Falling In Love With Yoga
Caroline Bradley, an expat from the UK and now a resident in Manly in the northern beaches in NSW, began her love affair with yoga 7 years ago. Yoga has helped her learn to sit in discomfort and to take what she learns in the studio and apply it to daily life.
In my late teens and early twenties, I spent years doing high intensity workouts, from boot camps, and boxing, to 2 spin classes a day. I couldn’t seem to get enough of the adrenaline rush and the feeling at the end of pushing my body to the absolute limit. I would walk out of the classes feeling elated and full of energy only to crash 30 minutes later.
After a while I realised that my mind was a pretty active one. It was racing all day, often with pretty anxious thoughts. I was in a high pressure job, which my visa was reliant on, and this constantly kept me on edge. The exercise I was doing was great, it made me healthier, but it became a chore, I was doing it to stay active and keep my weight down, but it wasn’t giving me the benefits in my mind that I needed.
Those 60 minutes of exercise only pushed the stress aside. I would have a brief hour of calm while my brain was focusing on climbing the hill on the spin bike, and then boom, back to the start.
Then I went through a breakup. The thoughts that were running through my mind on a daily basis were intensified, only they were new, heart wrenching thoughts, that I needed so badly to put on pause. 2 weeks into the breakup a close friend, Kat (@roaringfit) asked if I wanted to do a yoga class with her. I agreed, thinking it was 75 minutes sitting cross legged on the floor meditating... It was not.
It was 75 minutes of complete focus on the one thing I was doing at the time, which as it turns out, was moving my body in positions it had never been in before, in 35 degree heat while listening to the teachings of the instructor in what seemed like another language (some of it was...) at the front of the class.
It was the first 75 minutes, of what felt like, the first time in my life that I wasn’t thinking about anything else, other than what I was doing at that moment in time.
It was exactly what I needed, and so was the sense of calm that followed.
7 years on, ALOT of classes later, and I find myself falling in love with the practice more and more every day.
In the last 18 months, I have gone through another huge life change, and definitely used yoga as a tool to help. I went from practicing yoga whenever I was able to fit it in around work and my social life, to making sure I prioritised it in my day. I began to realise that if I did not practice, I just wasn’t as productive, at work, in friendships, in relationships and with myself.
A moment in my journey that stood out for me was with an old manager, she told me how much she respects my dedication to a work life balance, and the fact that I put my practice first. She said that whatever I was doing, I should carry on, as it is working.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, there are days where I have bloody hated it, I have had to drag myself to the studio. And other times where I am so pissed off with the teacher making me do the work that I have to bite my tongue so I don’t shout “f*ck off” to them mid class.
But ultimately, when I look back, especially over the last 18 months, it has taught me so much.
I have learnt strength, through the challenges I face on the mat and take into daily life. I have learnt to lose whatever ego I had, I will continue to fall over and wobble, but that is OK, those face plants are what make us stronger, and we should laugh at them.
I have also learnt that ultimately, none of it really matters, to lose all expectations of what should or may be.
One day you will practice and will fall over while standing on 2 feet, the next day your body will allow you to do a handstand (well almost).
But ultimately, Yoga has taught me to be OK with not knowing, to be able to sit in the pain when I feel it, and celebrate the happiness, but then at the same time, be OK with letting go of those feelings, as they are all completely temporary.
I have learnt to feel the feelings, but lose attachment to them. As it is this attachment that causes the stress and the pain.
Every day I try to take what I am learning in the yoga studio into my daily life. I try to practice mindfulness, to catch my feelings before they become my thoughts, and to let go of all judgement for me and for others.
All of this and you get a bloody good work out too...
I am continuing to learn so much about myself from my practice, and am beyond grateful to have found it.
That’s my yoga journey, (so far)....