When I first started practising yoga, my main goal was to stay strong and flexible during my pregnancy (I started when pregnant with my daughter 15 years ago). I was a runner at the time and didn’t feel comfortable running whilst pregnant, so I looked into other options for gentle exercise. I had always been quite stressed and prone to anxiety so the promise that yoga would help me feel calmer and more grounded sealed the deal for me.
I found a local pregnancy yoga course the day before it was due to start and begged the teacher to take me on, despite the fact that the class was already fully booked.
I had no idea that this was going to be the beginning of what has since become a lifelong journey.
At the time, this one hour a week where I could just slow down, be surrounded by other mums to be and shift from doing to being mode was a life changer in itself. What a luxury to be able to take that pause in the midst of my hectic life, leave everything behind, and for 60 minutes focus solely on being with myself.
After my daughter was born, I went back to work and found out that yoga classes had started being offered in my office – serendipity! My journey with yoga continued over lunchtime classes each week with a lovely teacher called Clare. And whilst I enjoyed the classes and the welcome break in my day, I was only scratching the surface of what yoga has to offer.
Yoga allowed me to take time off from my overthinking mind
Then, a few years later, I was made redundant. It was a lengthy and painful process (as it always is). I left work planning to take some time off, but soon realised that a significant part of my identity was defined by my work, and my place in society as a successful career woman.
Redefining my identity was challenging. And yoga became my pillar, a mini retreat where I could just be myself. That’s when the deeper benefits of yoga hit home for me. Each week, it allowed my mind to quieten down as my focus shifted from my thoughts to my body sensations. It allowed me to take much needed time off from my overthinking mind.
For this one hour, I felt at home in the deepest sense. I was me, and it turns out that in those moments, that was enough.
Instagram-worthy postures aren’t a realistic representation of what yoga truly is
It became clear that yoga was far more than elegant postures, being flexible or developing greater strength. The graceful asanas (postures) you see on Instagram aren’t a realistic representation of what experiencing yoga truly is. This is really just the tip of the iceberg. The most significant journey is what happens underneath.
I became deeply committed to that journey and have since become a yoga teacher and a Mindfulness & Wellbeing Coach.
The postures simply help us to quieten the mind to make space for the real transformation
Yoga is a way of life. Although the philosophy of yoga, based on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras was written over 1700 years ago, it is still very relevant today. At a glimpse, it contains eight limbs or eight stepping stones on the path to a more meaningful life. The asanas (or yoga postures) are just one of them!
The outer form (the physical postures) simply help us to quieten the mind and reach a space where listening to ourselves becomes possible.
So next time you see these beautiful yoga postures on Instagram, remind yourself that however pleasing they may be to look at, this isn’t what yoga is really about. It’s about people like you and I finding a moment of peace, and allowing our mind to slow down.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali writes: ““Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha” which is translated to mean that yoga helps to calm the fluctuations of the mind.
This is the real journey.