So here we are. In June 2020, very slowly easing out of lockdown from a global pandemic. Using phrases like ‘socially distant’ and ‘the “R” number’ like they were always a part of our vocabulary. Being asked if you’re furloughed is a perfectly reasonable question and Zooming is now a verb. My goodness, how we Zoom.
Before this madness, I had signed up last winter to do a Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) course with the wonderful Mudra Yoga. I had gone back and forth on my decision for a few months in 2019 before deciding to bite the bullet. And I am so glad I did.
Yoga is a very personal experience. For me, it has evolved in a few ways over the years. Twelve years ago it was a ‘relaxing’ type of exercise when I was taking a day off from running the pavements of Edinburgh, slowly injuring my left hip as I continued to run without doing any mobility or strength work (lesson learned).
A few years later, in Glasgow, I briefly tried Bikram Yoga and took out a 30 day trial, doing a series of 26 postures for an hour and a half in 40 degree heat. The name of Bikram is now tainted after the shocking Netflix documentary, but the yoga itself taught me to persevere, I got used to the heat, and my racing thoughts did start to calm down – even if my t-shirt had to go in the bin after the 30-day sweat fest.
Then we moved to Inverness and yoga became part of my routine in a few different ways – Body Balance, Iyengar (a style focused on alignment with props) and discovering Vinyasa. There are many other styles to try but, in Vinyasa, I had found mine and loved it. I scoured YouTube, went to a Tuesday morning gym class and jumped at the chance to go to my friend Lisa’s charity classes (follow Evershine Yoga for more). The fluid movement, the clever sequencing and the breath flowing through it all had me hooked. It was humbling not being able to do something and exhilarating when, with enough practice, a pose was reached.
I enjoyed it so much that I started thinking about how I could learn more. I asked around about teacher trainings, and the same response kept coming back to me: Mudra Yoga! It’s definitely a substantial time and financial commitment signing up to any YTT but, hungry for a new challenge, I decided it would be worth it and embarked on my journey in January this year.
The course was based in Leith Shore at the Lane Yoga Studio in Edinburgh and run by the brilliant Helen Gillespie and Demelza Feltham – two women who I have the utmost respect for. Their knowledge and teaching is inspiring, and I have gained so much from them over the last few months. Getting to know my fellow 11 yogis on the course was a joy. We all had our own reasons for being there and we became a closely knit group in no time as we were thrown head first into deepening our practice, and learning how to become yoga teachers.
Over the five months, we became friends, we learned together how to sequence, teach and support each other and we delved into the history, anatomy and philosophy of this practice. In March, we had our last class together in person, then of course lockdown happened and the course moved online. This brought about a new set of challenges as we adapted to our new Zoom studio, but we got there and we did it together.
We had our final assessments and exam at the end of May and qualified with our YTT 200 hours with lots of emotion and gratitude.
So what now? One of the things I would like to do first is de-bunk some perceptions of yoga. I would like to assure people that it is for everyone. A common phrase is ‘I’m not flexible enough to do yoga’. This is not an issue. The flexibility and the strength come from practicing. You are not expected to stand on your head the first time you unroll your mat. If you can’t yet touch your toes, maybe it’s something you can work towards in 6 months, 12 months, 18 months – whatever works for you.
As well as the community, and tangible physical benefits of yoga, I have found huge mental health benefits as well. I am an over-thinker and regularly come up against anxiety – yoga can be a calming influence on my racing mind when I’m telling myself I’m not good enough. It has helped me to sit still and breathe.
So no matter what age, gender, level of flexibility, or level of experience you have, I want to make it known straight away that you are welcome. It might be a challenge, it might be humbling, it might take you out of your comfort zone sometimes, but then you can grow, improve and reap the benefits of the effort you’ve put in. I’ve certainly felt all of these things in the past few months – and I invite you to as well.
Currently, I’m teaching fortnightly classes on Zoom (Thursday evenings at 7pm) and everyone is welcome.