"You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state."
- Sharon Gannon
Hello beautiful goddess
Whenever I mention that I am a yoga teacher, I get a mixed response. Some people are delighted and tell me about their own journey with the practice and how much it has lit up their lives. Others wrinkle their nose and express their deep dissatisfaction with a class they once went to, and never came back. And when I mention that I only teach privately, in either a yin or restorative style, the eyebrows really go up! I get it though, as my style of teaching has developed over the past 9 years, as has my own personal practice.
What we're seeing at the moment is a barrage of picture perfect images on social media of top teachers and students from around the world, dressed in the latest designer threads and looking as serene as the night's sky. This makes my heart ache for the would be students out there who would love to go to a class, but feel completely intimidated and relate the art of yoga solely to the poses. Nothing could be further from the truth. The real yoga begins when you put down your green juice, and step off the mat.
When I first began attending classes in earnest, it was at a very dark and lonely time in my life, full of drug abuse and being completely disconnected from my body. I would lie in savasana, and wonder why tears were streaming down my face in this final pose of the class. My preference was for poses where I could push and punish my body even further - which resulted in many a yoga injury that I still carry around with me to this day.
I also feel that this disconnect lives in a few teachers out there, as we need to realise just how much one tiny action or sentence can really affect our students. I remember attending a popular Sydney studio to try out their particular style, and was genuinely excited to be there. Laying down my mat next to my girlfriend, who was a regular there, the feeling of joy soon turned to dread. The teacher began the class by asking who was new that night. Imagine my dismay when mine was the only hand raised! She instructed me to move my mat to the back of the class, so I could better observe everyone else. The style of yoga and the teacher were not a match in yogi heaven for me, and I walked out of the class after 20 minutes, something I have never done before or since.
Perhaps my worst experience was on a yoga retreat in Byron Bay, with a prominent teacher from the area. Handstand has never been my favourite pose and she literally smacked the back of my arms and barked "use your upper body strength!". To make matters worse, my neighbour turned around and asked me "have you ever even done yoga before??".
I highlight these memories for good reason. I also remember the really amazing moments of deep bliss and release.
My first yoga mentor came in the form of a curvaceous Ryoho teacher, which is a beautiful Japanese style, based around the seasons and energy points in the body. I attended her classes religiously, as I finally felt that I had found a teacher who would not only teach the poses, but teach us about life. She would remind us that we couldn't fill what was missing from the inside with sex, drugs, alcohol, shopping sprees - which was precisely what I was doing at the time. Her deep wisdom and gentleness is one of the very reasons why I am still alive I believe. She's also the reason why I became a yoga teacher. I wanted to make my students feel the way that she had made me feel. I wanted the yoga poses to fit my students, and not the other way around.
Once I had signed up for my Advanced Diploma of Yoga Teaching, my second yoga mentor came into my life. One of my lecturers at college, she was a walking goddess. She offered me a mentorship at her home studio, and I jumped at the chance. Classes were taught in Winter by the crackling fireplace and in Summer on the terrace as the sun went down, to a chorus of wildlife. It was a special time in my life as an apprentice yoga teacher, and one I will never forget.
So why am I telling you all of this? To encourage you to find your yoga. Whatever style, whatever teacher - make it yours.
If you've had a few bad experiences that leave you never wanting to go back, think of it almost like dating! You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find the prince - I've found in my experience that the same goes with yoga styles and studios. I've now found my bliss in the soothing waters of yin and restorative yoga, because I love the way my body feels emptied of all stress afterwards. It has taken me years to get here, and I now do sweaty aerobics to actually work out, and use yoga to stretch out my muscles and joints from the hard work in between.
I'd like to share with you two practices for you to try at home:
My favourite Restorative Yoga practice
My favourite Yin Yoga practice
What insights did you gain from today's post? What have you learnt from your yoga journey? How has your practice changed and evolved over the years? I would love to hear from you in the comments below. Please also share this post with any sister who would benefit from some soul reflection on finding their yoga.
Thank you so much for reading this week’s Monday Meditation.
In love and gratitude