I love September, not only does it herald spring here in Australia, it’s also my yoga birthday. YAY! Yes, I’ve just had my 28th yoga birthday and am entering my 29th year of daily self-practice. I’ve learnt that the motto of Astanga, my first yoga school, “Do your practice and all is coming” is true. For everything.
I was first introduced to yoga in the 1980s and had already been doing a few postures and practicing mindfulness when I met an Astanga practitioner who gave me a print out of the primary series of postures when I was travelling in Cambodia in 1993. Brian led me through a few sessions of the dynamic and powerful practice and I was instantly hooked. Through yoga I was able to replace negative habits with this good one. Every morning I got up and did the practice, even after Brian travelled on. I didn’t have a mat or a teacher, only that piece of paper with stick figure drawings showing me the way forward.
It wasn’t until after some five years of daily practice, and the birth of my daughter, that I attended a yoga class. My first proper yoga teacher, Ian, was a strict Astangi and we were not allowed to progress beyond the primary series of postures until we had mastered all of them. As a short round woman, I knew this may never happen, so after the birth of my son, I found another teacher Peter, who, although based in the Astanga practice I loved, also included postures from other series and schools of yoga. He also introduced me to pranayama which now, after many years of daily practice, gives me great delight.
Yoga is not for everyone, I know that. But it has been my life’s greatest teacher, my healer, my best friend, my comfort, my challenge and my joy. My yoga mats have caught more than their fair share of tears as the practice unearthed each and every grief and pain I had suppressed and brought to the surface in bouts of unrestrained weeping. My mats have seen me dancing with joy and taught me how to laugh even in the middle of a difficult challenge. In combination with writing, which helped me to express and process the emotions yoga brought to the surface, yoga has healed my life.
Every day I come home to myself on my mat or out in nature. I am not a strict Astangi any more, but I still like a vigorous practice. I’ve learned that yoga is never wrong. You can always practice, though perhaps not doing demanding poses when you are injured or upset. Sometimes all we need to do is breathe, release slowly in gentle seated poses, or lying on our backs. Sometimes all we need to do is to rest in the peace and joy of our own hearts. No religion necessary. Find your own way to the Divine, back home to yourself.
For me, the mat and movement combined with breath has brought me everything. So thank you yoga, for being my path. Thank you to all my teachers, from the very first to the last. I am so grateful for all this practice has brought me and for all it has yet to bring.
I hope you have a way to come home to yourself every day too. It doesn’t have to be yoga, anything that takes you out of your head and into your body will do, gardening, walking, swimming, cycling, just please UNPLUG when you do so. Let your thoughts roam free and if this idea scares you it means you really need to let them go. Learn to turn your thoughts into your best friend not your critic, enjoy moving your body and finding the joy in your heart.
Wishing you all the greatest of joys and the happiest of hearts.
Lots of love