That’s a hashtag I use on pretty much EVERY yoga related post I make on my personal and Yoga social media accounts. Sounds cheesy. But it’s true! Yoga is a way of life, not just some pretty shapes.
In 2017 I became very poorly with depression and anxiety. I barely even left the house, other than to go to an occasional yoga class with Laura Barrett. That, and home, were the only places I felt safe. Some of what Laura talked about in her classes crossed over with the CBT techniques that I had been learning in therapy. So I started to read up on pranayama (breathwork) and philosophy. I quickly realised that there was SO much more to yoga than those nice shapes I had learned to make in yoga class.
I’m lucky enough to have a very supportive partner who encouraged me to start learning more. Depression and anxiety had knocked all my confidence out of me, and I had got to the point where I didn’t want anyone to look at me, barely wanted to speak to people, and just wanted to be at home alone reading a book. After hours spent researching, I wasn’t sure whether yoga teacher training was the right step for me. I knew that on a teacher training I would learn so much, but I didn’t feel as though I wasn’t ready for that pressure.
Fortunately, I found Pam Barton and I started her British Wheel of Yoga course in Southport. This was just one Saturday a month, so nothing too intense! I learned SO much, from anatomy to philosophy (my favourite part!), and slowly my confidence started to grow. On this course, I was introduced to the most classic yoga texts, such as the Bhagavad Gita – (an ancient Indian text about prince Arjuna and his guide Krishna and how Arjuna is filled with the moral dilemma and despair about the violence and death the war will cause) and the Yoga Sutras (principals and basic teachings of life and yoga written by Patanjali). Pam was the perfect teacher for me at this time in my life, she is genuinely one of the most thoughtful and caring ladies I have ever met, and so knowledgeable and experienced. Each month, I left her sessions feeling like I was on a yoga high and I wanted more of that.
With slowly increasing confidence and an overflowing thirst for more yoga, I started to look into yoga teacher training as I was about half way through the BWY Foundation course. I remembered that the year before, a lady called Emily Young had taught a few classes at The Hot Yoga Studio, where I regularly practice (and the place that first opened my heart to yoga). I adored her classes, her words touched me and I felt like she was speaking directly to me within the class. I knew that she was a yoga teacher trainer so I looked into her course. To quote Gabrielle Berstein, “the universe has got your back”. It was meant to be. She had a course starting just months away, that fitted perfectly into my job as a secondary school teacher. I had a phone call with her to find out about the course, and I was sold!
August came round and I had just returned from a holiday to Cuba with my partner. I had my case packed again straight away ready for the intensive week of training in Snowdonia. I’m not going to sugar coat it. I was so nervous, I kept breaking down in tears and I was worried that my anxiety would stop me from even getting there, let alone starting the course itself! I was agonising over how I would cope without my partner there, what would I do without her? She knows my warning signs. Breathe! I got there. I breathed. A lot.
We had 6 days of yoga practice, lectures, workshops and mini teaching practices. I barely even thought about my emotions and my mental health, yoga took over. It was a huge milestone for me. All of the focus on physical practice, meditation and breathwork, my depression and anxiety was put to one side. Controlling the breath enables you to control the mind.
During the intensive part of the course, the days were long; we started each day with meditation practice at 6.30-7am. I struggled with this at first; although I regularly meditate, half an hour seemed a long time for me to keep my mind quiet! After about the third day though, I was right into it. At 7am we were taught and guided through a different pranayama (breathing) technique each day by Adrienne LeCoure. We learned and practiced breathing techniques such as nadi shodana which calms with nerves (yay for me!) and then we were led into a chant/mantra session. I initially felt self conscious over this, as the most I had ever chanted prior to this was “om” at the end of a class. Chanting enhances the vibrations within and around the body, allowing the energy to flow and unblock, providing so many physical and psychological benefits (double yay for me!). 7.45 saw the beginning of a 2 hour Ashtanga practice. I thought that as a person who regularly exercises and practices yoga I would be fine. By then end of the week I could feel muscles in my body that I didn’t even know I had! We had a brunch from 9.30, which gave way to time for reflection. My inner geek shone through by 11am as we started the philosophy lecture. I could have spent all day, every day listening to Emily’s philosophy teachings, as we all reflected and shared our thoughts on various yogic philosophical ideas and theories. I was completely in my element discussing things like the chakras, the yamas and niyamas from Patanjali’s yoga sutras and how we can apply these to everyday life in our modern society (so much so that this is what I ended up writing my 2000 word essay on later in the course). Throughout the afternoon then we had Practice Clinic where we learned, dissected and practiced different aspects of anatomy, postures, alignments and adjustments. Each day ended with Yoga Nidra and we maintained silence from then on until after physical practice at 9.30am the next morning. I can talk, so I expected this to be impossible for me. I surprised myself and I actually enjoyed the practice of maintaining silence. It was a challenging, inspiring week; looking back now, I wish I could do it all again!
Then came the monthly weekends – full days on Saturdays and Sundays. Throughout these modules we had guest tutors such as Rose Shaw, with whom we had an intro to fascia and yin, and Celest Pereira, who taught us about yoga biomechanics and creative sequencing. Each weekend with these tutors and with Emily left me feeling inspired and motivated; I knew that this course was the best decision I had ever made!
Fast forward to January and February 2019 and the final assessments. There were a lot of tears and a lot of shaking. I prepared and taught my final class based around the heart chakra. This was a personal decision that I felt reflected the journey I had been on with my health and yoga. I managed to include some of my favourite postures (that’s a whole other blog post!) which focused on opening the heart and the shoulders and I ended the class with a poem which really resonates with me.
My fellow trainees, partner, sister, friends, and general public were all so kind and complimentary about my teaching. It had been such an emotional journey and finishing my class just turned me into a little baby! I have no shame! Happy tears streamed down my face….as you can see!
Undertaking this course has been one of the best decisions I have ever made, I have grown as a person spiritually, mentally and emotionally. I absolutely loved learning everything that I did on this course with Emily and the guest teachers and I was genuinely upset when it ended, I just wanted to keep going!
This has been a much longer post that I had originally anticipated. For those of you who have stayed with me (sorry!) I really hope that you can take away my message from this:
You matter, you can do anything, you are strong, you are wise.
You’ve got this.
If I have inspired you to start (or continue!) your yoga journey, then check out my events page and come practice with me.
Alternatively check out some of the amazing teachers I have been fortunate enough to have met, been inspired by and learned from: