This is my student Rachel’s story about her journey to yoga through mindfulness and meditation. First off let me say that I didn’t like yoga. I had tried it and all that up down movement between poses made me feel dizzy and quite nauseous. I had never enjoyed PE (physical education) or sport at school as a child and always skipped class, faked illness or asked my Mum to write an ‘excuse me’ note for the teacher.
As an adult, I was in and out of different jobs. I went back to college to learn new skills but couldn’t settle in a job. I realised that I was in my early 30s and feeling very inflexible and a little over-weight for my build. I started to put on more kilos. Quite suddenly my cousin who was two years older than me died of a heart attack. He had been sporty at school but over the years had given any sort of exercise a miss and had put on a lot of weight. It was really sad and I began to become aware of the human frailties we all have. My cousin wouldn’t get the chance to do the things he dreamed of or follow through on things he had put off. Death came to the front of my mind as never before. I realised life was short and that time and opportunities were passing me by too. I was very sad as my cousin and I had always been very close since we were little but it made me think about my life and how I was living it, taking lots for granted. Some months later I started to feel frightened about dying and lots of anxieties started to kick-in. I hadn’t had a job for a long time, since the recession, and I just felt ‘not good enough’ as no matter how many jobs I applied for I never got a positive response. I felt that people were judging me as I couldn’t get a job and then I felt like I was judging them too. So I sat around the house eating and sleeping and filling in job applications to pass the time but began to feel quite hopeless and depressed.
I felt really stressed out and was speaking to a friend who told me about mindfulness and how it might help me. She gave me a book which I found very helpful and I began to feel better as I undertook some of the short mindful exercises. I wanted to learn more. I did some research and came across a free mindfulness course on the internet. I thought ‘why not?’ and very quickly I became hooked. I learned about taking time out to pause, even if only for 30 seconds, when feeling overwhelmed or in a stressful situation and how this could help me continue through my day.
I started to realise I wasn’t alone as through the discussion groups I found many people going through so many different stresses and strains of life. It was as if the ‘penny dropped’. The course ended and there were many references to mindfulness and meditation books and so I started reading more about meditation. I began following the instructions on how to meditate and using the breath as a means of focus to help calm me. After following many guided meditations I started to meditate on my own without guidance and still do.
For me meditation and mindfulness go hand in hand. It helped me to revisit the past in a safe non-judgemental space. It allows for moments of stress, anxiety or events from the past to arise. As they arise, I just observe it rising and floating away again without judgement. It can help to let go of old stresses releasing them. Some of these showed up for me as physical tightness in my body especially my shoulders, upper back and hips. Mentally I was upset about the past and frightened of a future, of it just continuing the same, no positive changes.
I became open to trying exercise and firstly tried Aerial yoga. I especially liked meditation inside the hammock. It was a safe place like my own little cocoon. I also tried a little Hatha Yoga but the feelings of dizziness returned. Eventually I found Yin Yoga through reading about yoga and yoga philosophy. I found a Yoga Teacher near where I lived and started practising Yin Yoga. I found it very challenging at first holding the poses for 2 minutes or more but it also allowed for periods of meditation. I began to love meditative Yin practice and even chanting Om.
My flexibility started to improve and my mind became more open to try another style of yoga. My choice couldn’t have been more different from Yin if I had tired! The same yoga teacher introduced me to HIIT yoga fusion. It was completely the opposite of what I had been practising. I tried it a few times and noticed my weight beginning to drop, I felt like I was achieving something out of reach before and in a shorter period of time than normal yoga practice. We practised HIIT yoga fusion in 50 minutes. It just seemed completely ideal for me. I was becoming more flexible, the tightness around my shoulders and upper back was reducing and my body felt more limber generally. I was beginning to look forward to a cardio style of yoga. I couldn’t believe it after all my years of dodging PE and sport.
I started to notice my eating habits more. I remembered an old song we got in school during a school project ‘Dance to the beat you are what you eat’. I started an IF (Intermittent fasting diet) and stuck to it. My food choices became healthier with lots of fruit, vegetables, beans etc. I began to drink more water during the day which stopped me feeling so sluggish and wanting to sleep especially around the afternoon. My mantra is ‘train hard no excuses’.
The yoga journey still continues as I’ve signed up to do my 200 hours yoga teacher training course in early 2020 with a friend. It may be the subject of a future Blog:)