In August 2016 I was ready to give up my studio yoga practice. Rising personal expenses no longer allowed what seemed a luxury, and austerity measures were overdue. At that time an email arrived for a 14-day #YogaThon challenge - the prize being six months of unlimited practice at any YogaTree or YogaWorks. Existing work commitments had me scheduled to travel 50% of that time, so it was a long shot. Taking the leap, I decided to rearrange my schedule, raincheck social plans, and do anything to see what was possible.
With classes complete and ticket submitted, the email arrived a month later telling me I had won the “Grand Prize”. Clearly surprised, in the ensuing days my mind played over the outcomes this opportunity would provide. From jump backs to crow pose, a repaired shoulder injury and full wheel now all in reach I was ready. However with six months and unlimited access over, I can happily report NONE of the above happened, but so much more transpired.
Exploring new studios and teachers, I found new energy from immersing myself into unknown spaces. Becoming a more regular student means practicing with other students I recognize, and while it may only be in class, there’s a familiarity as we come together to breathe, share, find space and support each other’s journey.
My physical and mental strength is more than I believed, and my understanding of the structure, breath, reasoning and movement is strengthening. A frequent practice has also moved me to establish a home practice when getting to class is not possible.
The discipline of practice has brought me closer to being in my physical body. I now recognize signs in my body when I am feeling less than balanced, and can address it through mindful practice, yoga, or breath work, on or off the mat.
I’ve realized my favorite parts of a practice are pranayama, mantra, meditation and kirtan. Work travel has become less stressful, particularly on long haul trips or multiple days away. I find myself in simple asana or pranayama mid-flight to alleviate tight hips, an aching back or meddled mind.
Friendships have waned and others strengthened. Those who see and understand the importance I place on practice enquire more, share more about their lives, and I’ve led some of my closest confidants onto a mat for the first time.
The nagging shoulder injury has become part of my practice of self-care. Learning how to back off, listen to my body and understand the difference between pain, self-imposed limits, and the potential possible in a pose's full expression.
For teachers’ guidance I am incredibly thankful, and to Robin Duryea, Mike Richardson, Jackie Rowley and Brenna Geehan, you are all beaming lights in my life for whom sufficient words of gratitude fail. You have all given me strength, self-belief, guidance and love on this journey – even when frustration took over, or all I could do was lay in child’s pose and weep. I take comfort and peace in your wisdom.
Above all, there’s a newfound respect for myself, a deeper understanding of the philosophy of the practice, as I now explore the texts, wisdom and teachings of this ancient way of being. While I still fall out of poses, admire advanced arm balances of teachers and texts, I know it’s all within reach in the decades to come, and unlike a forearm plank or pistol squat, it’s journey that I hope never ends.