Something strange has happened to me. I feel like a door in my brain that has been super-glued shut for the last however long with a giant ‘No Entry’ sign on it has started to creak open. I noticed a difference in myself last Tuesday morning when I opened my eyes with a new feeling, a sort of blurry clarity; something that has felt absent for a lonnng time! Not a hit-you-in-the-face kind, just a subtle shift in perspective. A sense that something had changed inside. I instinctively knew why – I had posted my first blog and it had thrown me a key. Life’s cheeky little game of give and take: ‘give me your fear and you may proceed to the next level’.
I hadn’t written a blog with the intention of writing any more; I wrote it firstly because so many people wanted to know what went down in Thailand on my yoga teacher training course (apologies to anyone expecting a female version of The Hangover II), and secondly just as a memory for myself, really. Taking that leap of faith and hitting ‘publish’, though feeling really bloody scared and vulnerable about opening myself up to whoever was interested enough to read it, has turned out to be a real turning point… And I didn’t die! I don’t feel like a floating panda anymore. I’m a faster-than-average tortoise. There’s movement people.
The urge to write again popped up during a Warrior 2 in a class at the Power Yoga Company in Parsons Green. To jazz up my monotonous Minimum Daily Requirement routine that I’d disciplined myself to practice post-Thailand (consisting of five Surya A’s and B’s, a breathing exercise and fifteen minutes of meditation), I signed up to the ‘£25 for 25 days’ introductory offer –now there’s a bargain if ever there was one! I’m nearly two weeks in now, having gone almost every day, and I’m feeling saturated with knowledge from each of the different teachers. So whilst trying not to think on the mat, I found myself thinking, ‘how am I going to remember all of this?’ I started writing everything down, adding to the tornado of ‘Notes’ on my phone… One thing led to another… And before you know it, there I was in WholeFoods Clapham Junction writing Blog No.2. Hi, I’m Holly, and I’m one of those wifi-hogging hot drink ordering people who sits at their Apple Mac pretending to have a proper job. Winning.
The Power Yoga Company studio itself, set just a five minute walk from Parsons Green tube station, is gorgeous. It feels like an old converted house, it’s light and airy and oh-so toasty in the downstairs ‘Prana’ studio, which is great to begin with but does leave you wondering if you signed up to Bikram at the end. There are candles in the fireplace and it’s all very lovely… Oh and thanks to the fridge opposite the reception desk I’m now a fully-fledged Pollen and Grace cacao products addict. Not eating a bar of Dairy Milk means I’m allowed twenty-seven raw cacao energy balls yeah? Someone help me.
If you do ever go to PYC, take note, because this is confusing (is it just me?): ‘Level 1’ on the class schedule is an easier class than ‘All Level’, which was confirmed to me not once, but a solid twice, by the lady behind the juice bar. So I was a little huffy and puffy after having booked onto a beginner’s class one Friday evening, until the teacher, a pretty petite blonde, said the following, which came just at the right time:
“Let something go, be it physical or psychological.” – Kim Peacock
Just hearing these words brought my attention to the fact that I was tense, physically and psychologically, and it immediately encouraged me to release. I mentioned in my last blog about how we hold on to things that just don’t serve us. Physically, when we fall, the reason bones break and bruises appear is because we tense up. If we relax and don’t resist we bend and snap back, like elastic bands. A difficult thing to do, because we have been programmed throughout our lives to resist. Psychologically, we’re told that if we push against something, it will go away, when in fact the more you resist and give attention to something you don’t want, the more it expands and hangs around. It’s just a backward way of thinking! I think yoga is a tool which, amongst so many other things, helps us to naturally reprogram our subconscious wires and see that letting go is far more effective and powerful, though it takes a lot of practice.
I found an article online from Donald Altman who puts it really well: ‘Holding onto the breath leads to suffocation. Living requires a constant letting go. This in itself is a powerful lesson in nonattachment. Each breath teaches us that holding on too long to anything creates pain and suffering. Letting go is nature’s way, and this is no small thing.’
Anyone else not a backbend fan?
“It’s not a backbend, it’s a forward open.” – Christian Coelho
This came from the gorgeous and engaging curly Christian Coelho who helped me to see backbends in a totally new light. I’ve had a problem with my lower back since I was younger when I injured it through dancing (not in Oceana, just in ballet), and I always dread the part in yoga towards the end when we’re given the option to take a full wheel because my attention always goes straight to my back, perhaps as a subconscious way of protecting it. When I focused instead on opening my chest and heart to the sky as suggested by Christian, I felt the pressure in my back release and a real sense of opening through the front – relief! It seems sometimes a shift in perspective is all we need to change a difficult situation… Every situation is in fact the same; it’s the way you perceive it that changes things. Just a little tip I thought I’d share for anyone else who can relate!
“Don’t be a destination addict. Be happy with where you are.” – Nicole Rowihab
After borrowing this quote from Nicole, the intention I set myself before a class the other day was to ‘be content with where I am right now’. Not to worry about rolling out of a headstand and into the teacher’s ankles. And it turned out to be one of the best classes I’ve ever done! I felt fluid, strong, flexible and just absolutely content inside. It felt like I was being rewarded for allowing myself to just be, without judgment.
So Nicole’s concept really made me think. Whether on or off the mat, us Londoners love a bit of destination addiction don’t we – we’re always trying to get ‘there’, thinking ‘there’ is going to make us happy – be it in a handstand like the person on the mat next to you or getting the next promotion at work. But what happens once you get ‘there’? Where are we actually climbing that ladder to? Then you’re there, but there’s always somewhere else to go! Life is happening right now. NOW. Happiness isn’t a destination; it’s always there inside you, accessible at any time, if you choose it. Letting yourself just be, happy in anticipation of what’s to come, will open the doors.
It’s not about the aesthetic of the pose, it’s about the activation, and how it feels inside.” – Katarina Rayburn
Now. If you haven’t been to one of Katarina Rayburn’s classes, I would suggest you do so. With immediate effect. I met Katarina for the first time when she covered Marcus Veda’s Rocket class at Yogarise, Peckham, which I was first admittedly a bit gutted about because Marcus’s classes are absolutely epic and I hadn’t found anyone who matched his sky-high standards. However, I was more than pleasantly surprised. Katarina has an amazing energy, she is eloquent in her knowledge and elegant in her practice, assertive in her adjustments which makes you feel safe and able to progress, she makes time to talk to you… And her six-pack alone I believe deserves a special acknowledgement. Here’s to you, KR’s six-pack. After chatting to her after that class a few months ago, Katarina actually turned out to be the nudge I needed to book my yoga teacher training.
And she’s right when she says that it’s not about what the pose looks like – it’s all about how it feels to you. Isn’t this true about life – ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, ‘it’s what’s inside that counts’. Simple truths. Be intuitive with your practice – there is no right or wrong way to hold a pose. Get out of the way of yourself and let your body go where it wants to go! Which comes right back to what I said in the beginning about letting go. We’ve gone full circle, which seems like a good place to conclude.
If you haven’t done yoga you won’t know what I’m on about and you will think I am a strange person. Which I will then take as a compliment. But here goes. It sounds crazy, but it feels like yoga is opening all these micro doors in my brain, or maybe they’re channels to truth. Let’s call them Truth Tunnels, I like that. I feel like I’m being let in on the Universe’s secrets, but at the same time knowing that I always had the key. It’s like being whispered these familiar stories that we deep down already know, things that relate to all aspects of life and are all connected to one another. We’re digging for truth using our breath as the spade. But let’s not go too deep now, it’s only Blog No.2.