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  • Writer's pictureMaddy


I took up yoga, like a lot of people, because I needed to improve my flexibility. That was it. I weight trained daily and every morning I was so stiff and sore I felt I needed to do something to improve my physical state. I had always poo poo'd yoga as easy and slow. How wrong was I.

Roll on a year of doing yoga and realising that for me, it was so much more than just stretching. Working with the breath. The ability to calm my racing mind. Feeling truly present with myself rather than the noise or distractions of a gym or indeed everyday life.

I would go on to do my yoga teachers qualification in India where I was introduced to meditation, philosophy, mantra and breathwork. Recognising that yoga is not simply the asana (poses) but so much more. Of course it all makes sense that there is this wraparound of engaging all the different senses and thoughts.

Do I think you need to know all this to do yoga? Yes and No.

I am still learning, that is what Yoga is about and I doubt other than a sadhu you'll find a yogi who isn't always learning, I freely admit that.

Does that mean I cannot practice and appreciate yoga?

Of course not. As someone who has always been "on-the-go" and unable to sit still, I appreciate being able to go from barely being able to practice 5 mins meditation (Dhyana) to doing 25mins of trancendental meditation and not fidget or be desperate to be doing something else. I love learning to breathe deeply and knowing how to "reset" my anxious, stressed or unhappy mind.

I know I do my very best to practice the 8 limbs of yoga in one form or another, but know I don't have to put names to it, of these the ones I probably most relate to - Ahimsa (Non Harming), Satya (Truthfulness) Asteya (Non stealing - of energy or taking something from this Earth without appreciation i.e. eating meat or veg) Saucha (cleanliness - pure and positive thoughts of self and others) Santosha (contentment - with what we have, especially in a materialistic world) Tapas (heat - practice makes perfect and you have to put in the hard work to grow and learn) Svadhaya (focussing on our internal world) Ishvarapranidhana (believing there is something greater than us whether a god or the universe) and Pratyahara (being alone and focussing inwardly).

The last two have helped me handle or understand better, challenges I have faced through life with personal relationships and my own internal emotional struggles and allowed me to find Saucha on a daily basis.

I totally understand the concern for western appropriation of yoga and not conveying the other elements of yoga except for the asana as it is so much more than that, but I also know that the teachers I had were only too keen to show us and help us understand all elements of yoga and yogic life and the use of "namaste" or "namaskar" was considered respectful regardless of race or religion, it was never seen as appropriation and the classmates I met through my training had the utmost respect for what they were learning. I think "cultural appropriation" has become a new politically correct statement rather than truth. I know in my heart that what and how I teach yoga is meant with the greatest of good intent and not, to disrespect a culture, philosophy or otherwise.

I see the huge benefits that yoga brings to my classes in terms of mental health, often, over and above, physical health. Poses do not need to be perfect. I teach that in yoga we all have strengths and weaknesses and comparison to another in class is not what yoga is about. It's about understanding your own body and what it is capable of, what it can achieve when challenged but also to understand and work with the breath, to focus inwardly and remain present in the practice.

4 years on, yoga has bought so much more fulfillment to my life than I ever realised. It has made me more open as a person to potential in my life. I am more flexible, physically and mentally stronger and having the ability to learn how to "switch off" and take "time-out" has been invaluable.

What has yoga bought into your life? Have you been thinking of taking up yoga, if so, what has put you off? What are your thoughts?

If you're interested in taking up yoga or furthering your practice I have new courses coming up end of February into March. Email to book your space:

Monday night classes are available online as well as in person

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