My partner thought I was mad!
At 40 years old, when I started yoga, my partner, Peter, used to say; “if you find it so hard, why do you do it.” In those days, you couldn’t even search for yoga classes near me. But luckily, with the help of a friend, I checked out yoga studios near me, and took the leap.
Peter would see me come home, tired, with sore muscles. I would have a hot bath, and just go to bed.
For months, Peter would say things like “Why do you keep going, if it hurts?”
I would simply reply; “I enjoy the way I feel after the yoga class.”
The good feeling would stay with me until I got to go to another yoga class.
I had no idea why it felt good! Again, none of the yoga studios near me never bothered to tell me.
It was long before I’d seen the 50 medical conditions helped by yoga.
I’d also never thought about why yoga helps manage your waist.
Peter would just keep saying. “Don’t put yourself through this”.
But the way I felt after each class was new and unique. I had never experienced it before. I knew I needed to do it.
Yoga classes were doing something, and providing something, that I was not getting in the rest of my life.
Many years later, I learnt that the “one size fits all” class I was doing was the hard way to start yoga.
These days, in my own yoga studio, we teach in five levels, using beginner classes. They make it much easier to get started. There’s more about that at the end of this Post.
Easy beginner pose like I should have been taught!
Doing yoga at home as well
It’s also the reason that I also started practising yoga at home, from a really early time in my yoga journey.
I still wanted to understand what was going on. I wanted to know what was causing that feeling of enjoyment.
So I also bought yoga books and yoga props early on, so as to do yoga better from home.
In the process of doing this, it was not about being goal driven. I was not trying to be the best at a pose.
Instead, particularly with my stiff body, I understood that it would be a long journey.
But I just knew that it was delivering something that I wanted. So I wanted to get on that ride, and go on that ride.
It was about the mental journey
To see how to do poses, I mainly used the Mira Mehta books.
That gave me a step-by-step approach to the postures. I was very willing to stay with that step-by-step, and relatively simple approach.
I was less interested in elaborate poses.
For me, it was about trying to understand what was happening when you practise yoga. I wanted to see what was going on, in my body and mind.
I saw my yoga journey as a mental endeavour. In particular, I wanted to see what’s the connection between what’s going on in the body, and what’s going on in the mind.
I didn’t have obstacles around things like laziness or lack of interest. I’ve read about those obstacles in the famous and ancient book called the Yoga Sutras.
I have never found yoga practice a chore. I was just exploring myself, through doing the different poses. I found this exciting and enjoyable.
I have enjoyed the journey, and continue to enjoy it.
It made me feel good, even in my tent
When I moved from Melbourne, about 28 years ago, I was practising on my own for a year.
My partner and I did a camping trip through South Australia, and up the West Australian coast to Darwin.
There were absolutely no yoga studios near me. Deep in outback Australia, there was zero chance of yoga classes near me. And online yoga had not been invented.
But, on the trip, it never occurred to me that there was any obstacle to my yoga practising or development. Whatever camp site I was in, it did not create an obstacle. I just practised in the tent, or under a tree.
I may be more self-directed than some, but I do think that anyone can also do this. Sometimes we also have no option. I have a thirst for understanding yoga. But it came from understanding that it makes you feel good.
I am most appreciative of yoga because it has made me happier.
I found courage
Yoga has also given me a lot of courage to look at myself. In turn, it allows me to look at how I have changed, and to know that change is possible through that practice.
Self-judgement, for better and worse, has been a journey for me, and it still is. It will always be, until my last breath. Yoga is about continually refining your understanding of yourself.
What is so amazing is that you cannot expect this when you start.
What is worse, is that no yoga studios near me would ever bother to explain any of these benefits, or the reasons for these benefits.
There were also no yoga teachers, or yoga classes near me, where any teacher was likely be vulnerable enough to share it in ways that have become more common with the Internet.
What I learnt from a handstand
For example, consider the handstand pose.
People tell me that they used to do this as a kid. Maybe they then find it easier, because at least they have been there, in the pose, at one time.
But I never did a handstand as a kid. I never did gym. I just did formal sports like netball and tennis.
As a result, the journey I had to take is an interesting trip of how to live with your body (and mind). By this I mean that do a handstand, you have to be fearless.
To conquer the handstand pose, I had to learn to be fearless. That meant I had to see how I break down the fear. I also had to learn how to break down the self judgement about what I could or could not do.
That is an example of what keeps me interested in yoga. It’s an exercise in how to break down, and overcome, these sorts of things.
Learning hand stand can be done in many ways
Overcoming my likes and dislikes in the yoga classes near me
Among other things, I came to recognise that I have strong likings or dislikings.
It was helped along, because in the Iyengar style yoga classes near me, that I had happened to find, there was actually plenty to dislike. At least when I was coming at from my frame of mind in those days.
Obviously, my “ability” to like and dislike applied to both yoga, and to many other things. Once I learned how to deal with these things in yoga, I was also more able to deal with them in other aspects of my life.
All of us develop things like self judgement, and dislikings, as a self-protection mechanism. But they hold you fixed in a place, so you can’t grow.
What I’ve learnt through yoga has helped be break down strongly-held, habitual views (about yoga, and so many other things!).
My dear mother!
My parents, especially my mother, build up our self-confidence.
She had three daughters. She was determined that we would not be limited, as girls, in any way.
She constantly stressed that nothing is impossible. She was talking about anything we wanted to do, including going to university.
As girls, in the small Victorian country town where we were raised, it was of course relatively rare for girls to escape the female role models of the time, go to university, or to have their own professional career.
My mother was determined that her daughters would have no limits.
No boundaries, even to giving up ice-cream!
In the process of the creation of yourself, it is about having strongly held views of who you think you are. Often that is good, but it can also create boundaries.
Yoga showed me that you can in fact hold onto things way after their use-by date.
In the process, they can become very destructive. I’m talking about everything, from your political views, to relationships, and how you live.
For example, a few years ago, I had been a sugar eating, vegetarian for a very long time. Then I made a decision to become a vegan, eating minimal sugar. I changed all my food patterns, including not eating ice-cream!
I stepped beyond the boundary of where I had been in my eating habits.
That’s just one example. But all of it was made easier, and even possible, because of what I had learnt through yoga.
Exploring new things, constantly
Among other things, yoga is about continually trying to keep a better balance with everything.
This includes continually exploring new things. It’s a process of continually keeping going so as to reach a place of happiness.
I do think that my mother helped create a great deal of this. She just focused on building our confidence. For better and worse (sometimes), she did it so as to have us hold strong views.
That includes constructing a reality that may not be real. In other words, you don’t see things for what they are. Reality can be very subjective!
Of course, another problem with all this is that you can become too rigid. That means you can’t see any other way to think through or around a problem. Your lateral thinking could be missing in action!
The idea of construction of the self, is something that parents give their children.
This is what my mother gave me and my two sisters. But, in turn, yoga has let me see that I am a “construction” of my own making.
With apologies to Apple, it is an “I-ness”. Its that sense of who you think you are. It’s built up from experience, and the application of who you think you are.
You first have to be able to see this I-ness to be able to dismantle it, or tweak it.
Sometimes of course you are happy with who you are, and that is fine. But sometimes you see that you can create another way of being, or that you need to create another way of being, or both.
I know that some artists call this learning to see.
Learning yoga should start with easy poses
Yoga helped me trust
Yoga postures give you the courage to do something that you never thought you would do.
It is liberating to do those things, There is a freedom in stepping beyond self-imposed boundaries. That’s even more true if they are boundaries that keep you in places from which you have decided to escape.
As a 45-year-old women, in my early yoga training, to be pushing up into a backbend, required trust.
That trust is an interesting aspect of yoga. You get to trust yourself. You get to be willing to try new things, and new experiences.
In the process, it is not about getting better at the asana, or yoga posture. It is about quietening your mind, and looking at the posture. In the process, you look at yourself, and at different possibilities.
Yoga is not about goals, or achievement
Yoga practice is not a habit, in the sense that I do, or don’t do, what I did yesterday.
My yoga practice builds on what I did yesterday, but it is different. The pose may be the same, but I come to it differently.
It is not about being goal driven. That is situation where you may have achieved one thing on one day, but the next day you don’t achieve it. In the process, there can be disappointment, self-criticism, and negativity.
Instead, when you don’t come from a place of being about goals, yoga lets you see that you are different, from one day to the next. That difference can be in both the body and mind, and also in the external factors, like the weather (including the moisture or heat in the air).
If you use the same techniques each day, yoga won’t necessarily work as well for you. What got you there yesterday, may not get you there today.
Evolving my “bull at a gate” temperament
Before yoga, and even during my yoga journey, my previous temperament is that I was the proverbial “bull at a gate. My mother and my partner Peter both said that. Others have also said this too!
But there is less of that approach now. (It’s not about being older, as sometimes those temperaments just get worse with age!).
Now I methodically work to understand something. I persist better. Slowly, a yoga posture, or anything else, starts to make sense to me.
Learning to systematically quieten my “monkey mind”
I now see that a key thing I enjoyed about yoga was getting quiet in myself.
Quietening my roving mind was a new experience. I think it is not nearly as common an experience in the West as it needs to be.
I don’t always have to have my mind churning away, thinking, worrying, telling me stories, wondering, and more.
But to be able to deliberately quieten the mind, and stop the churn, was and is so pleasurable. It is so peaceful to be able to stop your mind.
Yoga postures give you a systematic and ongoing process and practice to control your mind. It also allows you to refresh and empty your mind. Plus it gives you a new space for better ideas and creative approaches.
Thirty years on, my enthusiasm for yoga has not waned, at all. Quite the contrary.
Yoga, at least, is not a race! It is just a way of living, and of being.
Developing empathy and compassion
As a result of doing yoga, I also like myself more, and I like other people more. Based on my studies, this happens because of our vagus nerve. Among other things, this nerve develops more compassion.
The vagus nerve is a huge nerve that connects your gut to your mind. As you work with yoga postures, this stimulates your vagus nerve.
Among other things, I’ve come to see that my mother was too critical of others. That rubbed off on me.
I found that all the poses that work via the vagus nerve makes you less judgmental of others, less critical of myself, and more tolerant.
In turn, this again is another reason why I am happier, due to yoga.
Learning to evolve and change
Of course, I now have my very own yoga studio near me! It’s just down the road!
At the studio, those who I work with sometimes say what I see as radical things.
I mean about how to do things differently at Flametree Yoga. I mean things about to change or evolve the business, and what we do. These days, I have learned to sit with it for a while.
In the process, I now know that it’s not good to hold onto past impressions. I know I have to keep evolving.
For example, some students were shocked at how fast we got online yoga set up. But I know you won’t evolve if you hold onto habits. That helped me quickly make changes to the business, and learn the many new things that I had to master and lead.
In the process of setting up online yoga, I was able to trust what our Flametree teacher, Belinda Hoult, was able to tell me about Zoom. I added my own experience of camera, from my Fine Arts degree. One of our students, Rob Smith, added his experience as a sound engineer. It was another great journey together.
Sometimes, of course, people still get exasperated with me!
But I know that I just need more time. I know that change is good. I am willing to evolve. Yoga has given me a way of thinking that allows change to happen, even at an age when some would be thinking of moving on.
Learning to look at things differently
In fact, I myself get impatient with some who choose to only do things in just one way. At the Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune, India, in the home of the Iyengar brand, the Iyengar way of doing things is always evolving.
For the Iyengar family of teachers, there is no one way of doing things.
Instead, there is just the way things are done at the moment. It is all an exploration of yourself and your mind.
In the process, the Iyengars don’t throw out the old. It is just trying to get us, as Iyengar yoga practitioners, to look differently at things.
Again, this frame of mind is useful to learn for yoga, as well as all other aspects of your life.
What makes Iyengar yoga accessible, different, enjoyable, and exciting.
In Iyengar yoga, we work with four aspects of yoga.
In this regard, if you have not noticed already, Iyengar studios are somewhat different from yoga studios you’ll find when you go looking for yoga classes near me.
They are the technique of each pose, the length of time it is held, the extent the pose is repeated in one session or class, and the actual sequence or order in which the poses are done in any one session of yoga.
Those four aspects are our method. They are paths of both evolution and involution. Involution means the process of going inward. These are the paths we use on a daily basis, in our classes, and our home practices.
They are the methods of the Iyengar system of yoga, as it was developed by Mr BKS Iyengar, his children, and other contributors. This method is what we use to examine ourselves. We also use it to understand our mind, and to understand ourselves.
For example, if you held a forward bend for 30 seconds, then you have one experience. That experience is different from holding the pose for either 2 minutes, or for 5 minutes.
In addition, if you repeat the pose, it is different again. In the process of these different experiences, we alter your understanding of yourself.
That is what makes yoga accessible, different, enjoyable, and exciting.
How to vary the four elements of yoga practise
I’ve mentioned that in the Iyengar yoga method, we focus on four aspects.
By way of reminder, here they are in a list:
- the yoga technique
- the order or sequence of the pose
- the length of time in the pose, and
- how often you repeat the pose in any one practise session or class.
I regularly see teachers and students altering the techniques and sequences of the poses they are doing or teaching. Of course, that is exactly what you should do.
Even the same poses, in a different order, will produce very different outcomes and experiences.
In addition, I also encourage you to vary the timing or length of the pose, and how often you repeat it.
Each time you do the pose, your experience of yourself is different. You are coming to the pose from a different physical and mental place.
When you change the four elements as well, you can see how there are endless variations in what you experience. In turn, that is what keeps me intrigued, never bored, and always coming back for more.
Restorative yoga is a good example of the four aspects of Iyengar yoga
You may, as a student, be familiar with how restorative yoga has more of a focus on using an extra length of time in a pose. By increasing the timing, you get a new experience of the pose.
It’s no surprise that restorative yoga is a good example of the Iyengar method. Modern restorative yoga, as we know it today, was invented by Mr. Iyengar.
Restorative yoga is distinctive not only because how it uses the four aspects of Iyengar yoga, but also because of the extensive use of props.
The technique is also different because you are often resting your head, or other parts of you body, so you can stay in the pose longer. This also helps to quieten your whole nervous system. In the process the technique is using props in a different way.
The sequence of poses is also different. Usually, a small number of poses is used, and they may be simpler poses (at least on the face of it).
So by varying timing, sequence and technique, restorative yoga gives you a dramatically different experience.
It’s just one example of what I am talking about.
Another way that gym is different from yoga
Notice that repetition in yoga, is not like a repetition of a gym technique. In the case of gym, you are usually just trying to get stronger, or bulk up, or maybe develop more stamina.
In yoga, repeating a pose is firstly about getting a new or deeper understanding of yourself.
In the process of doing the yoga pose, you do usually get stronger, and develop more flexibility, stamina and resilience. But that is not necessarily the primary focus.
It’s also not what will give you the enjoyment and mental returns that you get from yoga. It’s these mental returns that is the biggest long-term benefit of yoga. Maybe more importantly, it’s what makes yoga enjoyable.
Now I know why I enjoy yoga
It’s the enjoyment of the pose, and the of yoga, that makes it easier for you to keep doing it.
That’s what I was trying to tell Peter all those years ago, when I started yoga. At the time, I did not know why it made me feel good. I just kept going to class because it did.
I now also know that if I repeat a pose, I get a refinement of my understanding, both of myself, and of the pose.
This is also something you can do in your own practise of yoga, whether or not you are coming to class.
But, even as a Senior Teacher, I still go to classes, and still get enormous things from doing so. There is always new things I can learn from other people. When going to classes, I almost always learn things faster, and learn things that I may never have otherwise learned.
Enjoy, or keep enjoying, your yoga journey.
If you want “Yoga Classes Near Me” then try these deals
Try beginner level yoga classes with 2 weeks free to start, and you can start immediately.
Flametree offer all of it classes both online, and in the two studios in Darwin, or both.
The next 4 week beginner yoga course, with up to 2 weeks free, is one good way to start. The course is also included in the Beginner Level classes.
The difference is that the beginner course is a four week package deal, whereas the beginner level is paid for by the week.
The beginner poses are easy, introductory poses. There are even special, optional beginner classes like Gentle Yoga, Backcare Yoga, and Easy Restorative Yoga. You can see them all in the beginner timetable.
One of the key reasons that yoga is so successful with treating pain, including back, neck and shoulder pain, is the often overlooked role of fascia tissue in your body.
Of course, if you need more than what I said in the journey I’ve talked about above, then there’s also these numerous benefits of yoga.
Other options in your yoga classes near me search
The beginner double pass even gets you 25% off for both of you.
Non-beginner yoga students, who are newcomers or lapsed at Flametree, get 14 days of unlimited non-beginner classes for $29 (online or in-studio, or both), here.
The non-beginner timetable has a large range of convenient times, suitable for many time zones.
If these deals are not exactly what suits you, check out all Flametree Yoga packages.