I am currently in Mysore, India, pursuing my fourth Yoga Teacher Training Course; however, there was a time when yoga was not a part of my life. I am still a student of life with much to learn and with many barriers to break. But I was a student then too. What has changed is that Yoga has captured my heart. Though I was always aware of the unsettling feeling of wanting to be free, I wasn’t aware what exactly was I running away from? Today, I no longer feel like I want to escape. I feel like I am on my way home.
What are you running away from?
For as long as I can remember, I like many others, have experienced a feeling of wanting to escape, a feeling that I don’t belong here and things are not as they appear to be. This further manifested into feelings of emptiness, or a feeling of running away from everything and wanting to escape this body, mind and space.
Growing up with severe acne had made me incredibly self-conscious. I lacked confidence and self-worthiness, which led to many inner battles and conflicts. I wasn’t happy with the way I looked, I believed I was overweight; I was suffering with what I think would be called body dysmorphic disorder. It made me unbearably uncomfortable in my own skin. There was never a day when I would look at myself in the mirror and smile. Instead I would hate my reflection and say unkind words to myself and this only added to my sadness and a deep sense of not belonging. You will understand this if you have felt like an outsider in your own space or body. It is a feeling to wanting to escape this life. And when you cannot escape this feeling, you begin to seek freedom in other things by abusing and poisoning your body.
This was my life from a young age, when I would be the last one to leave a party, or I would stay out for days, or struggle and juggle between studying and working at two bar jobs! I was always either working, sleeping or partying! I may be sounding a little dramatic here but this is how it was! I realise that I am not alone in this journey of self-doubt or self-rejection. Just that sometimes we don’t fully recognize the reason for seeking happiness in external things such as partying, smoking, food or relationships.
“Your love is not outside; it is deep within you. You can never lose it, and it cannot leave you. It is not dependent on some other body, some externat form.” Eckhart Tolle
Understanding this void
I live a lot of my life inside my head, daydreaming and imagining beautiful things and lifetimes. It is like creating my own reality. I have always had a burning desire to break the shackles of life and be free so I can finally be me. But when you have these escapist tendencies and are not in the correct environment, be it the environment you have created in your head or the actual environment you live in and the people you are surrounded by, then, you feel like coming out of all this and breaking free, This at times can result in development of bad habits and addictions. I too felt trapped in every sense of the word.
Unlike the many conflicts inside my head, everything else around me was actually beautiful and I have always had an extremely blessed life – a beautiful family and all the comfort that a person needs. I had to ask myself why did I feel this way? So unsettled despite having everything. There were so many unanswered questions and incomprehensible emotions. Why am I here? Whis is everything the way it is? No matter what I did, I could never really understand myself.
“This void, it is for you to fill.” Londrelle
At age 20 it began to take a toll on me. I felt drained with the current lifestyle and was fed up. I left the University I was studying at and moved to Australia. It was certainly an impulsive decision. I had heard that when you are in Australia you are ‘living the dream’. I thought I will find my answers there. I soon realised that this was not my dream. I felt stuck in the same old habits and lifestyle. Having said that, not every second of mine was bad one. I did enjoy a lot of my time there, but when all the partying was over, an uncomfortable void took over me. I wondered what next? I landed in an unhealthy relationship and I lost my job. I was unhappy.
Just a day after losing my job, I got a call from an Australian woman looking for an Au Pair. It was like a blessing from the sky and I immediately embraced it. I moved in with a beautiful family to look after their two little girls whilst they worked at the cafe they owned. I owe so much to them and got to learn much from the little girls and their mother. It is their mother who recommended that like her, I should also give yoga a try.
I took her advice. I had heard of mixed reviews about the first yoga class. Some love it. Some hate it. For me, it was love at first sight. Chanting AUM at the beginning of the class did make me a little uncomfortable. I remember my wrists hurting. Though my body was naturally quite supple, every posture seemed impossible and I had no idea how to control the body in this manner. The teacher was so beautiful. It appeared to me that she was so contented with who she was and was the knower of knowledge as she had answers to all my questions. I vividly remember walking back from the yoga class on a cold rainy winter day wearing a huge smile on my face, feeling complete in someway. I knew that there was something magical about this practice. I felt like I had finally escaped. I didn’t feel trapped in my own skin. I felt like a part of my surrounding. The feeling stayed with me. There was no yoga hangover. I felt really good and continued to attend the classes whenever I could. Was this the release I had been searching for?
Soon I left Sydney to discover more of Australia. I would love to tell you that I continued with my yoga journey – but I did not! Old habits die hard. I partied harder than before and when it was all over, I felt drained again. The feeling of lack of self-worth was returning. I wondered if it had ever left?
During this time, I met this amazing girl who told me that she was headed to India to pursue a yoga TTC. This term was so alien to me. A million questions popped in my head. ‘Teacher training? Is this something people do?’
The seed was planted. Since that day whenever the name of ‘India’ was breathed, I felt like it connected with my soul. It was as though India has a speed dial into my subconscious. Today if you ask me what actually made me go to India, I will always tell you that it was truly a calling.
“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. Steve Jobs
I had been promised a job in Australia and the paperwork for my visa was also in process. But I just could not shake India out of my head. She kept pressing the dial and I eventually gave in. I declined my Australian visa and returned home (England). I spent the next 6 months attending all the yoga classes that I could, eagerly travelling to them, so much so that on my way on my bicycle I got hit by a van. It was Christmas eve and I had to spend a night at the hospital. Fortunately, I recovered completely and just a month later I was on my way to India to pursue my yoga TTC in Bombay. The rest as they say is history. I spent almost 3 months in the crazy city and absolutely fell in love with yoga and India. I just fell in love!
A sense of belonging
I felt that the Yogic philosophy resonated with me so deeply. They say that things are best understood only when realised through experience. I was having so many realisations about what life is all about. I could connect with my thoughts and feelings and understand the cause of my negative emotions. I felt like I was surrounded by like-minded people and found the place where I was meant to be.
“You are a little bit of the universe, expressing itself as a human for a little while.” – Eckhart Tolle
I have revisited India four times in the past 3 years and have completed three teacher training courses, and currently I am in the process of completing my fourth course in Mysore. You may wonder what is the need to pursue one course after another? It is true that with regular practice of yoga we can find all the answers within. I just feel that there is infinite knowledge out there and as much as I love to teach, I consider myself a student forever, and in learning and teaching I wish to continue searching for the answers within. With each practice I break down a barrier between me and my true self. At times it is very hard to keep up, but the rewards are always worth it.
The feeling of lack of self-love has transformed into a passion to inspire others to recognise the power they have within themselves, to understand love and connect with the true self. On realising this we can completely rid ourselves of the feeling of emptiness. In yoga, it doesn’t’ matter how many times you fall or which path you take. In the end the goal is the same, union of one’s consciousness with a higher consciousness.
Rebecca Stewart, Founder, Beck Yoga in Liverpool (UK)
1200 hour certified Yoga teacher.