It was my first trip to India, on a Yoga Teacher Training, that I learned one of my most important lessons about being “body kind”.
I guess like many, when it came to exercise and movement, I always thought it was about just putting in as much effort as I could, and that I should be able to achieve anything.
In my head, I’d come back from India with a repertoire of fancy poses, including many variations of the headstand, that I’d be able to show off to the world.
Yet the first words to come out of our teachers mouth was these words of advice:
- Respect The Teacher
- Lose The Ego
As a teacher/ trainer already, the first one was easy. I know how it feels to be them . The latter was more difficult as there was ego there that I wasn’t aware of, but it didn’t take long for me receive the lesson I needed.
Firstly, I wasn’t as fit as I thought I was, not for this anyway. Less than a week in, as my arms were failing in my 1000th chataranga, I was feeling like telling the teacher to stick his vinyasa right up his root chakra.
I also realised that, with my old back injury, and subsequent vulnerability, headstands were not going to be my best friend.
I’ve since concluded that we all have a “not-for-me” box, and alongside running, cycling and Go Ape, headstands were getting thrown into that box.
I had to learn to accept my body as it was, with its limitations, and let go of the glory poses I had envisioned myself doing.
It was a fantastic lesson.
Instead I learned to make the most of what I had, which was still a lot. My limbs were still moving, I’d never had surgery, and I was still able to achieve more than I ever could have dreamed off.
When it came to the headstand section, I took to the ropes on the edge of the yoga shala, and I learned to invert without compressing my spine using props.
This was my first introduction to aerial yoga which has turned out to be one of the most beneficial modalities for healing my back I could have imagined. I do it regularly now, I teach it to others, and I train others in it.
In learning to accept “this is where I am, this is what I’ve got, and that’s ok”, I was actually guided to something even better.bi also learned the meaning of “grace”.
On Monday I found a place near the beach for my own practise. I’d woken with an achy back and I knew I needed to give it some love. I set up my straps, connected my swing and I went to play.
My transition from what I wanted for my own ego needs to what was right for my body was the start of a beautiful journey.
I now teach people in class to cultivate an attitude of self-compassion, ahimsa (non-harm) and also honouring the body above all else.
When you listen to the body it will tell you everything you need to know.
The first step is accepting where you are today, working with what you’ve got, choosing function over aesthetics, and respecting the body.
I have decided that as a teacher, no matter how good it may be for my social media accounts, I will not be the teacher posting glory poses on Instagram. That’s in the “not-for-me” box.
For me, it’s about healing, acceptance and love.
I love my body for what it allows me to do. I accept it for how it is. This healing approach has helped both body and mind, for they are both inextricably linked.