I grew up in a VERY standard, suburban Australian family. We had enough money to get by. We rented a video (and the machine to play it with) on Friday nights for family time. My mum was a teacher and my dad was a businessman. We had sausages and frozen peas for dinner.
When I was eight I was diagnosed as being predisposed to stress-related ulcers. Apparently it was about Math. I just couldn’t understand fractions and I was giving myself stress ulcers as a result. The doctor told my mum that I would need to be medicated to avoid becoming really unwell.
Fortunately, my best friend growing up was from an ‘alternative’ family. Her mother was Danish and they did things like play instruments and eat strange, lumpy food. And my best friend also went to these weird classes called ‘Yoga’.
Although unlikely, my suburban parents decided against medication for their nervous daughter and chose Yoga instead.
This may have been the greatest moment of serendipity in my entire life.
My Longest-Term Relationship
Since being an 8 year old child doing Kids Yoga Satyananda style, my Yoga has come a long way.
Practising Yoga has been the guiding light in my life, and – as I say to people – my longest-term relationship. We’ve been together so long now that we know most of each other’s’ secrets. Sometimes we like each other. Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we see each other every day. Sometimes not for months.
Now at 41 my Asana practice is very different to what it was, even 5 years ago. My wrists don’t move like they used to. My hips get sore fast and they are even less flexible. (No Padmasana for me… at least not in this incarnation). My Yoga is more Bhakti than Karma, and I like it.
The greatest gift I’ve received from this 33 year journey with Yoga is self-acceptance.
Before, having to skip a Vinyasa because my wrists couldn’t manage the Chaturanga would have caused a flush of hotshame to come up on my cheeks.
What would people think?
Was I being lazy?
Did this make me a bad Yogi?
Now that doesn’t bother me. I know what works for my body – honestly – and I can let go of what doesn’t. (Although sometimes I do feel a little sad about missing out!)
I remember Darren Rhodes teaching me about the requirements for being an Intermediate Student. That becoming Intermediate (from being a Beginner) happened at the point a student could realise their own limitations, know honestly when to take Balasana, when to get another prop, when to ask the right question.
Perhaps I’ve finally reached an intermediate level!
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Aristotle
I remember the first time I rolled out my mat at a Christina Sell workshop to find myself in the front row, rather than hiding up the back. It wasn’t conscious, I was just growing into a more comfortable version of myself.
I remember the time my teacher Noah Maze noted that ‘I ran hot’ in a sweltering class in Bangkok where I was the sweatiest, reddest, meltiest person in the room… and simply not caring.
These were the gifts of being a Yoga student for me. Yes, sometimes cracking a great arm balance transition, or a 3-hour Vinyasa that almost deliciously kills you but just quite doesn’t, or celebrating a friend’s birthday with 50 consecutive Urdhva Dhanurasanas are what make me fall back in love with Yoga.
But much, much, much more often than not it’s the simple Buddhi moments of connecting me to my higher self, and reminding me of what really matters.
The Highlights For Me Are Always The Small Things
As many Yoga enthusiasts do I qualified as a teacher in 2009 and opened a home studio immediately after returning home from my training. Again, more life adventures that I’d never been able to celebrate were it not for my childhood friend.
I’ve taught retreats in Bali and Thailand to stressed out corporate women.
I’ve helped Tibetan nuns with back pain and Yoga therapy.
I’ve taught men in prison about meditation and the Chakras (at their request!)
I’ve held Yoga classes at hen’s parties where the Yoginis were tipsy on Mimosas.
I’ve showed up for 1:1 Yoga classes only to find my client just needed to cry with me for the entire 90 minutes.
I’ve been asked for sex from a student who didn’t realise his Tantra wasn’t quite the same as my Tantra…
I’ve had to explain to a VERY Australian farmer where his pelvic floor was.
I’ve been stalked by a waiter at a Yoga guest house in India, convinced I was his destined divine Yogini match.
… and I could go on.
Teaching Yoga has been one of the highlights and touchstones of my life. So much so that these days, despite having a prosperous Yoga business coaching company, I still teach a Wednesday night class in my small hometown here in Victoria, Australia.
“Practice love until you remember that you are love.” Swami Sai Premananda
The highlights for me are always the small things. I teach a solid class. I’m fortunate enough to have wonderful, skilled teachers myself, and I try to pass their wisdom to my students.
But I’m not looking for prestige.
I’ll never be on the cover of Yoga Journal.
I’m not going to fill Wanderlust stadiums.
And This Is Fine With Me…
Because when my student tells me that he could show up and care for his wife through her cancer like the man he desired to be because he came to my Yoga classes, my heart cracks open.
Because when my student tells me she hasn’t worn tight clothing for half her life because her self-esteem and hatred of her own body prevented it, but she feels safe in my class to rock some new leggings, I feel connected to all things bigger.
When my student lands her first headstand and comes up glowing and dazzled with her own strength, I know I’m doing something in service.
Yoga is an industry. A billion dollar industry. And I am proud and humbled to be a part of it.
“There is no time to be bored in a world as beautiful as this.”
Not only has it healed and supported me, it continues to do so in my current Yoga business, bringing me joy and meaning every day.
For all the things that may be ‘wrong’ with modern postural Yoga, so much is right. And my right is going to be different to yours, and that’s OK, too.
I’m sure what we can all agree on is that life would simply not be the same without it. The more we can reach people and share the gifts we know heal and transform, the deeper we can be in service.
(And Jai childhood friends with alternative mothers:-) )
Yoga Teacher, Yoga Business Coach, Australia
Youtube: Amy McDonald, Abundant Yoga Teacher
Apple Podcast: Abundant Yoga Teacher