Lessons I am learning from yoga

It’s funny how the world works sometimes… With a few free hours between appointments last week, I took myself to a coffee shop eager to put this post together. After a couple of hours of typing and deleting, I was slowly coming to the conclusion that there were no words to describe what was in my head. It must be a Claire thing. Nobody will get it. It’s not even relevant to your post, I told myself; you’re meant to be writing about how yoga has helped you implement everything you believe about fitness and training, how it has given you renewed faith in yourself and respect for your body. I was about ready to trash the personal stuff and just present a list of the benefits of yoga.

Then, just two days later at my friend Viv’s – who I hadn’t seen in three months – we got talking about yoga and fitness, and to my great surprise and excitement, out of her mouth came my thoughts in her words.

It went something like:

“I like the idea of being fit and active… but I often avoid doing physical activity because it feels like it’s not ‘my thing’.”

If you’re anything like me, there might be times when you just fancy going for a run or to the gym – or doing anything else at all, really – but because you know you won’t make a routine of it, you decide not to bother with the one-off.

I had been toying with the idea of doing yoga for a couple years. I knew how valuable it can be for sports-specific conditioning for jiu jitsu, and the benefits of working on that body-mind-soul connection are undeniable. But, you know, I was someone who trained “hard” – I felt that what was currently missing from my weekly routine was the sensation of being about to collapse. I also didn’t feel I was spiritual enough, and I didn’t believe I would get much out of the physical practice without the spiritual overtones. Bikram yoga lured me in with the promise of heat and sweat, but we all know how that ended.

I’m also not very flexible, so while I didn’t want to go to a stretching class, I couldn’t imagine I would be able to achieve anything in a more advanced yoga class. I made all sorts of excuses!

The thing about excuses, is that I generally only find myself making them about things I really don’t enjoy doing, or things I’m nervous about. And so, when my client Jay announced that she was going to dedicate her energies to being a yoga teacher full-time, I didn’t even question it! I instantly pre-booked some private sessions with her; we share a lot of the same holistic training philosophies, and she is tough as anyone I know. I won’t lie, though: the pessimist in me was slightly apprehensive – how would our relationship be affected if I didn’t enjoy teaching style and decided not to rebook? Perhaps more alarmingly, if I was appallingly bad at yoga, how could Jay possibly continue her training with me?

Yogitecture

Image courtesy of Yogitecture

Happily, that scenario couldn’t have been further from reality. By the end of the first session, I felt somehow lighter yet stronger; my core was switched on, my back tall, and my legs a little wobbly from a tough workout; but I felt energised and inspired.

There was something else, too. I happened to have spent a few weeks prior to that first session trying to keep a handle on negative body image thoughts, and for the first time in weeks, leaving that class I felt at peace with my body. I have done ever since and, a dozen sessions in, I’m noticing not only my body changing and adapting, but I’m also seeing my mindset changing.

The most notable changes for me have been that:

1. I’m focussing on the journey

Oh, sure, I’d love to do a handstand. I’d love to be able to fold myself in half with my head resting on my knees. But that’ll happen when my body is ready for it to happen. No 12-weeks-to-this, no 5-steps-to-that. Explore your body and its abilities.

I used to go to the gym with a clear idea of what I could achieve, and what I wanted to achieve next. When I didn’t, I felt like I had wasted a day of my life. The problem is that the better I got, the harder it was to keep achieving new heights. Fitspiration doesn’t encourage you to be satisfied with the status quo… But that’s kinda, literally, all we have.

2. I’m feeling everything

We all have good days and bad days. Use them all as chances to learn about how you feel on those good days, how you feel on those bad days.

Some days, I might be strong and energetic, but my shoulders are tight and keep creeping up. Other days, I might feel tired and sluggish, but it turns out to help my conscious brain switch off and hold poses with a little more single-mindedness. I’m noticing that when I feel bloated, it affects so much more than I could have thought; whereas the dodgy foot that I had assumed would impede basically everything is actually no weaker or more painful than the other. I’m gaining new respect for all of my body parts and the work that they do separately and together, and I’m learning not to throw in the towel on “bad days”.

3. I’m feeling cared for

When you become a personal trainer or, I would assume, anyone who looks after the wellbeing of your clients, it’s easy to give more energy than you absorb. You become not just a professional in your field but also friend, counsellor, and unfortunately you are always to some extent a salesperson. It’s important to have somebody put some of that energy back into you.

Most of the time I don’t even realise that is happening. In fact, I didn’t until I started the yoga. But my desire to train, my sense of purpose, was slowly ebbing away. Being able to switch off completely for one hour a week, focus on what is going on above my yoga mat, and know that somebody else will give me the direction I need has been hugely relieving. Not to mention, validating. If you work for yourself, how often does anybody tell you that you are doing a good job? It might sound insignificant, but for me it has made a world of difference.

Yogitecture

Image courtesy of Yogitecture

Incidentally, since that first class, I have had approximately zero desire to train formally. I’ve done core work more consistently than I have possibly ever, and Ben and I have been making a conscious effort to walk more. Beyond that, I am working out less, thinking about working out less, and feeling and looking stronger and fitter than I have since I was grappling 5 nights a week but with none of the injuries and illnesses.

Ben and I train with Jay on a Tuesday, and by the Thursday we’re already craving our next session. Luckily for us, Jay is starting up weekly group classes and we can’t wait to start our weekend with a good workout and an hour of mindfulness. I can’t wait to see how my journey continues with two sessions a week, and it would be great to see some of my readers there!

The first one is this Saturday, 20th June, at 9am in Ealing, West London – but if you’re further East, you can train with Jay on Sunday mornings, 9am, in Peckham. For all the details and any other information, go check out the Yogitecture site, where you can get in touch with Jay.

Please note that I was not asked to write this post, nor have I been compensated for it. These are all my own honest and personal opinions.

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