Me at Yoga Sanctuary studio, Toronto, June 2007
I love yoga. I really love it. It doesn't feel like exercise. It feels like I'm spring cleaning my soul.
Like a lot of people, I once thought it was only for the seriously fit and flexible so I never had the nerve to go to a proper class. So I bought a DVD, Simply Yoga, and had my first go at it in my lounge room in Hobart in April 2005, when I was still hovering around the 100kg mark. I could barely do balasana, because the rolls of flab got in the way and were slowly crushing my lungs, making it impossible to breathe! I was so out of condition and inflexible. I didn't see myself ever being confident enough to pursue it seriously.
When I moved to Melbourne later that year I started pursuing it with a bit more interest and passion, practising for up to an hour a day. My flexibility improved out of sight, although the more difficult poses, especially backbends, I still struggled with. Around that time my wonderful friend Mary sent me Shiva Rea's Yoga Shakti DVD, which has an incredible yoga matrix on it, and I am still yet to get bored with it. It has formed the basis of my home practice for the past four years.
As my confidence in yoga grew, I found myself really wanting to go to classes and learn more, and to get better at it. But then I really got into triathlons at the end of 2006, and I focused on hard-core training for those. The only time I did yoga that whole time was the day before a race to stretch my well-used, worn-out muscles!
Then, in January 2007, I went to Sydney to spend a weekend with Mary and she took me to her regular class at Samadhi Yoga. It was an amazing, eye-opening experience. I discovered that I had the fitness to keep up with the class, the flexibility to be able to do the more difficult postures and enough respect for my body to be gentle with it and see where it wanted to go.....it revealed to me that my body was lot stronger than I thought it was. When I returned to Melbourne, I started practising seriously and went to Bikram and power vinyasa classes, which I loved.
It was during that time that I discovered that yoga is not just resting and relaxing. It's about pushing boundaries and going to places you might not necessarily want to go. There is a rawness to it, of sorts. I was at a point in my life where I was extremely happy and excited about the future, but also nursing some terrible heartbreaks, and fear of the unknown, as I was about to go travelling and move to another country, alone. Practising yoga made me confront my fears about all this, and encouraged me to nurture myself and move forward through the tough times.
When I moved to London, I started going to Jivamukti (by far my favourite, I wish I lived closer to the studio!) until I moved from the area, and then for the next two years I did ashtanga with a private teacher. Recently I've started doing hatha, at a class just around the corner from me. I'm going to start going to Bikram again soon too. I love the sweaty high of a workout, but I need the peace that yoga brings to my life, too - the feeling of strength and self acceptance. I am very much a work in progress. Yoga reminds me of that.
I love how quiet my mind becomes when I practice. I focus on what I'm doing. I don't think about any of the dramas going on in my life, don't think about any past hurts or worries about the future, I just concentrate on the moment. And I love the way my body feels when I practice. It feels strong. It feels amazing. And it's wonderful to feel so proud of yourself and your body. That's something I could never have imagined five years ago, watching that yoga DVD in my lounge room in my size 18 elastic-waisted Kmart trackpants.
It's brought a lot of peace and joy into my life.
As much as I think I've got everything figured out, yoga reminds me of what I still need to work on. Sometimes it reveals things to me that I'd honestly rather forget about, or pretend aren't there. But when I come to the mat, I don't feel afraid. I don't feel incapable. I feel so happy and alive.
Do you do yoga? Do you love it as much as I do?