A question I have asked myself, and one many people have asked me. In all honesty, there isn't one clearly defined response, and everyone's answer will be different. Rather than luring you in with promises of developing an ability to wrap your legs around your head or touch your toes, I'll share my experience of 'why yoga' with you.
I stumbled upon yoga while living in Australia. Walking back from the beach one morning (yes I was one of those people, living the dream in an apartment on a gorgeous Sydney beach), I noticed people coming out of a studio. I'd never entertained the thought of yoga before - I was a runner and liked activity that actually got my heart rate going. Yoga was just stretching as far as I was aware - yet these people looked like they'd had a pretty good work out. So I signed up for a class in the hope it would give me killer abs.
My first yoga date was an interesting one to say the least. I literally had no idea what a downward dog was, and clumsily battled my way through the session, acutely aware of how many poses I was getting wrong. After leaving the class, I decided I was going to give it another shot - I wanted to be able to do what the other people could do! So back I went a few days later, and low and behold, I remembered what downward dog was. This went on for a few weeks, and each time I would remember the name of another pose and started to get the hang of things. After a couple of months I signed up to a full on membership, and even went wild and placed my mat at the front of a class one morning.
Before I go on, I'll set the scene a bit. I'm not one for dwelling on sadness, or pulling on emotional heart strings, but in order to get to the bottom of the whole 'why yoga' thing, I'll need to share a bit more. Moving to Sydney was more of a running away thing. I'd lost my mum a year before, and in honesty couldn't really deal with it. I'd spent that year doing everything I could to keep going, stay positive and respond in a 'healthy' way to what had happened. As far as myself and those around me were concerned, I was moving on and making progress, and on paper my life looked great - living in Australia with a prosperous new job and a world of adventure in front of me.
It was there on the amazing Sydney beach, away from my close friends and family, that I became aware of the fact I was definitely not moving on, and that I still had a lot of grief safely tucked away inside me, every so often rearing its head in the wonderful forms of anger, frustration and bitterness. I'd run along the beach front, watching the sun rise over the ocean, and break down in a rage of tears, so sad but without the words to explain why.
So there I was in my newly discovered hobby of yoga, coming to terms with grief, and trying to work out how to manage the emotion that seemed to be unravelling around me. At the end of one practice, we moved into half pigeon (those familiar with the pose know how much discomfort can arise here!) and the teacher asked us to simply stay and experience the feelings that arose. I felt SO mad! So angry and frustrated, so totally mad that all I wanted to do was punch the ground. But I stayed put. On reflection I can see how this was a pivotal moment for me - I actually became aware of how I was really feeling.
Time on my mat became the opportunity to actually face my inner thoughts - I became aware of how much grief I still had, and without even truly realising it, I began to work through my emotions and their effect on me. Externally I was just another yoga student, moving through the poses (be it gracefully or otherwise), but inside I was totally immersing myself in the experience, moving with breath and becoming more and more aware of how I was truly feeling. There were many, many episodes of bubbling rage, tears of intense sadness, moments of despair - but I stuck with it. And as time went on and my practice developed, a window of sunshine crept its way in. I would laugh as I fell out of dancers pose, bemused at the hamstrings that simply wouldn't stretch. The rage slowly dispersed and was replaced with a sense of gratitude for my body, for my mind, for myself.
Off of the mat, the results were visible. Others commented on the changes; the patience I had developed, the sense of calm and peace, the honest acceptance of what life threw at me. I no longer tried to conceal my feelings of grief, but opened myself up to them and embraced them, grateful to be able to acknowledge how I was truly feeling.
Returning to London after two years in Sydney was a daunting time. How would I feel returning to the memories I had left, facing my loss head on? But it was ok! I had learnt to look at life through a different lens, accepting that bad things happen, and it's ok to be sad sometimes. And every day I return to my mat, dedicating time to myself, touching base with what is going on inside, and working, constantly, at looking after myself.
So... Why yoga? For me, the answer lies in what it did, and is doing, to change my life. Yes, I came to yoga for killer abs and to tone up, but it gives me much more. And really, if I can open a door to someone, to help them develop and grow in whatever way they wish to, to share the power of yoga in my own little way, then that for me, is the answer.
I'm a qualified vinyasa flow, pregnancy and post natal yoga teacher, registered with Yoga Alliance UK. I completed all of my training with Yoga London, and teach in various studios and companies across Central and North London.
I work part time as a planning director for a London based media agency (so it's safe to say I appreciate the stress of the corporate world - trust me, yoga helps!)