The other day I was asked why I practice yoga and why I choose to practice and teach yoga above anything else, a question that has been on my mind ever since. I know that I love my yoga practice and I love to teach, but why?
Yoga has been in my life now for 12 years and though in the past I have occassionally drifted from my practice I always knew from the moment I stepped into my first class that I wanted to teach one day. I started yoga as a route to better health having suffered with near constant illness and poor health throughout my teenage and early adult life. With regular practice I found that both my health and energy levels improved and so for me yoga became a neccessity at times, but one that I was more than happy to have in my life. As my health improved I was able to focus less on myself and more on the actual yoga and content of the classes which gave me a chance to really think about what it was I liked about it. Initially I favoured the physical movements, the poses that I found so empowering and the wave of satisfaction everytime I managed to get the hang of a new one. Then before long I found happiness in the peace and quiet of my classes, I knew that even after a hectic day I could rely on my yoga class to calm me down and make me feel stronger, more confident and ready to face the world once more. Very often my yoga classes were the one place that I felt really comfortable in my own skin and they provided me with an opportunity to think about the direction in which my life was going, something that I’d not really managed to do while my health had been so bad. Yoga was opening my eyes!
Now years later, with far more knowledge under my belt, I am finally teaching and I feel fully dedicated to my yoga practice and to my teaching. I still love all the things I used to love about it but now there is so much more to love! I still adore the physical element of it and I am still satisfied whenever I manage a new asana though now the satisfaction is different somehow, almost quieter. Instead of being excited about the shapes I’m making I am excited that I have another posture to explore in detail and then potentially share with others. And now instead of just finding peace and quiet in my classes I find that my whole life feels calmer and more peaceful thanks to my regular practice and ability to relax. My yoga practice has become a journey that I know I will be on for the rest of my life, there is no rush to master everything and with my daily practice I know that improvements will come slowly and when I’m ready for them. Of course I still keep an element of effort and concentration in my practice as it would be so easy to get lazy and stuck in one place. The discipline remains but without force, I just breathe and allow things to happen and actually since I’ve learnt to do that the physical aspect has become so much easier and far more enjoyable. I may be a teacher but first and foremost I am a student and will forever remain a student because I know that with yoga, there is always something else to discover and learn and there is always something else to improve upon. To me that is perhaps one of the most refreshing and exciting prospects of yoga.
‘Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it’
Recently one of the things I have been increasingly fascinated by within my yoga practice and my teaching is how much yoga allows you to get to know yourself. I know my physical body, I know where I’m tightest, I know how my hips move and exactly where in my spine my back is a little tight, I know what range of movement I have in my shoulders and I know that I only ever get cramp in my right foot and never my left when I point my toes! I know the quality of my breathing, I know and have experienced the effect that breathing properly has on my body and on my mind and I am fully aware of how the process of breathing works. I understand the difference between bending from my hips and bending from my waist and I understand that when I draw my belly in and use the bandhas it really does make a difference to how far I can forward bend. But more than that, I actually fully recognise the days when my body feels remotely tired or, conversely, the days when my body feels full of energy and when my muscles ache or my body hurts I know what I can do to help it feel better and when I’m stressed I know how to relax. I know my body and I know my mind! Moreover by teaching I get to witness other people learn about their bodies and their minds!
In this day and age it’s so easy to get caught up in the stress of life and end up living so entirely within your thoughts and mind that you can become completely detached from your own body to the point where it’s almost as if some people don’t realise they have one at all! And they certainly don’t realise it’s amazing capabilities. Teaching yoga to people that have become detached from their physical bodies is something that is a real learning curve for me and is often something that I find extremely challenging. Yet when I see them begin to learn how to move their bodies and I see their backs start to lengthen and their shoulders start to let go of tension, when I see a downward dog transform from a near plank position that is hard to maintain to a beautiful inverted V position with a long back, a calm face and a steady breath; well that is a gift that is hard to put into words. Then as people begin to progress in whichever way is appropriate to them I am proud and priviledged to be able to pass on a little knowledge, to be able to provide them with more challenging postures, more information and more philosophy. Everyday I start to see people get stronger and healthier and now and again I get to see peoples lives change! And when a fellow student comes to me and tells me that they feel calmer and their bodies feel better that’s when I know they’re on a journey all of their own!
So to the question……..why yoga? Well, why not? I’m not so sure that it’s always wise to question everything but if you really want a reason then the answer is simple. I love it, I believe in it and it makes me smile!
My name is Clare Dobson and I am a Yogaholic.