Do you remember your first time? I do. My first time was during Freshers Week in my first year at Uni. It was all a bit clumsy. Hands and feet everywhere. I felt so self-conscious as I moved around in all sorts of shapes and angles. Huffing and puffing as I attempted to get my feet above my head. Panicking at the thought that I might break wind in downward dog! The low lighting and the soft music did help me to relax somewhat, but it was obvious I was new to this. A novice, an amateur. I was clueless – I had no idea what I was doing or how to do it but I was kind of enjoying it. It was fun and invigorating, albeit a little uncoordinated! I was thankful when the physical bit was over and I could finally lie on my back, close my eyes and relax. I listened to the gentle, soothing voice of my teacher as she guided us through a mediation. My mind did wander a fair bit but I felt calm and peaceful, even a little blissful. The class closed with a ceremonial bowing of heads, with hands in prayer and a resounding “namaste”. I followed suit with the bowing and hand gesture and think I managed to get away by mumbling a couple of vowels. While I didn’t get the life-changing, enlightening experience I was (unrealistically) expecting, I did leave feeling balanced in my body and mind. It was a nice, warm, cosy feeling. I felt a little lighter, a little happier. I felt good.
When I finally came down from my post-yoga high I enthusiastically spent the rest of my afternoon procrastinating from my studies by researching yoga on the internet. Back then, there wasn’t the same level of exposure of long-limbed ballerina gymnast yogis such as those that you see on Instagram today. My searches yielded images of a more humble nature of older people, mostly sitting cross-legged and looking very tranquil – almost magical.
I was drawn to this magic both from my class and from what I read on the internet that day. So much so that I went back for more. And I kept going back again and again. It has been 12 years since I took my first class and I am still drawn to the magic of yoga today. My journey has certainly changed over the years. My connection with yoga has fluctuated from being physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. My body feels more youthful as I am physically stronger and more flexible than I have ever been. The relationship I have with my body has drastically changed – I have learned to love it for what it can do and let go of judgement for what it looks like. Yoga is a practice, it’s never perfect. While there are days I wish I could just nail that handstand, yoga has also taught me how to be patient, more accepting that things don’t always happen or go to plan, and this is ok. This is life.
Whether you are new to Yoga or a regular practitioner, we are all standing in that same spot on the mat when we begin. No one knows what each practice will bring. And that’s the magic! Yoga is there for everyone. It’s different for each individual and it’s different each individual day. All you need is a body and an open mind. Just step up onto your mat, inhale deeply and begin your journey. Who knows where it will take you…
NEW WARRIORS – TOP 5 TIPS:
- Allow at least an hour or two to digest your food – don’t eat a big meal before you practice.
- Wear comfortable, stretchy clothes and a good sports bra (you don’t want any nip-slips in your forward folds!)
- Bring water and a small hand towel.
- Be a warrior not a hero – listen your body and rest when you need to.
- Embrace the time and space you made for yourself to practice – give yourself permission to switch off and enjoy the moment. Cat-cow = not a mythical feline-bovine yoga creature but a super juicy spine awakening sequence that will ease any desk or car related tension.
Emma Ahern, Contributor (IG @emma_wallace_ahern)