Committing to Yoga as a Way of Life

Two years after I committed to a regular ashtanga yoga practice, I also had two small children and a part time job. By the time the second child turned one year old, my yoga had dwindled to lying on my mat essentially napping twice a week, feeling rubbish about my non existent levels of discipline…

When I facilitate ‘home yoga practice’ workshops now (one of my faves to teach) I speak from these despairing times of lying on my mat, thinking, “I need to do this, but how?” 

My second child was not a sleeper due to some health issues.  Two  years of sleep deprivation. I was surviving pretty much on pasta and biscuits and I felt exhausted and increasingly ill. I had heard of proper hard core Ashtangis who had babies and still did an hour and a half practice a day. I didn’t feel good about myself; this practice that had helped me so much, turned into something which fed my deep-rooted self criticism. The guru of ashtanga had about three well known sayings, one of which was, anyone can do ashtanga yoga, anyone except lazy people. Yep, I was clearly one of those, I thought.

I got bronchitis, sinusitis several times, regular antibiotic prescriptions, constant colds, brain fog and deep lethargy. It came to a head one day when I was driving and had to pull over as I couldn’t remember where I was going. It was pretty scary to wake up every day and feel all I really wanted to do was to go back to sleep. My immune system clearly was not coping. A wake up call.

I put myself on a strict anti candida diet. Mainly vegetables and brown rice, supplements and no more sugary snacks. And I re-committed to yoga. 

I get people who come to yoga wanting to fix something, in some need or even in desperate need of non prescription ways to feel better, to build strength in all the ways. 

I understand the seesaw from making the commitment to do yoga (or running or gym or whatever), striving to do what you know is good for you, and still, to never feeling that you’re doing enough, that you can’t actually seem to change all the things that are ‘wrong’. 

Other people seem to have cracked the code and you’re still flailing and failing and seesawing from effort and being resolute, to sinking back to, ‘but I’m still the same struggling me…’. That feeling. 

For me, yoga did provide the light in the tunnel, but it took some time. 10 years of mainly home practice, a lot of lying on my mat staring at the ceiling or sky, pre, mid and post practice, asking, “now what?” Again and again. The answers could be pretty surprising…

A bodhisattva appeared (a being who lights your way). I found a teacher and friend Lisa Murphy, whose unflagging friendly support and passion for green juices and healthy cooking were an inspiration. She showed me that yoga could be fun and involve playing around on your mat. We had a laugh. After six months, I was underweight  but feeling better. I vowed to make yoga a non-negotiable part of my day/week, and to explore what that might look like, slowly, realistically and kindly. I learnt a lot of useful skills which I now try to share.

I realised I needed yoga to function well, to be well enough to look after and enjoy my family. 

I realised that yoga was not just about me. This was a realisation that has expanded over time. That my practice is not just for me or about me. My practice serves to teach me that I’m so much more than my small sense of individual self, that we need to practice for each other and our world. 

I’m not precious or grandiose about this notion of ‘practice’ (sometimes my ‘practice’ is rolling around on the floor to music, etc. etc.), but I like it as an ancient and yet useful concept, also applicable to meditation formal practice. I’m just saying, choosing the path of self awareness and trying to live kindly and honestly for ourselves, others and the planet is not easy, whatever your life situation or story. We all need the skilful means, to support, guide and evolve us. Yoga is one method. 

Next installment: the wild and wonderful world of yoga traditions, gurus and injury.