I recently read Claudia Winkleman's book Quite where she makes it clear she is not a fan of yoga. She's been known before to describe it as smelling of 'smug and hummus'. While this is amusing, conjuring images of teachers dressed in wheat wafting around an incense filled studio, I actually feel sad that Claudia has never experienced the true benefits of yoga.
If you've read my book or earlier blogs you'll know that firstly, I suffer with a long-term chest disease, and secondly that I've done yoga for over 20 years now and love it so much I decided to train to teach it in 2018. I've recently read and listened to the experiences of two very successful YouTube yoga teachers who have both suffered severe illnesses and for whom yoga has been a vital component of their recovery and management of long-term conditions. It made me consider my own experience and why yoga means so much to me. I rarely get through a day without practising at some point.
It's because it is so healing. Like everybody knows, life can be busy. Work is often hectic, being a working mum is more hectic still and yoga allows time devoted to the present. While yoga does improve strength, flexibility, and overall health, there are times when what you need most is just to be still. It makes you stop while the world continues to whizz by around you. One of the best things about it is being able to develop the ability to relax instantly. It teaches you to go from 60-0 in a matter of moments. When you are living with impaired health you can find yourself pushing on and on to accomplish what's needed for your job, home and family. But there comes a moment when you just have to rest. And restorative yoga is by far the most replenishing way I have found to do this. Of course this is true for everybody, not just those who have long-term conditions.
Throughout the pandemic the media has been brimming with advice on mental health, mindfulness, self-care, time out and ways to ease stress and anxiety. I truly believe the best way to accomplish all of this is through yoga. After all, people have been reaping it's benefits for centuries. I used yoga breathing techniques to teach children to manage their feelings in lockdown when I was working as a school nurse and counsellor. I noticed a remarkable difference in these kids. And I have had adult students regularly report better sleep, lower stress levels, relief from back and hip pain, improved healing from sports injuries and most importantly in my opinion, a soothed mind.
Yoga makes you notice. It allows you to notice the link between your body and mind and how calming one then calms the other. It allows rest in a culture where doing nothing usually riddles you with guilt.
My cousin lives in Nova Scotia and I remember her saying once that life there seems so much longer than when she lived in the UK. I imagine this is because a slower pace and a more restful, peaceful lifestyle is not frowned upon. Success there isn't measured by how many meetings you can squeeze in between the school run, gym and a quick pit stop to Tesco Express to pick up a fast dinner. Life in Nova Scotia, and other places I have been to, is absorbed and noticed. It's not something that passes by in a hurry because of a need to cram a day full of activities that, when we look back, won't actually matter. I have a great aunt in Australia who has said she sometimes spends a whole day reading a good book. What a wonderful way to spend precious time.
If you feel you need to soothe your mind and body from the pressures of a chaotic society and haven't already, try yoga. You may need to try a few different classes and teachers to find what suits you best (something I suspect Claudia didn't do!) and if you want to try it at home with nobody watching just drop me a message 😉