In celebration of the launch of The No-More-Excuses Guide to Yoga, I’ve invited some friends and colleagues to write articles relating to the theme of the book’s subtitle: Because yoga is for every body.
Sara is an Australia-based writer and I first met her when I asked for volunteers to be Beta-Readers for Forty Days of Yoga. Little did Sara or I know how that was to be the beginning of a strong connection. Sara is a talented writer and courageously faces into the difficulties of modern life, sharing her experiences on her website.
By guest author Sara Foley, Smells Good Feels Good
I still remember the moment when I chose yoga as an adult.
I was twenty four and just beginning my own journey of personal growth and spiritual development. I knew that my mind, body and spirit were all connected, and what I did to one affected the other.
I wanted to be more flexible in my mind, so I figured that if I became more flexible in my body, my mind would (hopefully) follow.
How can I become more flexible? Do yoga.
I didn’t really see my body as my strong point, to be honest. I had asthma as a child, and while I grew out of that, I spent most of my childhood with a recovering immune system, vulnerable to every cold and flu that went past.
My shoulders were narrow and my chest weak. I didn’t enjoy sport at all, and I still struggle to understand the point of a bunch of people running around after a ball.
As a child I rode bikes, swam in the river, climbed trees and rode horses; but when I left home at 17 and moved to the city, nothing took the place of those activities. Unless you count dancing and playing pool.
As a result, by the time I was twenty four, although youthful and vital, I was stiff, weak, unfit and totally unfamiliar with my body and what it could do.
You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.
– Alan Alda
I had just moved back to the country from the city, and there was an Iyengar yoga studio 10 minutes down the road from where I lived. Along a windy dirt road, perched on the side of Mt Yarrahappinni, one wall of the studio opened out on to an enormous vegetable garden and orchard.
Class sizes varied from five to twenty students, depending on the time of year. Everyone was friendly and welcoming – and when I walked in to the studio, it felt like home.
I had been a bit resistant to the idea of Iyengar yoga – all those props! But then again, I was resistant to everything – that’s why I was going to a yoga class!
From the first class though, I was hooked.
My yoga teacher taught each pose slowly and thoroughly. We approached each asana from all different directions, used supportive props to teach our body proper alignment, all the while working towards the final, unsupported pose.
As we practiced, the teacher walked around the class, talking us through each pose, what the benefits are, and bringing us deeper and deeper within the body. Everyone was touched and the teacher knew everyone’s name.
I loved it. I came from a science and health background, so I loved the attention to detail, consistency and thoroughness of the Iyengar style. Slowly, I was able to build flexibility, confidence and strength in my body. I would resist poses that were difficult or frightening, and then with the teacher’s help, I would move past that resistance, at my own pace.
I became braver, resilient, and yes, more flexible. I loved the non-competitive nature of yoga, how everyone was just operating at their own level, and were too busy with their own practice to worry about what other people were doing. Most of all, I loved how it felt to be in my body. Unbeknownst to me, I was learning how to be present.
Do not fight against the body, for in doing so you are fighting against your own reality. You are your body. The body that you can see and touch is only a thin illusory veil. Underneath it lies the invisible inner body, the doorway into Being, into Life Unmanifested. Through the inner body, you are inseparably connected to this unmanifested One Life – birthless, deathless, eternally present. Through the inner body, you are forever one with God. ~ Eckhart Tolle
We moved after a while, and bought a house nearly an hour’s drive away. When I became pregnant, I returned to the Yarrahappinni yoga class, as well as practicing yoga at home (I had a great pregnancy DVD to follow).
In this class, all pregnant women were treated like Goddesses.
We had our own special place against the open wall, and all of our asanas were modified for pregnancy. I grew to love my body for the first time here. For the first time, my body felt sacred and powerful. I glowed with vitality and health.
I don’t know if it was yoga, but I can tell you that both of my children were birthed naturally, with no pain relief or intervention. I breast fed easily and my babies thrived.
And then for four years, I hardly did any yoga.
I had lots of excuses – too far away from a class, no money, two little kids, no space, feeling unsupported, too tired. The truth is I was a bit lost, unable to stick with anything, struggling with motherhood and raising young children. I needed yoga more than at any other time in my life, but I wasn’t doing it.
Two years ago, in 2012, I came across Kara-Leah’s first book: Forty Days of Yoga – Breaking down the barrier to a Home Yoga Practice.
I read the book, followed the program and completed my first forty days of home yoga practice.
I discovered that I didn’t need to go to a class, I didn’t need any money, kids love yoga, I had plenty of space, everyone was supportive – and yoga is perfect when you’re tired. Most of all, I remembered my commitment, discipline, strength and determination. I had found my Self.
Now, my children are six and ten. I have maintained a regular home practice for two years and do other 40 day commitments when I want to really drill down and work on an issue.
This year I have gone back to a yoga class, taught by my first yoga teacher’s daughter and it’s only 20 minutes away. At 38, I am stronger, fitter and more flexible than I have ever been. I have grown to love and respect my body exactly how it is, and when my body speaks, I listen.
I see yoga as the ultimate tool box.
I use it’s tools of asana, pranayama, meditation, chakra knowledge and presence to treat whatever ails me, and to connect with the spark of Divinity within.
If I’m tired, I do yoga. If I’m wired, I do yoga. If I’m stressed, worried, anxious, questioning, lost, found, happy, sad – I do yoga. Yoga kills complacency and makes me pay attention.
Yoga means ‘union’. The feeling after a good yoga practice when mind, body and spirit are united – that’s what I love. And after a while, that feeling of union leaks off the mat and into your life.
Those things that we learn on the mat: dedication, commitment, being grounded, strength, flexibility, connection, presence and the ability to find comfort in discomfort – become the tools that we use to make our way in the world.
Here’s the thing: you don’t have to be flexible, brave or strong to do yoga.
In fact, it’s better if you’re none of these things – you’ll get more out of it! But if you do yoga, and you do it with commitment and dedication, you will uncover all of these things within yourself, and more. I promise.
Yoga came to me in my mid twenties as a way to begin my journey of self-discovery. It opened me up and grounded me in my body during pregnancy, and brought me back home to my Self when I had little children and was lost.
Now that I am found, yoga takes me deeper and deeper into the work that I have come here to do. It keeps me connected to Source, and shows me what I need to know next.
Yoga truly is for everybody and every stage of life.
Sara Foley is a Mother of two, partner of one, finder of Self. Writer, poet, teacher’s aide, small town girl – I love words, yoga, food, music, family and connection.
I write at Smells Good Feels Good, where I share insights on my spiritual journey, as well as whatever inspires me!
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