I am not entirely sure how many years ago I started doing yoga but it is well over a decade – eek! Anyhow, I still remember my first yoga class. It was a full on 90-minute Jivamukti class at the Queen Mother Sports Centre in Central London, with a guy called Stewart Gilchirst. If anyone is ever in London check his classes out – they are quite an experience. Back to that class; the room was tightly packed and everyone seemed to be well into the zone on their mats. Any ideas I’d had about yoga being a slightly hippiesh way to have a good old stretch, with some chanting thrown into the mix, were obliterated after this class. I lost nearly half of my body weight through profuse perspiration (that was not a hot yoga class, well if we don’t count generating a lot of my own heat). But I lived and continued breathing and going to the class for the next year and a bit.
Then life happened and I was no longer able to attend the class and had a period of some months without any yoga. When I took back to my mat again my body had grown so rigid and stiff that my eyes welled up, attempting to go through a sun salute. It hurt so much that this day I made a decision to not let myself go without yoga for too long. So I continued doing yoga here and there and anywhere, pretty much everywhere I went.
Yoga was never my main thing, though. But it was always one of the things I loved doing and talked to people about. Looking back on why it took me so long to even consider taking my practice further is that I found the spiritual side, incl. savasna difficult to grasp. Spoiler alert: I don’t think I have got a handle of these two completely. Not yet. But let’s move on. Right, so some five-six years ago I reluctantly started running and loved it. The runner’s high, the moments of complete surrender to excruciating pain getting hold of glutes, hip flexors, hammies, lungs and the list goes on. What is not to love about running. Anyhow, around the same time, yoga stopped feeling the same for me. I started losing my flexibility which made me sad. I still had a good range of motion but the fact that it was a lot less of what it had previously been was a bit saddening. I kept running and my muscles continued getting tighter. I was lucky at the time, though, as I was able to attend yoga classes regularly so things never got too tight.
Then life happened again and I moved to New Zealand where I was no longer able to afford attending yoga classes. Luckily, a friend recommended that I gave the yogaglo app a go and I absolutely fell in love with it so I kept practising that way for the next year. In that year, yoga was a life saver on at least two occasions. The first occasion where I experienced the therapeutic power of yoga was about a year ago. I somehow managed to twitch my knee while running on a treadmill (never, ever to be repeated again). It was so painful that I had to have some time off running and trod very, very gently. Through targeted yoga for the knee I was able to get things back in place and my knee has been good ever since.
The second occasion where yoga helped me was when I started having pain in my sciatica. Don’t know how I ended up having it but it was pure evil. It would send electric shocks all the way down to my foot and at times lead to complete numbness – not much fun if it happened while I was running. Again through yoga, targeted at the lower back, things loosened up and got fixed. It took awhile and perseverance for this to happen as I had to do some very long and deep holds regularly.
After these two occasions I wanted to know more than ever before about how yoga could be used as a therapy. I also wanted to be able to teach others but was not sure I knew enough to be able to confidently and safely do that. Then life happened again (seems like a pattern) and I found myself with some spare time on my hands so I thought, now was the perfect time to do that yoga teacher training thing I had been thinking of doing for eons.
Choosing to Train as Yoga Teacher with The Asia Pacific Yoga School
I used a highly sophisticated method in choosing the school I was going to do my teacher training with. It is called intuition. I am so glad I trusted my intuition and chose the Asia Pacific Yoga School for my training. Steve and Joleen were fantastic and I am so grateful to them for sharing and imparting their knowledge and wisdom so generously and effortlessly*.
The training took place over three weeks near Waipu Cove, in Northalnd. We did heaps of yoga. Had super interesting sessions on yoga anatomy, philosophy and all things yoga. Although we were busy with yoga pretty much all of the time, we still had time for heaps of laughter and good times. I loved it! My very favourite part of the training was the opportunity to teach each other from as soon as we started the training. Such an invaluable part of the training. My deepest gratitude to my fellow yoga teacher trainees for sharing their knowledge with me. Namaste.
I experienced very many beautiful moments but there were two in particular which were so profound that I was floored. I have written a bit about each of them below.
Bye, bye sore muscles
One night half way through the training I dreamt that my bed was a giant cloud and I was weightless and regardless of how hard I looked I could not find a single sore spot anywhere in my body. Then I woke up and found myself in a spinal twist with my legs bent at the knees to the right, my arms in ‘cactus’ by either side of my head. I held my breath and tried very hard to find soreness but there was none. The feeling was awesome and hard to believe but it was real. This is not to say that yoga couldn’t lead to muscle soreness. I have had some pretty intense muscle soreness after yoga sessions where I’d pushed far beyond what my body was ready to do at the time.
Also, it took me about two weeks and many hundreds of sun salutes to regain my appreciation for them. They are so awesome. The DFD (Downward Facing Dog) did wonders for my perennially sore and achy feet from the hundreds of kms of running and tramping. The Forward Folds did miracles for my hamstrings, though right hammie isn’t still completely where it could be but I know full relief will come in time.
It’s all about the breath
(spoiler alert for anyone who is still trying to figure out what meditation is about)
This realisation is so profound that I am still in awe by its enormity (chuckles). After years of avoiding meditation all together or using it as a sleeping pill at the best of times, I came to this moment of realisation, after my first ever yoga Nidra during the training where I didn’t check out completely or stayed awake thinking my thoughts, not following the narrative. It was all about listening to / following the breath and being present. I finally get what you’re on about Jon Kabat Zinn. I guess this is yoga humour and suspect that it won’t be funny to a lot of people but it’s a somewhat decent joke and it is on me.
Although I am now a qualified yoga teacher I feel like this is just the beginning of the journey for me. I look forward to seeing where my practice will take me from here on. And look forward to staying in touch with my teachers and fellow yoga teacher trainees (now fully qualified yoga teachers) going forward.
*A note of gratitude to my teachers:
Joleen, your grace and lightness revealed how beautiful yoga could be when performed with mastery and made me fall in love with it again. Namaste.
Steve, my gratitude to you for holding space for us so masterfully, keeping it open and contained at the same time. And I’m forever grateful for guiding me (with ahimsa all the way, every step of the way) to a place of peace and stillness within which is beyond my grasp to comprehend. Namaste.