I have been dabbling with yoga for years, pretty much since I injured my back when I was 17. There was a time when I would follow videos on Youtube religiously every day after work or college. Blogalates was one of my favourites and to this day I still follow her on Instagram. But when I moved out and went to university, I quickly got out of the habit.
It has now been nearly two years since I graduated but I still hadn’t got back into the habit of doing a yoga flow. The result of this negligence was a major decrease in my flexibility and my injury began to ache again, even after nearly seven years. I was also extremely stressed and I hold my stress in my neck and shoulders, so I was literally walking around with shoulders of rock! You could feel nodules of tense muscle in my shoulders, they felt like golf balls under my skin. Along with so many other things, my quality of life was becoming less and less enjoyable and I knew it was time to change. Or rather, it was time to start again.
At first, I tried to go back to what I had done when I was a teenager; just threw down a mat and follow a yoga flow video. But I was so stiff and I couldn’t make myself finish the video. So I abandoned it again. I quickly realised the only way I was going to get myself back into a flow was if I found outside help and joined a yoga class. Problem is, now that I have moved away from the city, the only yoga classes around are the small classes at the village halls full of little old ladies and yummy mummies. Which really wasn’t what I was looking for. But the idea of joining the gym in my nearest city and going to a class with 40 strangers was literally bringing me to a panic attack.
But things were becoming painful. I drive around 3-4 hours a day and my back, my shoulder and my neck were in agony. The tension in my neck was also triggering my cluster headaches and I was miserable. I would get home from a 12 hours day and just go to bed with a heat pack and pain killer.
As so often happens in my life, the answer came with a random urge to go on google. I typed in yoga classes near me. Something I had done many times in the past, but this time a search came up for private yoga sessions with a professional yogi. Um, a session with someone who knows what they are doing AND no other strangers. Yes, please! Best of all the studio was down a street I knew very well. In fact, over the years I had passed it so many times, but never noticed it! (Even though it had the word YOGA printed in rainbow letters all over the front window….yeh, apparently I’m not as observant as I thought).
I made an appointment right then and there and come that weekend I found myself entering the yoga studio for the first time. For some reason, I was expecting a gym setting. Clinical white decor and bright lights. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I entered the studio to the sound of relaxing music, calming low lighting and tasteful boho decor. The whole studio was one big space that had been divided in two by a wooded space divider. The front section had been made into a seating area, with organic fruit teas available (I am tea obsessed!), and just behind this was a counter where all the more business things took place. Behind the space divider was a huge open space, that was lit by twinkling fairy lights and one wall was covered with yoga mats, block, blankets and other yoga tools.
As I walked in and my eyes adjusted from the bright sunshine to the dimmer lighting, a calming voice called out. ‘Hello, you must be Ay.’ The voice was female and when I walked further in I saw a woman, around my age, standing behind the counter. The little anxiety I had had about coming, faded away at the sight of her. I had been a little worried that the instructor would be a man, and I’m generally not 100% comfortable around men, especially when I am feeling vulnerable. But this instructor was a woman, my age and looked so incredibly friendly. Her next question lit up my world.
‘Do you mind dogs?’ – I explained (slightly confused) that I loved dogs. At which point she disappeared behind the desk and a few moments later a gorgeous Staffie came bounding towards me. Although not a dog I would personally own (I like dogs with longer fur), I LOVE staffies, I always think they look like they are smiling. So when this gorgeous creature bounded up to me, I melted. We went and settled down onto the sofas and the dog very slowly made her way to sit beside me and eventually (probably after sensing my lack of fear), proceeded to lay her whole body over my lap.
For about 15 minutes we sat and chatted about what I wanted to take away from yoga. I explained about my back injury, my mental health problems and my PCOS. I explained that I was looking to improve my quality of life and hopefully become a bit happier. I worried that what I was asking was a tall order, but she seemed confident that these were goals I would be able to achieve. For the second half of my 30-minute session, we did a short yoga flow so she could assess how I move and how best to structure my sessions. I thought I was doing badly, but by the end, she told me my technique was great and my flow was incredible for someone with a back injury such as mine, but that I was just out of practice and stiff. In a few weeks, I would get back into it and my flexibility would return and then we could work on building on it along with my strength.
Upon hearing those words I felt something lift inside me. I hadn’t realised it until then, but despite having had an interest in yoga for years, I had walked into that studio in much the same way I do most situations; feeling like I am faking it, that I am a fraud, that I don’t belong. Messed up, I know but that is just how my brain thinks. But once she told me that actually I was pretty good and we could make me better, that feeling lifted and I felt like I belonged. I felt like I was in safe hands, which is not a feeling I feel very often.
A week later I went back and we did an hour session, just her and I (and the dog). Her sessions were so calming, I felt completely relaxed as she eased me back into yoga. Unlike the videos I used to watch, whenever I wasn’t doing something quite right, she adjusted me. I have now had a few sessions with her and already I can feel my flexibility returning. Each week she steps up the flow, adding more challenging poses and pushing my flexibility. My latest session was yesterday and as I lay there, my back arched deliciously over two yoga blocks (seriously this stretch feels SO good!), I looked up at the ceiling and the reflection of the twinkling lights and I felt so full of genuine happiness.
I am hoping that soon I will feel confident enough to join some of her classes with her other students, but I find her one to one sessions so helpful; not just for my technique but for my anxiety. I’ve also started strengthing again at home, I may start following some videos again, but I am keen to create my own flows rather than rely on others.
My challenge for myself in February was to start yoga again, which I have managed. My plan for the rest of the year is to not just keep it up, but to improve and be stronger! I would like to be able to do an inverted pose by the end of the year, but we shall see 🙂
Thank you for reading! What is your favourite yoga pose? Let me know in the comments below!