My yoga journey began in 2011 when I found a Bikram yoga studio close to my house, and decided to try a class one day after work. I remember the heat and how much that class almost killed me, but I went back. Once my introductory membership ran out I tried other studios and styles including: Vinyasa Flow, Iyengar, and generic classes in gyms.
I lived in Melbourne, at the time, where yoga classes are ten a penny, so I had more than enough options. At that time in my life, although I enjoyed every class, I wasn’t dedicated enough and my practice did end up falling by the wayside – for a time.
A decision to move back home to Ireland was both a blessing and a curse with regards to my yoga practice. Living in a rural country village, I found myself in the polar opposite of Melbourne – my nearest class was an hour drive away!
Despite it being more difficult to access yoga, a hard time that I was going through emotionally, made me want to. I drove for an hour once a week to fit in a studio class – and on days I couldn’t get to the studio – I would use YouTube or a DVD instead.
My reasons for taking up yoga at first had been superficial – I wanted to lose weight, and that was it. However, as I got further into it, I began to see it as more than just exercise. There is a calmness I get after practicing that I don’t experience anywhere else. Yoga, for me, is when I can make my mind clear and leave my thoughts and problems behind. The outside world stays outside, if only for an hour.
My love for yoga grew and it had such a positive impact on my life. I felt like these benefits were something I wanted to share with other people, so I researched becoming a teacher. I decided to do a four-week Ashtanga-Vinyasa teacher training course in a little Goan village called Agonda; having known someone who had also trained there, it came highly recommended.
I worked hard in my nursing job to save up the fees of almost three thousand euros to cover food, accommodation and classes. I handed in my notice and left for India.
There are no words that can describe the next month. As beautiful as Agonda was, a 6 am start, six days a week, along with four hours of yoga practice, two hours meditation, and a two hour theory class, left us all completely exhausted. I had a lot of bad habits – mainly from using YouTube and having no teacher to physically correct me – which took work. Despite completing the recommended reading list for the course, I knew very little. It was a moment of realisation, like when you move out into the real world and get a real job for the first time, and don’t exactly know what you’re doing.
I learned that yoga is a lifestyle and not just a bunch of exercise moves. I learned what OHM meant: a sacred sound thought to encompass the whole universe and align mind, body and spirit. I learned the ten moral guidelines: non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, non-excess, non-possessiveness, purity, contentment, self- discipline, self-study, and surrender – otherwise known as the yamas and niyamas.
I learned that I have the tightest hamstrings in the world, and as a result, do the worst Paschimottanasana (seated forward fold) ever; but I also learned that’s okay, and I’ll get there one day.
I started the course in apprehension, due to my own insecurities about my body and abilities. This was exacerbated by a local man – who was also a yoga teacher – telling me I was too fat to do yoga, never mind teach it.
However, everyone on the course was a beautiful soul and I had never been in such an accepting, loving environment. We were all unique, and that was celebrated. We were all at different stages of our individual journeys. We were taught that each one of us had a different body, and not everyone would be able to do every pose.
Emotions ran high. Sometimes, there were tears and it was by no means easy, but I will always look back on it as one of my fondest memories.
There are still some days that I’m not completely sure of myself, and don’t feel like a yoga teacher. After having learned everything I did, I don’t agree with the phrase “yoga master”; I feel very few people on this earth fit the description. There is always something new to learn, something to improve, be it physical or spiritual.
I have since moved back to Melbourne, and at the moment, only teach cover classes along with my nursing job. I also do a volunteer class for over-60s every week which brings me more joy than I can describe. I do aim to eventually cut back on nursing and teach more but I have struggled to find regular classes in Melbourne, so far. Every second or third person seems to be a yoga teacher – more people and more competition, it seems. In the meantime I keep sending out applications and letting it happen in its own time. I am still, and will always be, working on my personal practice and can now do some poses I couldn’t do during my training. I’ll practice three times during a bad week and four-five during a good one. I have recently tried a Yin Yoga course. I feel I have found something with substance, and if I don’t make it as a teacher, yoga has given me the tools to cope with whatever life may throw at me.
The story is yet to be continued and the ending is unknown, but that in itself is priceless.
Namaste (the light in me honours the light in you)