“Yoga isn’t a workout, it’s a work-in,” Zana said during our class today whilst we lay in Savasana and instantaneously a huge smile crossed my face.
I got it.
As we scroll through our lives, we are bombarded with so many images and these are often highlights. The highlights of other peoples’ lives – what I call the outer life – snapshots of the food, the face-creams, the parties, the holidays, the glasses of gin, the smiling kids, the celebrations, the bikinis, the cleavage, the protein-shakers, the announcements, the farewells, the dog cuddles, the lat-pulls downs and tricep dips, the better-self quotes, the crush-it quotes, the be-more quotes, and the promises…oh goodness, don’t get me started on the promises.
The outer life.
I’m guilty too. I scroll, sometimes too much. Like. Follow. Like. Follow. Emoji. Like.
As 2018 drew to a close and my family said farewell to my Dad, I looked to 2019 and began searching. You see this year, I made a most solemn vow.
I will invest more in the health of my mind, my body and my soul. I need this. I need this like I need air.
What did you promise yourself?
Take a moment. Still keeping faith with that promise?
Having done a few classes of Bikram yoga before, I knew I needed to go back there. Especially having recently suffered two more bouts of lower back pain, which now are in no hurry to heal. Being in my early 40s I am very surprised by how many more aches and pains I have. And, with a family history of arthritis radiating down through my female ancestors’ bloodlines, these aches and pains worry me, I’ll be honest.
I returned to Bikram in my home city of Leeds feeling flat and fat, but determined.
The first time I did an introductory course back in 2017, I was lighter and in undoubtedly in the best physical shape of my life, and despite still grieving for my mother who had passed approximately 18 months prior, I felt mentally strong.
I don’t feel that way at the moment, despite the mask of a relatively sunny exterior, but I’m trying. My grandmother always used to say,
“Ee-bah-gum, lass you’ve got Hunter blood in ya.”
It was Gran’s way of telling me, I’m strong. Mentally strong and a survivor. I can hear my Mum echoing her sentiments even now.
What I realised today, was that the health I’m seeking already resides within me. I just have to listen. And I think, it is in our stillness, our moments of quiet, of peace and reflection that we truly hear ourselves.
During our yoga practice we are reminded to listen to our bodies and not allow our minds to rule us. When holding new or challenging yoga poses, especially when its in sweltering heat, it is easy to tell yourself that you can’t do it, that you’re not strong enough or flexible enough or that you feel inferior to those more learned practitioners. But I’m listening and searching and I’ll be damned if I let my mind rule my body. They should be in perfect union.
I never knew the word “yoga” translated means “union”
So by practising yoga, I intend to master my mind and body and ensure they work in union with each other, rather than against each other, which these days they so often do. Think about it for a second, you start a new diet, but then something happens which induces stress, so you reach for the gin, the chocolate, the cake or whatever is your vice and suddenly your good work is undone because you’ve demolished a packet of Wagon Wheels. In that moment, you didn’t listen to your body, you were ruled by your mind and allowed it to bring a whole cycle of stress crashing down on you. Then the guilt hits. And you feel disgusted that you’ve thrown all your hard work down the drain, which adds to your stress, so you promise to start again the next day, or the next week and so the cycle continues. I can most definitely identify with this having yo-yo’d with my weight for most of my adult life.
Currently, the hashtag #motivationmonday is popular, but surely we should be motivated every damn day. We only get one shot at one day and we can’t live our lives as if everything is Day One…When they’re gone, they’re gone.
Looking at this through a writerly lens, I believe we often write at our best when we look deep inside ourselves and tap into our experiences, raw emotions, our beliefs because that is how we find our voice, and no two of those voices are alike. By looking inwards and challenging ourselves as we put words on the page, surely we are creating something more meaningful and even real. There’s one scene I wrote in Hannah and the Hollow Tree and the first draft was bland and soul-less because I had written it with only the fingers on my keyboard, not from the place where the words roam – inside. When I pushed myself and tapped into the wall of emotion I was holding back, I ended up writing something that had purpose, was real and raw and that scene is now one I am immensely proud of because I know what it took for me to convey the emotion of what my character Hannah was experiencing because I had experienced it. It came from within.
So, when I smiled today as Zana’s words melted in, I felt like I went with them.
Because surely that is where Savasana – a beautiful, nourishing stillness lies – within.
Next time, I’ll be sharing my thoughts and experiences about gut health, stress and how we can nourish our bodies whilst having a care for the environment and the future of our beautiful home.
For more about Bikram Yoga, Leeds, you can visit their website at: https://www.bikramyogaleeds.com/