I had first discovered Yoga when I was 17 in the Green Fields at Glastonbury Festival, UK. The Green Fields was a perfect setup for people to come together, discuss, explore and celebrate life without the influence of the aggressive and negative elements of the society that we are exposed to daily. From musicians to healers, therapists and yogis, the place that runs on renewable energy and maintains a meat-free and NOS-free zone had just about everything that you needed to take a break from the daily chaos and actively connect with things that matter to you.
“If light is in your heart, you will find your way home.” Rumi
I am so glad that my first experience with Yoga was in a near-perfect environment. I knew straight away that I’d discovered something special, as the mental calm that I had achieved in my first class was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. I didn’t yet know it, but I had also discovered Yoga at just the right time in my life.
Re-introduction to Yoga
It wasn’t until I was on a study abroad programme at the Arizona State University, USA, that I had developed a deeper understanding and appreciation for Yoga as a physical discipline and its ability to deeply impact your way of living. Perhaps a lot of people still see Yoga only as a physical practice but sooner or later they are bound to inquire about its history and purpose. The Yogic discipline may seem a little daunting at first, especially to those who have never practised Yoga before. One of the primary reasons for doubts and scepticism is perhaps the fact that it has its roots in the East and with the philosophical tradition that is associated with it, Yoga may seem unapproachable at first.
“I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself and others like me.” Maya Angelou
However, since I had already experienced it before and had familiarised myself with the purpose of Yoga, I was no stranger to the concept and had readily accepted the opportunity to practice Yoga at least 4 to 5 hours a week under the guidance of excellent and inspirational teachers who were teaching at the university gym. Soon, Yoga had become the most important aspect of my daily routine! I could see and feel the difference a regular practice had on my mind and body. I had begun to enjoy the slow transformation and was determined to not let the flow break.
After leaving university, many aspects of my life were constantly changing. From jobs, to where I was living, to even relationships…nothing was constant; but my relationship with Yoga remained unperturbed. I never failed to appreciate the significance of Yoga and its impact on my life. In fact, whenever anyone asked me “What do you want to do? What job do you want?” the only honest answer that I could give them was “I want to teach Yoga!”
I was clear that I wanted Yoga to be a part of my daily life. With regular practice, came more knowledge, and soon I had developed a passion to share the benefits with as many people as possible.
I was back home working with my partner in a tea factory in rural England, when both of us decided to quit our jobs and take 4 months off to travel to India and Thailand. It was one of the best decisions of my life and also a sort of reassurance that Universe is guiding me.
“Without rain nothing grows. Learn to embrace the storms of your life.” Buddha
Our stay in Goa was close to the beach. I had found a Yoga school offering drop-in classes and managed to attend classes almost daily. The same Yoga school was offering Yoga Teacher Training Courses and I was informed that their next 200 hour TTC was starting in the next 10 days! And when they told me that they had only 2 places left … I immediately jumped in!
Reconnecting with Myself
Despite all the confusion with re-booking my flight tickets to home (UK) and waving goodbye to my partner, I felt that I was on the right path. I knew that this decision will simply change my life. It is what I really needed – to make my dream a reality, to achieve my life goal of sharing the gift of Yoga with as many people as possible.
During the course, I experienced a state of silence like never before. I was able to connect with myself in a way that I hadn’t been able to my whole life. I found courage. I found contentment. I found happiness. I could finally recognise and acknowledge the voice within me that guided me towards overcoming my addiction that I had been secretly harbouring in the last 5 years. And most importantly of all, the ability to hear the inner voice was like an ‘aha moment’ in which I had discovered my best friend – ME!
“Yoga practices shift our identity away from the ego-personality and its struggles so that we can begin to reconnect with the essential nature of our being, which is bliss.” Sharon Gannon
At the physical level, due to the regular practice of Yoga asanas, I had begun to feel a deep connection with my body – in a way I had not previously experienced. I know this sounds odd, but if you live a sedentary lifestyle, barely doing any exercise, then the muscle tone just isn’t there. Developing toned muscles was never in my list of criteria; but regular asana practice works on your muscles beautifully and this is another great reason to begin Yoga.
Yoga works on the mind, body and on your inner being. It is not restricted to getting in and out of bends and stretches, but it is also about stretching the mind, about exploring territories you have never imagined. Why would you want to go through the motions of life in a passive way? So take control…of your body, your life and your impact on the planet around you.
I think we often forget that our practice is not just about us living a healthy life. Yoga begins with Yama and Niyama, rules which help us lead a more meaningful and fulfilled life. They show us the bigger picture and help us understand that our actions impact our surrounding. I have always played an active role in the fight against plastic for several years now and I am also an advocate for an anti-plastic charity called A Plastic Planet. It is heartbreaking to see the rising tides of plastic pollution on our beaches. It is thus a very natural step for me to seek out yoga mats and accessories that are made of natural materials, which can be recycled and are biodegradable. I would thus advise Yogis to think twice before they pick up yoga gear that will pollute our planet for hundreds of years.
Another suggestion that I can think of for fellow-yogis is to not only practise asanas daily, or as often as possible, but to also practise “mental yoga”, consciously applying ahimsa to everything that you do. Even a few minutes of daily meditation on gratitude and forgiveness can help shift the thought process to higher frequencies of Ishvara Pranidhana, and your divine self.
Jess Wilson , Devon, UK.
Ashtanga and Vinyasa Flow Yoga Teacher