“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured, and endure what cannot be cured.”
Yoga is a practice which affects every component of your being: mind, body and soul. Often with mental health disorders, or even just day-to-day life, we lose this connection and these three things can fall out of balance. Yoga – no matter what level you are at – is a powerful tool to rebalance the mind, body and soul, and leave you with a sense of peace you might not have even known existed.
A yoga session is symbolic of how we should live out each day. We start off slow and gentle, waking up the body, stretching and easing our aching muscles ready for the day. Then, things speed up a little and we have to keep up with the constant ebb and flow of activity, the changes in direction and quite often the taxing and challenging demands placed on us, either internally or externally. We then start to slow down again, slowing down our movements, calming our mind and preparing for rest. It also encourages us to move through our days with a mindful awareness, flexibility and without judgement or ego, and helps us realise that sometimes by making what may seem like the smallest adjustments, may in fact have the biggest impacts.
When I went along to my first ever yoga class at the age of 18, I had no idea what to expect. I was smack bang in the middle of an eating disorder with severe low self esteem and a terrible body image, and all I really cared about was whether I looked skinny in the huge mirrors circling the room, how many calories I had burnt in the session, and whether I was the thinnest one in class (a common + ridiculous thought process at the time). However, at my second or third class, my yoga teacher said a sentence that would stay with me through every yoga practice to this day:
“Leave your ego at the door.”
So that’s what I did.
Instead of being a purely physical practice, yoga teaches us to dig deep into our emotional and mental resources, and find our true nature. I will never forget one particular session at a yoga retreat in Ibiza when we were doing a number of hip openers, and right there in pigeon pose I experienced this overwhelming release of all these negative emotions, which felt as if they were pouring out of me after being stored for years and years. It was only later that I learnt that the hips do indeed act as a storage area for tension and negativity. Who knew that the hips were capable of emotion?!
Every sequence, every position, every move, I let my perfectionism fall away, and for the first time in my life I learnt to surrender. The thing is, yoga and perfectionism are just not compatible. If you aim for the perfect pose, you isolate yourself and lose the real meaning behind what you are doing and why, and any sort of enjoyment and fun that goes with it. By letting go of perfectionism I learnt to take myself less seriously and realised I didn’t have to be absolutely perfect in yoga, or any other aspect of my life. And it was only when I let myself out of that tiny little box did my life really begin to grow and expand, and I started to live with so much more energy, because lets face it, being perfect is EXHAUSTING.
Yoga alone did not save me from myself. However, without the practice of yoga and meditation, I genuinely do not know if I would be in the position I am in today, or if I would even be the same person. Of course, having an AMAZING yoga teacher always helps too, which I have been extremely lucky to have had.
All you have to do is let go, breathe and surrender.
p.s. If you think you can’t do yoga because you’re not the typical thin, Caucasian, flexible women we see (usually in the media), you are so wrong – pleeeease check out this post that explains why yoga is for everybody! http://www.decolonizingyoga.com/yoga-not-just-for-young-skinny-white-girls/