Healing through Yoga | 'Through yoga I learnt to love my body!'
Updated: Jul 19, 2020
'Laura, a Londoner who moved to the country to be a Mum'
I started yoga 10 years ago, my workplace set up an end of day yoga class once a week. To be honest I just went along because it seemed like an easy way to ‘tick off’ the ‘Oh I should be doing some exercise in the week’ It was accessible, I didn’t have to travel, I found my comfort spot at the back of the class to hide, it seemed like an opportunity not to miss.
Also I felt I had really bad posture, I was getting headaches and work could get really stressful, yoga seemed like something I ‘should’ be doing. I didn’t really understand what it was or believed it could change much.
But I showed up to my first lesson, it was not what I expected… it was NOT HOW I EXPECTED, to be…
I realised how hard sitting crossed legged was.
I realised that the picture I had of me in my head, from all the things I used to be able to do as a teenager, to being a 30 year old, was not a reflection on reality.
Just because I could do something once, did not mean I could do it now! Everything we did in that lesson showed me that my body was finding even what I considered basic movement hard - but at the end of that first session, I felt amazing, and I wanted to keep feeling amazing.
Since that first lesson I’ve continued to unroll my mat trying different styles of yoga, my training over this past year has been what has suited me best, holistic, hatha yoga.
Until recently I never really liked my body, and although I didn't realise it, I never really paid attention to my body when I was younger.
I loved learning, and I love focusing on theory, so I guess I considered myself more of a brain being carried around by this ‘thing’ I didn't really understand or was that interested in.
When I started practicing yoga - this makes my friends laugh - I actually really looked at my body for the first time. I looked at my legs when I was in downward facing dog. My arms when in seated twists. My stomach when in folds, and I thought "Wow! This is what I look like!"
It initially felt weird, not only because I never really looked at my body before this, but because I realised I was finally seeing what other people saw and not the changing picture I had in my mind.
With my practice in holistic yoga, the focus is on me as a whole being. I’ve learnt to be comfortable in closing down my eyes during points in my practice and feel, to connect with my breath, think positive thoughts, and move my body with more awareness and control.
Very slowly, over time, I linked how I look with how I feel. Across the years, I have lost weight and toned up, and so one day I looked at my body in a yoga class and for the first time had defined ankles and stronger wrists that were better supporting me, I was so happy, I realised I loved my body - but also that my body loved and looked after me, and that was just life changing.
I continue to feel wonderful with regular practice, most noticeable benefits are generally feeling more happy, more relaxed. One area that has made a huge difference to me has been the focus on spine and posture. My job is desk based, I started to get ‘tech neck.’ This has now virtually gone!! Yoga gives my back the best massage it has ever felt on a really deep level (and I have had LOTS of massages). I feel satisfied when I hear and feel it return to it's natural, most flexible place, every time I get on my mat. I have the confidence and knowledge to remedy it myself in under 30 mins in my home yoga practice which is awesome! My go to is seated spinal circumductions ‘stirring action’, This feels surprisingly amazing, and seems to hit ALL my tension points all at once. As soon as I stop I can feel how much more relaxed, flexible and taller my body is!
My most positive moment to date has been to achieve straight legs when I am holding onto my big toes - which I never thought I would be able to do. It is the most fantastic feeling and I can't believe my body can do it - I do it just for fun now sometimes (and to keep my hamstrings looser).
Of course over the pasts 10 years it hasn’t been all “happy hamstrings”……When I started yoga, I found meditation really challenging. I would just feel overwhelmingly sad, and I hated it.
There was a lot going on in my life at the time, and I think I just accepted how I felt without challenging it and thought I was just deep down a well of sadness that I kept the lid on most of the time. Over time though, this feeling changed, and now I feel content and relaxed in the meditation. I can't believe I just accepted how bad I felt in the past and wasn't taking steps to actively challenge it! I guess you don't know you felt bad until you feel good - now I use yoga to "check in" mentally to make sure any niggles are cared for and NOT left to fester!
Yoga has become a much needed friend for me. When life is going well, I know that doing yoga will make my body and mind feel good, and I can focus on specific goals at that time such as flexibility or arm strength. When life is going not so well - if I wake up feeling out of sorts, or if I get bad news, or if life takes me over - then I can come to my mat and even if it’s just for 10 minutes I will ALWAYS feel better afterwards. I didn't really notice this until recently - I don't feel as afraid of the future as I used to, and I am sure it is in part because I know I have yoga as a tool that I can use anywhere, any time of day or night, no matter where I am or what state I am in. The sense of security from this is so freeing!!
I think the thing that has probably helped me most over the past 10 years is the approach from my current yoga teacher, and that is no matter what I say, or how much I wobble, or whatever mistakes I make, she never makes me feel silly. This maybe doesn't sound like a big thing, but I think not being afraid to not be good at yoga has actually made me push myself further, and has resulted in me to be able to do things I never thought I would be able to do with my body! I used to be afraid of one to one yoga sessions because I couldn't hide at the back and I felt like all my flaws would be too obvious, but now it's my favourite way to do yoga - plus I have made more progress in a year than I did in all the previous years put together!
Overall, accidentally falling into yoga has become one of the best things I have ever done - and it has really changed me and my body for the better in so many ways. Moving forward, my goal is just to keep doing it regularly - this means 10 mins here, an hour there, no pressure to be perfect, or to improve or reach specific goals - just to get on my yoga mat and move my body about and feel things from the inside and out, because every time I do that, without fail, I feel happy :)
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