is in understanding our true selves.  Yoga takes us on a journey to draw back the veil and uncover our inner light, our inner spirit.  And when we let this light radiate out into the world, when we find our true self and let it shine, we will experience that true joy in living.


Yoga is a little like a web with so many strands, overlapping and interacting with one another.  The whole thing weaves together to create something amazing and beautiful.  Speaking to people about their experiences of yoga, and what they feel they have gained from attending classes at all different stages has been so enlightening.  It has reinforced the idea that yoga is so much more than the form of exercise I initially thought.  Yoga really does have the power to change your life.


Yoga is a practice designed to reconnect us with our life force, with the energy that is the source of our health and vitality, it is no wonder that it makes us feel good!


Yoga is a tool to allow us to experience pure joy in living, complete happiness in our lives, without constantly striving for more.  It is through yoga that I have got to the point in my life that I am at today, to be doing a job that I love, with a wonderful family.  To a stage when I am starting to accept myself and love myself, without pressure and without constantly striving to change.  It is truly breath-taking to think that I can share some of this magic in my own classes, and start my students on their own yoga journeys.


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