I was a yoga skeptic.
As a cardio addict I found the thought of slowing down, breathing or lying still to be seriously boring.
Being a keen runner, I was devastated about 6 years ago, when I was experiencing back pain and found out that I had dehydrated discs in my lower back.
I went to my first yoga class immediately after my physiotherapist suggested it. I loved the stretching, the poses, but the Savasana at the end… I couldn’t stand it! I had to just lie there, completely still? Were they crazy? My mind went into overdrive thinking of all the things I had to do. With 3 young children,
I realized I never ever stopped apart from sleeping.
I seemed to be the only adult in the class who wriggled around and moved. Who couldn’t find peace. Why? What was wrong with me?
However, after only a few weeks my spine felt so much better, I felt so much better. So I persevered… Eventually I found myself lying still. Eventually I found that during a hatha class with one yoga teacher, I would occasionally switch off and silence my thoughts.
After a year, I realized I was completely switching off. Was I meditating? I could barely believe it. And it was then, that I noticed the effect on me. I was a busy teacher with a full time job, after school activities to run and some weekend responsibilities, work events to attend, a mother of 3 small children, I was finishing my masters degree and had all the normal things to do at home. But
I was making real time for myself,
not popping to the supermarket alone, not managing an occasional hair cut… but really practising self-care for the first time in a long time, making time in my busy life for yoga and ergo, true relaxation. I stopped taking the strong anti inflammatory painkillers that I had relied on for so long, my spine felt completely fine. And even more impressively, I felt calmer, more relaxed and happier. I was more patient and definitely less stressed.
My yoga journey truly began. I began to practise more and more, half an hour at home every day, 4 yoga classes a week, different yoga styles- yin, hatha, ashtanga, bikram; each one giving me a different feeling and a different after effect. I even started practising breathing (which I later learnt is pranayama). There’s a magic sleeping breath, 4-7-8. You breath in slowly through the nostrils to the count of 4, hold your breath to the count of 7 and exhale slowly to the count of 8. Within a few breaths I am fast asleep!
I considered deepening my practice further,
and spent a month with an Indian Yoga School from Goa in Phuket, Thailand.The training was unbelievable, amazing and challenging in equal measure. Not just physically draining but mentally exhausting.
I learnt a lot about myself- how perfectionism plagues me, how I often give into self-doubt, how I can be too hard on myself. But I also learnt how determined I am, how strong I can be, and how my positivity has a huge influence on others. The teaching part came naturally to me (as a teacher, I kind of thought it might…) but the struggle was much more about the expectations I placed on myself. I wanted to be the best yogi ever! Do the hardest postures, challenge myself, but my back completely gave in and I ended up having to constantly limit myself and be extra careful with my spine! Which meant practising the easiest postures and going easier on myself.
I feel that this is what is so special about yoga.
What other discipline gives you time to work on yourself? Time to think? Time to just be? To work out what your body needs, how your body feels and to truly listen to yourself? And how often do we listen to our bodies and practise real self-care? We are too busy rushing around, especially as parents.
I know that yoga has changed my existence. Now I feel grateful that I get to share my passion with others. Last year, I taught a couple of yoga classes a week to AAS staff and now I do an online class. It works surprisingly well. I am also fascinated with how much my own 3 children love my classes and sometimes ask me for ‘just a savasana’ before bed.
When I suggested teaching a ‘real yoga class’ to 4A, some of the kids looked skeptical.
But 6 kids’ hands shot up. My first class with students was a real, adult- style class and they approached it with maturity and openness. They did a wonderful job, but what shocked me was how much they loved the ‘savasana’ in Sanskrit rather eerily translated as ‘corpse pose’ or final meditation at the end of the yoga class. The kids were completely out. Not a movement came from them! They were meditating, something which adults struggle with. After the class they said “I’ve never felt so relaxed.”, “I felt like only my tummy was alive.”, “I felt like I was floating above my body.” And I realized how yoga can truly transform my students too. In a time when anxiety and stress are also epidemic, I feel like this is the perfect remedy! So yoga Fridays have become our thing. 8 kids have asked to join next week…
My yoga journey is my own and perhaps it isn’t suited to everyone but if the children take one thing away, I hope it is to make time and space in their day, to prioritize their relaxation and I wish this for the whole of The AAS community.
Jude Little (Grade 4 Teacher and Yoga Alliance YTT 200)