Towards the end of 2014, I finally decided to stop procrastinating and get myself to a yoga class. The reason I had been avoiding taking up yoga for so long is that I had mistakenly assumed that I would find it too slow paced and gentle, especially as my usual exercise routine consists of rigorous workouts of the ‘no gain without pain’ variety. I have since discovered how wrong I was to dismiss this ancient form of exercise as some kind of gentle stretching routine for those who don’t like breaking into a sweat! I have also found that my rather presumptuous assumption that all yoga devotees are uptight vegans whose preferred beverage is a carrot and beetroot smoothie is not entirely accurate! Furthermore, I soon discovered that there are many forms of yoga and that some of them can be very challenging, both mentally and physically. In fact, trying to hold some of the more strenuous postures in Ashtanga yoga for any length of time, whilst simultaneously remembering to breathe correctly, is a lesson in concentration and endurance unlike any other!
I am not sure why I felt such resistance to learning yoga because in many ways it is the perfect form of exercise for someone with a passion for dance; in fact, the graceful flowing movements are very similar to the ballet poses I spent hours practising and perfecting as a young girl. But the greatest benefit I have gained from my yoga practise - in addition to greater strength, flexibility and balance - is an improved sense of well-being and calm. The end result is that I sleep better, my concentration has improved and I am generally less anxious. In fact, following a good yoga workout I often feel as though I have been cleansed from within. I have also learnt to breathe properly so that whenever my mind starts racing and spiraling out of control, I have the skills to calm myself down just by focusing on my breathing.
The meaning of the word ‘yoga’ is union – signifying the union of body and mind. And in a year that has been marred by one loss after another, I am deeply grateful to have learnt the skills to quieten my raging mind and aching heart – bringing some much-needed balance to my tempestuous life.