It may be cliché, I know, but yoga has changed my life.
Somebody recently asked me how and I realized that it is has been a slow and steady process, one which is vast and deep and profound. I struggled for a quick and easy description. It got me thinking... How has yoga really changed my life, or more to the point, changed me?
I used to be a wild party girl, chasing the next thrill, the next high, the next hit and the next buzz. One day I finally realized that it was insatiable. There was never enough, it always left you wanting more. More music, more hits, more highs, more booze, more spiffs, more cigarettes, more alcohol, more sex, more rock and more roll, more more more more more. IT was never enough. IT was not satisfying. IT was endless because IT was not IT.
I woke up one morning with a nosebleed and a hangover from hell. I crawled downstairs, threw up, and then looked at myself in the mirror. There must be more to life than this. There must be more to me than just this.
I turned my back on my party ways, I packed my bags and left my life. I left myself! I jumped ship.
I had found Ashtanga yoga a year before and it was the first thing I had done in ages that actually made me feel good about myself. It actually made me feel. I had been numbing myself to life for so long that I could barely feel anything anymore.
I chose life. I didn’t want to be numb anymore…
I immersed myself in the new world I had discovered. I started taking my practice seriously. I devoted time to myself to making myself feel good. I started to take care of myself.
Lesson One - if you don't look after yourself then how can u feel good? Inside and out.
I started to observe myself. What did I do, how did I do it?
I beat myself up. I put myself down. I hit myself with a derogatory stick all day every day.
Lesson Two - without observation there will be no change. First, we have to recognize our faults before we can start changing them.
I started to taking note when and why I was doing this. I burnt my stick. I made a pact with myself to start being nice to me. If I am not nice to me then how can I expect anyone else to be?
I changed my ways.
Lesson Three - by changing the way you do things in your daily life can allow a new person inside of you to grow. I stopped drinking. I stopped smoking. I stopped partying. I went to class. I did my practice. I changed my patterns. I'm not saying it was easy, not at first, but with persistence and continuity; then things will change.
Lesson Four - India beckoned. I could hear it calling me. It's funny because when you drink and smoke and alter your state of mind then you begin to lose touch with your intuition. You simply can't hear it as clearly as you can with a clear head. I had lived in a blurry bubble for over 12 years and quite frankly, everything was hazy. As I began to clear my head I began to hear that little voice inside of me. The little voice of the larger me. The more I listened to it, the more it spoke to me. Guiding me, telling me which way to go, which path to take, which decision to make, what was right, what I wanted.
Lesson Five - always listen to that little voice for it is the voice of your soul.
I went to India. Choosing life, expansion. Choosing to follow my path.
I learnt how to be on my own agenda. I realized that I had always done everything for everyone else and hardly ever did what I wanted to do for me.
Lesson Six. Live life for you! Put yourself first.
I learnt how to enjoy my own company, how to be ok with myself. Yoga teaches you to begin to be ok with where u are. Make peace with wherever you are and be content with that. Don't strive after achievements that you have not yet fulfilled or feel frustrated by things that have not yet materialized.
Lesson Seven. Make peace with exactly where you are today. Not where you were yesterday or where you want to be tomorrow, but where and who you are today.
My practice and experience of India was arduous. It was a hard graft. I had upped my practice from 2-3 times a week to 6 and my practice itself was almost twice as long and the level of demanding-ness had quadrupled. I learnt that once again perseverance leads to achievement.
Lesson Eight - Without commitment, you don't get very far.
I kept going. When things got tough, when I felt like I was never going to get to where I wanted to go, I kept going. I was enjoying the journey and knowing that the journey was the destination I stopped looking forward and began looking at now. Living in the moment. Living each day as it came.
Lets pause there for a moment... living in the now is a hard practice. It takes years of trying to even get close. But you have to start somewhere, you have to be happy where you are and you have to preservere. I realized how much I cling to the past and how much I try to mentally paint a picture of the future. Again, it is extremely hard to let go of these things but you have to just keep on trying. Keep acknowledging what you are doing and keep recognizing that you are doing them.
Lesson Nine: To live in the now is really hard! Only severe determination and constant effort will get you there.
Lesson Ten - you are enough. Don't listen to other people's opinions of what you are capable of. If you want to do something. Just do it. Don't ask others people's advice. Listen to that voice inside of you. Don't listen to your fears of inadequacy. Don't let other people stop you from pursuing your dreams.
A 'friend' told me that I was not ready for my teacher training, he had not been with me in India. He had not seen what I had out into my practice. He had no right to tell me what he thought I was capable of. I ignored his advice and I did it anyway. I was good enough. I started to believe in myself.
Lesson Eleven - don't give up!
On returning from my travels things went downhill. My world fell apart. My vision of how life was going to be was so very far from how it actually was. I was lonely. I was in a new place. My creature comforts were stripped away. I fell. I got very close to giving up, for the first time in my life I danced with death. I fought depression. I struggled through. I took on all my weaknesses. I cleared out all my dirty corners. I did a big spring clean of me.
When things got really bad I asked for help:
Lesson Twelve: always ask for help when you need it). I'm not very good at asking for help. I don't like to be a burden. Ironically I help other people endlessly, yet, I can not ask for the anything in return.
I asked for help. I got out of my hole. I reconnected.
Lesson Thirteen: Everything you need is within you. Don't ever forget that.
Lesson Fourteen - dream big.
Life is about following our dreams. About making them happen. Nothing is outside of our grasp. You really can do anything if you set your mind to it. Follow the things that excite you. Make decisions based on what feels right. If you can't find an answer then you are probably just messing with the wrong question! I was stuck between two options that I could not decide between until I realized that neither of them were what I wanted to do. I did a workshop with Nancy Gilgoff and she said to me "come to Maui." As she said it, something inside of me lit up. I could go to Maui. I could go and spend a few months practicing second series with Nancy Gilgoff! I could do that. Suddenly I got hit with the "I can't afford it / what about my job / what would I do when I got back" thoughts. I decided to bin those and live in the moment. Right now it was the only thing that really excited me. It got my chi flowing. It made me sparkle. It made me feel alive! I was going to make it happen. I was going to live the dream.
Lesson Fifteen - choose life. Every day you will be more. Every moment you are getting closer to your dreams. Every second you are changing and growing. Every day you can be a new you. Every thought can be the birth of a new dream.
Who knows where you will be in six months, six weeks, six days or even six minutes from now.
So that is how yoga has changed my life. It has taught me so very much about myself, about how I live and how I can live. Yoga is not about the physical stuff. It is a tool to help you begin to see yourself. Imagine you have a mirror to see yourself in, well-practicing yoga helps you to clean that mirror… For the purpose of seeing yourself more clearly.
When you can see yourself, you can change yourself.
This is how yoga helped me to transform.