20 years since I first stepped on on yoga mat!
20 years since I first stepped on on yoga mat!
There are certainly times in my life when I look back and wonder where the time went. I've had another one of those when I realised it's been 20 years this year since I first stepped onto a yoga mat. At that point, a new world opened to me, something that I never thought I would still be doing 20 years later, let alone writing about.
So I had not long left uinversity in Cheltenham, decided that there was no way I was going into classrooms with 7-11yr olds, what I'd just spent 4 years learning to do and ultimately decided it would be wrong for me and the future generations if I was their teacher. I was 22, what did I really know?
I spent a year working in an outdoor shop, mainly to get cheap equipment to continue my growing interest in climbing. I read an article in a climbing magazine about how climbers had started using yoga as a way to improve their flexibility, regulate their breathing and ultimately calm their minds to be able to better handle the fear factor of climbing. I hadn't even made the connection then between my breathing and my anxiety when I was doing difficult climbs. My anxiety, although hidden from most, was there a lot.
I remembered a friend of mine had said she did yoga, so I asked her about it, she was very enthusiastic and said it left her feeling great. She didn't climb at that point (she later became a climbing partner for about 3 years), but had heard of the benefits to climbers and could understand how what she did might be good for me. So I went along to her class to check it out.
It was in a room with a tall ceiling in a grand house in Cheltenham, the teacher was white-haired, calm and had a beautiful smile. The place was quite dimly lit and smelled of incense, which was fine with me, having been into the New Age scene for about 7 years at that point, but somehow missed the yoga. There were only spaces for six of us and I was the only male. Before you could say lotus posture I was chanting my first Om, not having a clue what I'd really let myself in for, and trying to get my body to be in strange shapes with unpronouceble names.
I felt great after that class, a little sore as I'm prone to being competitive and pushing myself, and I was hooked.
This was back in the days where there was very little internet, so I checked some books out the library and I was practicing most days. Over the next 10 years I was doing 4-6 days of practice a week, and even in 2003 when I stopped climbing (until 2015), I continued my yoga. Devouring as much information as I could.
I tried many styles of yoga, from Hatha, Ashtanga, Vinyasa Flow, Bikram, Hot Yoga and more, and I had the honour of working with some amazing teachers. I spent 2 years in weekly sessions at an ashram near Welshpool that had a sitting swami and did the very restorative practice taught by the Universal Confulence of Yoga Vedanta Luminary and listened to lectures, teachings and discussions on sanskrit led by Paramahamsa Parivrajakacarya Shrimat Svami Turiyananda Sarasvati, at who's feet I would sit as she sang the lessons in sanskrit. When she passed away in 2003, it was time for me to move on.
I was alternating between their restorative yoga and Ashtanga until I injured my spine, pushing to hard in 2005 and my practice had to take a break and I focussed more on my Qigong as it seemed to help quell the overactive mind and adrenalised/stressed body. My yoga would be intermittent and irregular as my back didn't cope well with it. I tried lots of teachers but none of them really seemed to have what I was looking for. From 2009-2015 I did very little yoga.
I was then introduced toYin Yoga by my brother Simon, a giver of so many gifts in my life. He was living in Asia a lot, studying yoga, Qigong and meditation amongst other things. His partner is a yin yoga teacher and they were due to run a retreat in Turkey and invited me to go and join them in return for some assistance with some logistics on the course.
And for that I found the yoga practice that suits me.
The retreat was looking at the subtle energy practice within yin; chakras, meridians, all areas I loved. Beta Lisboa is a fantastic teacher, able to embody both Yang and Yin qualities with incredible dynamism and I was inspired. On top of that I achived the first 100 hours of my Yin Fascia Yoga teacher training. Certainly done more for my deeper awareness than for aspirations to teach others.
I love Yin Yoga's subtle gentle appraoch, it is the perfect counter pose to my driven nature (most nights before I go to bed I reach inbox zero on my gmail!) and something that I find easy to surrender into myself with. I tend to spend almost the entire practice with my eyes closed and give myself the gift of not doing, just being and surrendering.
In my 20th year since I first stepped on the mat, I'm grateful that Tanya Green come to join my team at Centre for Integral Health. Amongst other great skills, she is an experienced and gifted teacher of Yin Yoga and one I am grateful to be guided by at this time. She runs small classes, maximum of 6 people, at the Centre. This really allows me to have much more input and support to develop my practice and I feel much more personally cared for. Which when you're not so great at letting people help you, it's easier to hide in the crowd of a big class. But in these small classes, so reminiscent of my first classes, that's not possible.
So my yoga journey continues, and while my LifeForce Qigong will be my first and primary love, the yin yoga is a great compliment to it and adds a different dimension to my journey of self-enquiry and development. Yoga really has helped shape and guide the course of my life, probably in more ways than can be spoken of.
I invite you to step onto the mat, find a great teacher and be inspired to explore yourself in ways you might not imagine.
Hopefully I'll see you in 20 years with your own amazing story.