This picture is not me - I wish it was! It's a photo of one of my treasured yoga teachers and a great friend, Andrea Everingham of One Yoga Studio in Chorlton. Andrea kicks asana!
Two years ago around this time I was a burnt out, adrenaline depleted, totally exhausted woman on the brink of meltdown. I'm not sure I even knew that at the time, and although I knew I was exhausted, I'd become so used to functioning at that level that it seemed normal to me, so therefore impossible to regulate. How can you regulate what you don't recognise?
My business was failing and I didn't want to admit it (because I loved it deeply), my body was becoming tired and felt old and clunky, my emotions were at rock bottom in several areas of my life, and yet I lived as if I was a multi-tasking Superwoman on permanent stand-by to leap into action at any given moment.
A lovely woman had just started working with me. Lorna was a kitchen Goddess with flavour balancing skills like no-one I've ever met before or since. I still say to this day that had we met earlier that business would probably still be there, but that wasn't to become my story, so let's get back to the one that is.
Lorna was also a practising yogi and teacher, a raw foodie, an amazing chef, and a peaceful wave of calm in my otherwise stormy life. Lorna walks, talks and moves with grace; she is regal to the point of being nicknamed by those who know and love her "Queen Lorna", and I love the bones of her. She has now become a really great friend whom I appreciate deeply.
One Friday, after a particularly arduous shift, Lorna's husband Fred come to pick her up; they were going to their regular Friday vinyasa flow yoga class.
Lorna "Why don't you come Steph? It will do you good"
Me: "I'm too exhausted, I couldn't possibly!"
Lorna: "Come! It will energise you, I promise!"
If I'm honest, at this point, I was actually too worn out to resist and so I went with them, fully expecting to fall asleep on the mat, and yet what happened in that class was to change the course of my life.
My first class - it shocked me! I was shocked at how weak my core strength was. I had stamina in bucket loads from racing around so much, but my core was weak, so much so I couldn't even step forward in most of the asanas (postures) without having to physically lift my own leg to the front of the mat (I'm not exaggerating!). My back was locked, my shoulders tighter than the lips of a tightly sealed clam, my belly had no tone, my arms quivered under my own body weight, and to be honest, I felt totally surprised by my weak body and my inflexibility.
I somehow made it through that class and Lorna was right, at the end I did feel energised in a new way. I couldn't explain why but I knew I had to keep coming and there began my yoga journey. I started to come to class once a week, then twice, then took out a membership at the studio when my class attendance went up to 3 classes per week on average. That teacher of my first class, Dana, remains one of my favourite yoga teachers; her direct style, her honesty, her skill and her kindness and support have allowed me to grow under her teachings too.
Fast forward six months - still struggling with many aspects of the asanas, I booked a one to one private session with Andrea, the best move I could have made at that time. Andrea's knowledge and sensitivity extend way beyond the surface of what many people think yoga is. She knows about nutrition, ayurveda, the breath, the chakras and meridians, all 8 limbs of yoga of course, but above all, Andrea knows about life. A true Mancunian in her roots, this woman has a heart as big as the Universe.
By now I'd now sold my business and in doing so, all of the backlog of over exertion, over performing and high achieving had fully caught up with me. I would often find myself laid up for days with fever, lethargy, and a complete inability to move off the sofa. Andrea in her one to one recognised this, and seeing that my body was limited by what was now full-on adrenal fatigue, tailored her suggestions to grow my personal practice in line with exactly where I was at. She gave me food recommendations, lifestyle suggestions and adapted postures to get the most from my yoga according to what I could manage at the time. She also knows how to push you beyond your comfort zones, and often did!
I have cried in classes when a posture has cracked something wide open in me. I have cried when Andrea has pushed me to go beyond something I'm holding on to. I have wanted to yell at her, I have inwardly resented her whilst attempting a crow pose that became a face plant on my mat, seething silently locked in an "I can't do this! I'll never be able to do this!" ego trip! But slowly, after 2 years, I've come to love my mat, to respect Andrea's insight, and to look forward to my practice because it teaches me where I'm at in relation to my body like nothing else can. It shows me where my ego still lurks, it shows me what incredible progress I'm making. It teaches me how to become comfortable with stillness, and before yoga, that was totally 100% not something I knew at all.
I now practice 4 times a week on average, sometimes five, and this devotion is to myself, to my own inner peace, to my own evolution into becoming a better, more self aware, stronger, more self contained woman. It's not an obsessive gym bunny style practice, it's a personal growth practice. It opens my body, my heart and my soul and it constantly surprises me. It also humbles me.
My body has changed and continues to do so. I look at my body now like a constellation of stars and planets orbiting each other and wonder what more will reveal itself to me through my practice because I can do things I never imagined possible 2 years ago, and so I know the same must apply to the things I still think I can't do, except I don't think that now, I just think "you just need more practice Steph", and what a fantastic metaphor for life that is!
The yoga community where I practice is strong, and so they have also become my 'family' of support and love. I've made great friends there and continue to do so. I cannot ever imagine my life without it.
If you're struggling, I highly recommend it. Go try for yourself. Me, I will continue to "kick some asana" and give thanks to this ancient practice.
Yoga is way more than about postures (asanas) and so much more about living with ahimsa (non violence) to all things and in all ways. I'm grateful it found me in time. I'm grateful for my teachers - you grow me. I am better in your reflections.
To discover more about One Yoga, about Andrea, Lorna, Dana and the many other amazing teachers at this studio, please go to their website and have a scroll. You never know, you may regret missing that one class you think you're too tired to manage https://www.oneyogastudio.co.uk -
*This is not a promotional blog. It's genuinely come from a place of deep gratitude in my heart for the people, teachers and events available at this wonderful place and the part they have played in radically improving my life.
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