It took months of smooth-talking coos from a friend to get me to try yoga. As a former athlete, I was not into this hippie, heavy-breathing, fall-asleep type exercise (yes, I judged and I judged hard). I longed for power and strength to boost my endorphins, a healthy junkie, if you will. I was an avid runner, tennis player, and reformer-pilates chick who loved a kickabout in the park with the guys. I loved competition. I loved to sweat. I loved the achy-sore feeling in my muscles after a good cardio session. And I was most definitely not interested in ‘trendy’ fitness classes.
After much begging from my dear aforementioned friend (and the tantalising promise of a post-class beer), I finally bought the cheapest yoga mat I could find and begrudgingly purchased ten classes for $10 at my local power vinyasa studio. One Tuesday evening, I walked into the studio and let my floppy mat unfurl, looking around nervously and watching friendly faces chatting with neighboring mats. Beads of sweat were starting to form before the practice even began, and as my nerves increased, so did my judgment.
“What the hell am I doing here?” I thought, as a sweet-faced, tattooed and dreadlocked blonde waltzed over to my mat and introduced herself as the teacher. She requested my name. “Who me?!”, I thought. Yes, me, the newbie, ‘Fresh Meat - Alert!’ plastered across my forehead. Class began in child’s pose and my mind continued to run wild: “here we go, retiring for some shut-eye with a bunch of sweaty strangers. Repeat: what the hell am I doing here?”
It’s from that shaky starting point that something magical happened. Before I could finish questioning sweat poured off my nose and down to my kneecaps, to my fingertips and to all of those lovely, smelly creases that don’t need mentioning. I begged, internally and often; “for the love of god, please take us back to child’s pose!” I couldn’t keep up with class or with the words, “find your breath” sounded like a scientific formula in a foreign language and as we collapsed into savasana, I wanted to vomit, to laugh, and to cry. And then suddenly, I wanted to come back. I couldn’t explain what had happened, but I felt high and powerful and loved and spent.
That first painfully-wonderful yoga practice was years ago now and since then I’ve completed soul-connecting, love-encompassing, asana-infused yoga teacher trainings and my own practice has shown me how beautifully powerful I am. Yoga has taught me to identify the power in my muscles; I say a mental hello to limbs as they begin to shake in postures, I feel strong in my chaturanga push-up and I can physically see back, leg, arm and core muscles that have added new shapes to the contours of my body. This muscular power has brought a certain awareness of my own body and the messages it can convey, my posture is straighter, taller and my shoulders slouch less and less as the years go by. Through muscle power, I’ve gained the more subtle strength that comes with self-confidence and pride.
But my practice has shown me other kinds of power. it is in the moments that I allow myself to surrender, to let go, to slow down, that I am most powerful. Power is not only identifiable in muscle mass or force, but also in our ability to face ourselves, to be present and authentic, and in our ability to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. So often, we are running, hiding, living ahead or behind of ourselves because we feel inferior to the life choices we’ve made. We allow other people to fuel our beliefs and desires and fear of what we really want, what we really need and who really are becomes first choice.
But no light exists without moments or years spent in darkness. It is in my pains, aches, and struggles (both physical and mental), in clawing my way out of black holes, that I have ended up in moments of light - and these moments are where I find the power that continues to move me through the endless tunnels of life. It is not easy to step away from what we think we are, what we think we should be and to actually look at our real selves and battle what’s in there.
Yoga is a continuous process of breaking ourselves wide open and facing our struggles. Sure you can feel strong in your muscles and strong in your core, and that physical power is great but it is within us that our true power lies. When we practise one day we’re upside-down without a care in the world, and the next it’s a struggle to touch our toes, but if we can allow that to be ok, then when we practise we’re really saying: “hey, this is me, this is who I am today”, and that is real power.
*You can read this article in Draze Magazine, Mar/Apr 2015 Issue: www.draze.co.uk