Oh, it’s been a while friends. I know. Trust me, I know.
I have so many articles ideas written in my little notebook and two articles that have been sitting in drafts for way too long. What ever happened to the idea of a slow life?
2017 was clearly not a very shining example of practising what I am preaching, I will tell you that much.
I worked a full time job in a digital agency and finished the practical part of my 350 hours part-time yoga teacher training. Don’t let the words ‘part-time’ deceive you, it’s been a very intense training: every second weekend from 8am to 5pm with a 30 minutes break, I was attending workshops in the most beautiful studio just outside of Brisbane. Then on my weekends off, (and during week nights if I didn’t feel too exhausted), I was trying to start my written assignments (successfully completed about 0.7% of these during that time), prepare my practical sequences for the next workshop, attend regular yoga classes or Sunday yoga retreats (which is a requirement of the course), have my own yoga practice… and I also found the time to start teaching to some of my friends after work.
However busy and hectic has this year been, I have high hopes for 2018. There is a chance of scenery and a change of pace in sight for me, and I am very much longing for it. We are spending a few weeks in Far North Queensland (tropical paradise, some may say) before we head to our next destination, and this has been the perfect opportunity to finally slow down. Lots of sleeping in, eating, swimming and soaking in the sun, reading books, avoiding screens, and drinking wine at 5pm. One of the best parts has also been to let go of makeup, bras, hair brushes/straighteners, and tight clothes.
My first objective of the new year (and not a small one) is to finish my written assignments so I can officially graduate from the yoga teacher training (at present, I have only passed the practical assessments) and call myself a Level 1 yoga teacher.
How yoga teacher training changed my yoga practice
One of the questions I have had to reflect on is: ‘How is your yoga asana (physical) practice changing and what effects it is having on your body, your mind and your life?’, and I would like to share my thoughts with you.
Since I started my yoga teacher training, I feel like my personal practice has developed exponentially. I used to only ever practice at a studio, and felt like this was the only way for me to remain consistent, and to fully experience the benefits of yoga. I thought that by pushing myself harder, which I typically was doing in class with a teacher physically present, but not so much at home in front of my laptop, I would be a better yogi.
In the last year or so, I also started using YouTube videos from channels such as Yoga with Adrienne to practice at home when I wouldn’t have time to go to the studio; but I only really saw these as a complement to my studio practice.
Since doing my YTT, my practice has shifted towards more of a personal practice, in shorter but more regular sequences. For example, I may practice 4-5 times a week for 30-40 minutes at home, rather than my previous 2x 60 minutes studio classes.
Find what feels good, go with the flow.
I now prefer practising on my own, at home or outside in the park; and will complement with some studio classes or retreats, rather than the other way around. When I practice at home, I usually will just ‘go with the flow’ and do what feels right at this point in time, even if it doesn’t look very logical from an outside point of view. Sometimes however, I feel like I just need to not think and to be guided by a familiar voice, so I will put on an audio recording or a video.
With this personal practice, I have naturally been focusing on my problem areas, such as my back, neck, hips and hamstrings – and I feel like this is both a good and a bad thing. This will most definitely help me improve these issues, but may leave out some other areas. I may tend to get into my favourite postures more often, and forget to push myself outside of my comfort zone every now and again.
Guided practices (whether in studio or online) have the advantage of taking me to places I might not especially enjoy but may be beneficial, such as back bends; and to push me into new or more challenging sequences. For this reason, I intend to keep following some sort of class or guided practice at home.
Physical and mental benefits of yoga
The physical benefits I have experienced from yoga have been countless. I feel better in my body overall, more aware and in tune with it. I feel like I am much more sensitive to any variations in my well-being and physical sensations, and able to ‘diagnose’ more precisely when something is wrong. Thinking back to a few years ago, I feel like I was living a few blocks away from my body, never giving it a second thought or being grateful for all the things it does and can do, turning a blind eye on how it was feeling, really feeling.
More than that, I didn’t think I could achieve much at all with my body, I thought I was weak – maybe still wounded from these school years when I was always picked last for sports class and called names for being so skinny. All these lovely childhood memories planted a little seed of doubt in my mind, telling me I wasn’t good enough for anything even remotely physical (and my subconscious therefore decided that we should focus on all things intellectual in life, and not ever worry again about our body – until I started yoga about 15 years later). I now know that this wasn’t true, and that my body is in fact amazing and can accomplish astonishing things like headstands, forearm stands, or wheel poses.
Being grateful for my body (and somewhere along those lines, myself) is probably one of the greatest gifts that yoga gave me.
Another benefit is the disappearance of most of my ‘chronic pains’. Just like most people, I have a few physical issues which used to (and sometimes still) cause me some sort of pain on a semi-regular basis. After a few years of practising yoga, and with this past year being quite challenging physically due to the intensive training every second weekend, I can proudly say that I have not experienced much (if any) of these pains for a long time. The only ‘chronic’ pain I am still experiencing is in my neck and shoulders area, due to spending a lot of time in front of the computer for work. I try to be more conscious of my posture throughout the day and to make sure to regularly stretch these areas to get the blood flowing, and they usually won’t last very long.
Finally, I feel more calm and emotionally strong, able to identify and channel my emotions. I am less impulsive, quick to react negatively, less angry towards the little things of daily life (like all the lights turning red when you’re driving, or loosing my favourite ring).
I have a more positive outlook on life.
I used to always be a bit of a pessimist, although I liked to think I was more of a realistic person. Growing up, my mum always told me not to build castles in the air (“faire des plans sur la comète” en français dans le texte) and I think this always stuck with me, and I dreamt of little ambitions, so I wouldn’t be disappointed. Is it yoga or just life? I have become a more positive, optimistic and hopeful person. I trust that no matter what happens, things will turn out for the best and life will lead me on the right path.
I know that this is very trendy word, but for lack of a better one, I feel very grateful to have found yoga.