Celebrating The Mind And Body – Sophie Cooper


I currently live in the beautiful city of Seoul in South Korea. It has been close to 2 years since I turned into an active IG-Yogi and I am very regular with Instagram challenges. Growing up in England, I could never find the time to learn and practice Yoga. I did attend a few classes back home and experimented a little after moving to Seoul, but the thought of learning Yoga in-depth or making it a lifestyle had never really hit me.

I was suffering from depression and anxiety. Though something exciting would get me going at the start, while at it, tiny things would trigger panic attacks, and worry, self-doubt or self-judgement would leave me more frustrated. I had also started taking medication, but my mind and body never approved of it. I often felt a bit woozy and kind of felt disconnected from those around me.

Is Yoga for Me?

While I was on medication, I knew that I had to discontinue them soon but I wasn’t sure how and what else I could do. It was never my intention to take up Yoga as an alternative treatment for my anxiety. However, in the summer of 2016, I came across this course on Yoga. It was Teacher Training Course (TTC) in Yoga, that was being conducted in English, not far from where I lived.

Everything about the course made it appear like it was specially designed for me. They mentioned that extensive Yoga experience was not necessary. This was of great relief! The introductory workshop was free of cost. I could either register for the course after the orientation or simply choose to walk away. I chose to attend the workshop.

“When you listen to yourself, everything comes naturally. It comes from inside, like a kind of will to do something. Try to be sensitive. That is yoga.” Petri Raisanen

The workshop was conducted by the principal teacher who was a Dutch Yogi. He was down to earth and had a great sense of humour.. Something just clicked! I felt at ease and I really felt that the course could help me heal if I approached it with an open mind. Moreover, I believed that it was something my mind and body needed, and it was something I wanted to know more about. I signed up for the course the same day!

Yoga is Absolutely for Everyone

Though most of the Yoga teachers may be well aware of the daily routine in a  TTC, I am hoping that the information I share here may motivate those who are still contemplating whether a Yoga course is worth it.

My course started two weeks later in August 2016, and this is when my Yoga journey had really started. I would go to the studio every Saturday and spend 6 hours in training. Like in most of the Yoga TTCs, the sessions always started with Yoga philosophy and theory. We covered Yamas-Niyamas in detail, read from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, studied subtle anatomy and then moved on to asana practice, which was followed by meditation.

For a novice, these terminologies and the very idea of pursuing a TTC may seem demanding, but trust me, this is when I realised that Yoga is for everyone and I truly wish everyone could benefit from this wonderful practice which is more like a way of life. It fits in beautifully, regardless of whether you have any experience or not, if you are flexible or not, if you understand Sanskrit or not. None of this really matters.

After the morning session, we had a 45 minute lunch break. Most of us were conscious about eating right and light as the post-lunch sessions were usually longer than the morning sessions and were mostly about asana-practice. By the end of the session, though most of us felt physically tired, we realised that the discomfort was temporary. The fact that we felt deeply relaxed – mentally, made us feel good about ourselves and left us with much energy for the rest of the day.

“Yoga means addition – addition of energy, strength and beauty to body, mind and soul.” Amit Ray

The energy I felt was very different to what I had experienced before. Previously, I had followed various exercise programs that were primarily cardio-heavy with some occasional weight training. But Yoga wasn’t just a physical workout, it satisfied me emotionally and intellectually. Learning about Yoga philosophy and later practicing it physically, brought a new level of awareness and energy into my life.

The Supportive Yoga Community

Four months later, I graduated from the course with a 200 hour certificate. I felt much calmer and physically and mentally stronger. I had overcome self-doubt and believed that things were exactly how they are meant to be. It is something Yoga helps us experience, to breathe and stay in the present moment. This attitude helped me deal with situations that had earlier resulted in insomnia.

“The universe does this thing… where it aligns you with people, things, and situations that match the energy you put out.” @yogaspiration

Though I was now qualified to teach, I always saw myself as a learner. Every time I finish my Yoga practice I realise that doing the same asana again is never the same experience. I discover something new every time and realise that I will always remain a learner. I continued with my home practice and soon I found yoga challenges on Instagram.

These were and still are, a great motivation to experiment, to connect with others, and to continue my journey into Yoga. Talking about learning, I am still struggling with Korean language and thus find it difficult to find a real-life yoga community. However, it did not take long for me to connect with Yogis online and grow my yoga network. I might actually end up meeting few of my online Yogi friends face-to-face soon!

For my personal practice, I usually spend around an hour or so a day. My preference is to practice outside,

where I can feel the sun, hear the birds on the trees, and breathe in the scents around me. When it isn’t

possible to practice outside, I have enough space in my small apartment to roll out my Juru cork yoga mat

– although I do have to share it with my cats as they also love to sit on it!

The Joy of Teaching and Learning

The instagram challenges are absolutely a wonderful tool to learn and also teach and share tips with fellow Yogis on specific asanas and variations. I thus make it a point to be as regular as I can with IG challenges. My preferred styles are usually Hatha or Yin, and at times I also include an online Vinyasa class in my weekly routine.

I find that Yin Yoga has really helped me open up my shoulders and hips; they  are still tight, but better than they were! My most preferred practice time is either first thing in the morning as soon as I wake up, or early evening. At these times my mind feels focused and my body feels ready to move – either to fire me up for the day, or help me unwind.

“You need to experience this to really know what Yin Yoga is all about. After you have experienced it, even just once, you will realize that you have been doing only half of the asana practice.” Bernie Clark

This semester I will also be teaching Yoga to a small group of students once a week at my university.

University students in Korea are often under a lot of pressure and suffer from stress. I hope that just as how Yoga helped me heal myself, I am able to help the students deal with their anxiety related problems with Yoga. 

My plan is to include Yoga philosophy in my classes because theory and practice together, really helped me become more aware of the link between mind-body and breath. I would specially be highlighting the concept of Yamas and Niyamas, followed by teaching asanas and ending my session with meditation. I hope that after the class, they not only benefit from Yoga but also feel inspired to continue their practice and make Yoga a part of their daily life.

Sophie Cooper

Yogini, Seoul.

Instagram @sophie_seoul_yoga

Also Read: https://www.juruyoga.com/amymcdonald/

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