I still vividly recall where my yoga journey began, it was at a gym called Bodystyle around 7 years ago in the town where I grew up (Melton). It was a Les Mills Body Balance class that infused yoga, pilates and tai chi. The soundtrack for this experience was "Make things right" by Lemon Jelly, when I hear that song I'm instantly taken back to those very first classes.
The power of yoga was apparent to me even in those very early beginnings. The union of movement and breath along with the deep relaxation at the end of class began to teach me how to switch off my over active mind and connect to my inner self. I'm sure in those early days this is what kept me going to classes, I needed that outlet and release.
Over the last 7 years my relationship with yoga has regularly morphed and changed, there were times when I used it as a tool to get out of my head and into my emotional body and there were times when it served purely as a great stretching session, strength workout or even a sweat fest to assist with other athletic pursuits. One thing that I only came to realise in the last year is that yoga is where I regularly turn when life starts to get overwhelming.
To many the practice of yoga is viewed only as the physical practice of the postures (asana), this certainly was my view up until a year or so ago. Patanjali (the godfather of yoga) outlines 8 different components that comprise yoga, these include:
I began to really discover the other aspects of the 8 fold yoga path on a trip to Bali in April (2013). I'd had a taste of it during my earlier trip to Bali in October (2012) and I was seeking more. From that first trip I'd began to practice more regularly and it started to become a stand alone practice rather than just a tool to assist with something else. Although like most things, when life got crazy busy maintaining this regular practice was challenged, slowly the consistency dropped away. When I again found myself exhausted from working far too hard it was no surprise that another trip to Bali and a month of yoga is where I turned to help make sense of it all.
I found a great little studio called Radiantly Alive in Ubud where the teachers infused their classes with the other aspects of yoga, particularly philosophy and pranayama (breath control), the teachers were all very unique in their style and often extremely inspirational, this drew me in ever further. I would spend anywhere between 1.5 and 4.5hrs taking classes at the studio each day. I also took some classes on meditation and began to incorporate these practices into my yoga repertoire.
During that trip I also picked up a book called "The Heart of Yoga" by TKV Desikachar, this was my first formal introduction to the 8 step yoga path, I fell in love with the book and found myself again seeking more, the next step was the Yoga Sutras. Here I found this great philosophical approach to conducting life in a manner that is mindful and of service both to ourselves and our surrounding environment. I'd reached a time in my life where I was seeking change and here a new approach began to unfold in front of my eyes.
The clarity around what this change would entail came the morning after a workshop on Transformational Breathing (a practice of rapid belly breath through the mouth which goes deep into the nervous system). I've done this workshop twice now and each time the days that follow have been filled with clarity and what seems like direct access to my deeply seated intuition which often seems to be hiding from my consciousness. Within 24 hours of that first workshop I'd written myself a step by step logical process to instigate the change I wanted to see in my life.
Now eight months later I've fully executed all I'd planned to do. This included completion of a Group Fitness Certification in Australia and Yoga Teacher Training in Bali, these would give me the tools to start working with my passions again.
The yoga teacher training has only further enhanced my passion for yoga, I now find myself on a plane to India - the place where it all began. For the next few months I will dive even deeper into my own personal practice and will seek to learn as much as I can so that I can develop my own unique style/offering and share my learnings with future students.
The path of yoga is not a destination, its a journey and it's one that I'm so excited to be taking.
Mandy Habener (Dumas)