I’m going to ask you a question that I asked my students just recently. How often are we conditioned to take cues from other people, especially those we look up to, on how we should act, behave and feel in certain situations?
Doing that is human nature, and we might not even realise we’re doing it. But, when that’s the case, we aren’t always honouring what our bodies are actually feeling. One thing may feel really good for one person but feel horrible for someone else. While it’s easy to lean back into whatever someone says you should or shouldn’t feel, it’s important to tap into what you actually feel and what helps you during difficult or chaotic periods.
I bring this up because that’s essentially what yoga is for me – the ability to help you tap into how you really feel and what you really think, which is particularly important when you’re feeling like there’s a lot of confusing change or chaos. That might not be the same for you, and that’s ok. I can only speak to my own experiences, but they might help you explore whether yoga can play a similar role in your own life.
Even as the founder of Yogaforce in Australia and New Zealand, I never thought yoga would play such an integral part in my life. Back in high school, I followed a pamphlet to a Yoga for Life Wellness class, which involved light stretching that looked nothing like the yoga you see today on social media. It was basically just about breathing and getting back in contact with your body, but I moved away from this kind of yoga and got heavily into the gym and various sports.
That is, until a motorbike accident nearly took my life. I experienced a variety of serious injuries, including brain trauma, which meant I would be in recovery for years. After the doctor denied my requests to return to scuba diving or take up any heavy contact sport, he agreed that I could do a little yoga as long as it was light.
So that’s when my relationship with yoga rekindled – first as rehab while I assimilated back into society, but then quickly as a ritual that I knew I could rely on to feel balanced and connected. I loved being a student (and still do!) but, after repeatedly shrugging off suggestions that I should train to become a teacher, I finally gave in.
Since making that decision in 2018, on top of my full-time job, I’ve been a corporate yoga teacher for both Canva and Salesforce, creating Yogaforce ANZ for the latter a year before the pandemic.
The past two years have shined a spotlight on wellness – physical, mental and emotional – and it’s only recently that we’ve begun acknowledging the link between all three, particularly in the workplace. Employers have realised just how much the promotion of employee wellness benefits both the individual and the organisation.
Yoga is a means of connection to the self and to others, which is what a lot of us are looking for in life, right? It facilitates connection in a profound way that’s not always easy to describe.
I’ll give you an example. Just recently, I was struggling to muster the motivation to do anything – teaching or working – but I was already scheduled to teach a class. While doing my usual pre-teaching warm-up, I was just going through the motions with a kind of “yeah, whatever” attitude. Then, a funny thing happened – as soon as I finished the warm-up, I suddenly felt a million times better.
The reason for this 180-degree turn in mood is because I got out of my head. I moved, I breathed. My lack of motivation evaporated because I was forced to connect with my breath and body. I was then in a state of being where I could facilitate the same for other people.
No matter what you’re experiencing, thinking or feeling on any given day, the practice of yoga might be able to give you some distance from those sensations and bring you into a state of wellbeing – at least, that’s how it usually works for me. Sometimes, our brains tell us that physical activity is the last thing we want to do but, once we start that process of breathing and moving, it’s astonishing how quickly we can connect to our bodies in a way that helps us get past any mental barriers.
Once you’re out of your head, you can properly listen to your body – to listen to how you truly feel and therefore who you really are. You’re not focusing on what you should be doing or feeling. You’re not judging yourself for feeling or thinking one way or another. You can then make decisions and take action from a place that is truly you.
This is such an important state of being, especially during times of great change or challenge. And it’s not just one time of year or during a pandemic, either – many people feel pressure to, think, feel, look, and live a certain way. As you go further into your own individual journey with yoga, you can start to dig deeper into how you’re actually feeling and thinking. This can help you connect and stay present in all areas of your life, whether at work or at home.
Just as everyone has a unique journey in life, we are all on different journeys in yoga. It is up to each one of us to discover what yoga means to ourselves, because it’s not always just about physical movement – and, importantly, Yoga is for everybody. For some it is physical postures, for some it is meditation, for some it is acts of service, and the list goes on. My purpose as a teacher is to create a safe space for you to move, breathe and listen to your body so you connect with yourSelf (yes, capital S).
I wonder what you’ll find if you give it a try?