I was just reading a post written by a most inspiring woman, Nicole Goodwin: http://www.bodymindlife.com/Story/FinalweekatSurryHillsFoveauxStreet. My life has been full of inspiring women, and I’m glad that doors keep opening bringing more and more of these women into my life. Nicole’s post spoke of how she started her yoga studio 10 years ago. Although I have not started a yoga studio, and probably never will, it made me think of where I was two years ago when I first walked into this space.
The last six years for me, has been a period of great transition where I went from being engaged, to single, to rebound, to another country, back to university to do my Masters’, to working in the backpacker industry, in a relationship, out of a relationship, losing a job, getting a new job, back into the relationship, getting another job and out of the relationship yet again. Somewhere in between, I went from being on meds for a stomach ulcer and not being able to drink alcohol, to being a heavy drinker and eating fast food four times a week, to barely drinking or eating fast food at all. The constant, since I was 18 has been the cigarettes, and as of four days ago, I haven’t had one of those either.
Yoga came into my life when I was between jobs, between relationships, suffering from a bad back and drinking enough so that I wouldn’t think of the state I was in, which in all honesty, was a complete mess. What was I looking for? Something to ease the absolutely awful pain in my lower back to be honest. What did I find? So much more.
My life before yoga was absolute chaos. In the years between Malaysia and discovering yoga, I don’t think I knew how to sit still. I thought I was busy living. The truth was, I was just busy avoiding silence, because in silence, I had to face the harshest judge of all. I had to face me. You think you’re comfortable with your own company when you live alone, but in truth, you don’t know your own company because you have the television blasting, or music playing, or something going on all the time. It’s like going for a massage wearing a thick jumper, so the masseur can’t really get to the deep tissues that hurt. But we all know it’s only when you get to the places that hurt that you can knead into them to work out the knots.
Being in the silence of the yoga studio, meditation and shavasana is a bit like getting a massage for the parts other than the physical body. It’s then that you go under layers and layers of things that have been repressed and there you are, facing the deepest core of you. For the first year of my yoga practice, I was afraid to go there. When in meditation or silence, my brain would just run all over the place, thinking about dinner, breakfast, cleaning the house, shoes – it was like it was grabbing on to things because it knew it was sinking. In the end, I think I was tricked into it. Yoga instructors are wily like that. One minute you think you’re concentrating on your breathing, and the next thing you know you’re just in tears.
It’s been just over two years now, and although the basic me is still me (nothing can help Geek-itis or a lame sense of humour) a lot of me has also changed. My body which has always been quite flexible has grown stronger, and my back is much better. Without thinking about it, my body has just naturally developed a healthy relationship with food.
The biggest change however, is not physical – it’s finding silence and learning to love silence, because that is where everything happens. In silence is where you start questioning yourself, and although in the beginning, you ask the wrong questions, in time you learn to ask the right ones and more importantly, you learn that answers come when you stop asking questions. In the beginning the silence is like staring into vast emptiness, but in time, you learn that it is in fact space.
What is silence like? It’s like standing in front of a mirror completely naked. At first you look for five seconds before you turn away. Then you get curious and you look a little longer. Then you start evaluating, and there they are, all your flaws – the effects of the junk you’ve put into your system are there, the scars are there. The cellulite and love handles you can work on and you do, but the other things, the scars, the bad hip, the dodgy feet you just learn to love as being part of you.
Human nature will make us focus on all the things we need to fix, but also there are the beautiful bits. Your strength as you stand straight, your beautiful smile, the light in your spirit… All of it is there in the mirror, the good and the things that need work. Nothing is completely bad, it only needs some work. After a while, you drop all judgement, and you’re just looking because it’s just you. It is when that happens that your world changes. As they say in difficult poses, “accept yourself where you are now, and from here, you can grow.” It all starts by embracing silence, shedding your covers and pretences, and just standing naked in front of the mirror. Don’t be afraid – it’s only you.