And Now the Journey of Yoga Begins: A Response to Natural Medicine's Community Challenge

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My whole life, it seems, I've been practicing yoga. Of course it hasn't been my whole life, but it's been part of it for so long I cannot imagine what it would be like without it. Thus, in response to the Natural Medicine Community Challenge, I thought I'd write about my yoga journey, although herbalism and healthy eating has always been part of that life, and surfing too. But at the centre of all of it is yoga.


How did your journey in this path/with this practice began?

Atha Yoganusasanam - And Now the Journey of Yoga Begins (Patanjali's Yoga Sutras)

When I was 14, Mum took my sister and I to a Iyengar yoga class at the health centre in Torquay, which was run by a woman called Ros Buttonshaw. Back then, studio yoga wasn't really a thing outside India, certainly not in a sleepy town of some 3000 people on the coast about an hour and a half outside Melbourne. I think we giggled right through it, with Ros glaring at us. We went for a couple of weeks, and tried to talk Dad into coming. 'Nah,' he said. 'That's just for woman'. I shit you not. Dad, who ended up doing more yoga than any of us for years, thought it was just for girls. But after his first class, he was hooked.

As a teenager, the only way I could describe how I felt after yoga was graceful. My body, riddled with confusing hormones and teen insecurity, felt lighter and more beautiful. I'm not sure I could put into words what I felt back then, but I knew, lying in savasana in the dark with winter rain falling on the tin roof of the health centre, utterly at peace, I understand the witness - the seer, the observing self, beyond the physical and mental self. I understood, in these small, small moments of joy, that there was something else other than earthly attachment, something quite like a soul - and that it was possible to find moments of ananda - bliss - when one wasn't involved so much in the thinking mind or physical desire. Anyone who's practiced meditation might have felt these moments. Sometimes we're far too busy with the working mind to get back to this true self - it's a lifelong practice. But once you've felt that, you can never quite see life the same way again.

“It is through the alignment of the body that I discovered the alignment of my mind, self, and intelligence.” B.K.S. Iyengar

Although I've tried many yoga styles since, and the yoga I practice now is a little more intuitive than the rigid, alignment based yoga that the Iyengar school taught, I'm infinitely grateful for the lessons I learnt in those years.

Though my introduction to yoga started many years ago, I still feel that the journey is beginning. One of my yoga teachers always used to say 'when one door opens, you find another twelve doors' - such is the wealth of knowledge of yoga out there.

It's a beautiful study - yogic knowledge can be pure poetry. It populates the body with dragons and frogs, horses and cows, mountains and trees. Think vrkasana - tree pose - or Hanuman's splits as he leaps with faith towards Ram heart split open. I loved the poetry of it - the sanskrit, the stories, the Hindu gods and goddesses, the mantra and sound of nada yoga, the bhakti devotional yoga, the ancient yogic texts. And the story of yoga in the life of humanity is always evolving. Chinese medicine, qi gong and tai chi and other martial arts also lend much to yoga as a somatic art, and modern science and anatomical knowledge also brings much to the practice. I've had wonderful teachers who had started off doing physio or osteopathy, having an intricate knowledge of the body, and then discovered yoga and married the two. One of the huge lessons I learnt is how our anatomy is all so different - one person might be able to do a headstand and the other can't because of the length between shoulder and elbow is shorter and the head kinda crunches up - hello neck pain. Our bones are all unique and different - asana is not the pursuit of a perfect pose as you might see in a magazine.

Eventually, I did a teacher training myself and have about 400 hours under my belt. I decided not to teach as it's a bit of a competitive world out there and it's not well paid - and ultimately, it wasn't the real reason I studied yoga. I studied it because I was absolutely in love with it, and felt that it was going to carry me right through to my last breath.


How have you adapted this practice to your life?

Whilst there has been many times over the years where my yoga practice wasn't as consistant as it could have been, the meditation aspect of the yoga path has always been there, even if it was simply focussing on the breath as I took one foot in front of the other in the most difficult parts of my life.

Now, it is part of my routine - I am lucky enough to have a spare room I use as my yoga space, where I meditate daily and practice asana (the physical shapes) depending on what I need.

Yoga for me is about moving away from the head and into the heart, dropping into the feeling, intuitive wisdom of the heart centre over all that head stuff that has a tendency to create anxiety and worry. Whether it's the more floor based yin practice, a more energetic flow or just meditation, I use yoga to create space in my life for the things that fill it back up.

Yoga often challenges me to work through things on the mat so I don't have to deal with them off the mat, or at least I can try to deal with them more consciously. It gives me a chance to process what needs to be processed, leaving me refreshed and nourished to start again with what needs to be done.

It's really about finding a comfortable centre within oneself. Donna Farhi expresses this well:

“The word asana is usually translated as “pose” or “posture,” but its more literal meaning is “comfortable seat.” Through their observations of nature, the yogis discovered a vast repertoire of energetic expressions, each of which had not only a strong physical effect on the body but also a concomitant psychological effect. Each movement demands that we hone some aspect of our consciousness and use ourselves in a new way. The vast diversity of asanas is no accident, for through exploring both familiar and unfamiliar postures we are also expanding our consciousness, so that regardless of the situation or form we find ourselves in, we can remain “comfortably seated” in our center.”
― Donna Farhi, Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit: A Return to Wholeness

So it really doesn't matter what type of yoga you do - it's more about moving in a way that connects ourselves to our bodies and expanding our consciousness in that way. And sometimes it's really hard - real life can complete overcome you and it is really difficult to sit and breathe. Movement helps you slow down so you can get into the meditative space where it can all wash through you and you can return to the centre again.

“Impurities in the heart cause mental agitation – anxiety, lack of direction, anger. This agitation, in turn, affects the body, sometimes making it impossible to sit still even for a few minutes.” - Krishnamarchya

What do you think has been your most important learning during your process?

Yoga has taught me, and continues to teach me, many lessons. Two, I guess, are that everything passes, and love is who we are in truth. One you've experienced that on a cellular level there is no unknowing this, only a clouding over of this truth when we allow ourselves to get distracted by the illusions of real life - youth, beauty, competitiveness, financial security, reputation and so on. It helped me let go a little of the external - those things that we judge ourselves on and are hard on ourselves about. It helped me cultivate a bit more self love - and because of this, I'm able to be better in my relationships too. It's a practice that enables us to see that we already have everything we need inside our own unique beings.

It's always an ongoing process - we are but beings having a human experience, and sometimes we get things wrong (often) - the practice is coming back again and again and again.

“One must be compassionate to one’s self before external compassion.” Dalai Lama

Impermanence is a huge lesson in asana practice as much as is it in the meditative aspect of yoga. The pain of a pose passes, the energy shifts, the ability of the body to do a pose from day to day or year to year changes. By observing changes in the body we become more adept in understanding how other things might shift and change too - particular states of energy, political climates, friendships, illnesses. The great Persian fable that moralises 'this too will pass' echoes as a mantra through a yogic life.

Share some thoughts on how this path/practice could be beneficial for the community

Without a doubt, compassion. Yogic texts teach us that when we're connected to our source, our true nature is generosity, honesty, peacefulness, empathy. If we can find this within ourselves, we can extend it toward others.

Yoga teaches us to be more mindful and conscious in all aspects of our lives, and less reactionary. It's an excellent tool to manage conflict resolution and to encourage kindness and right action based on a system of morality that is driven from the heart, rather than an external punishing God or state. .

Have only love in your heart for others. The more you see the good in them, the more you will establish good in yourself. – Paramahansa Yogananda

It's very much the cultivation of love - and without love, what are we, as communities?

What would be your main recommendations for someone starting on this path/practice?

Find a teacher that you gel with. It's no good going to a sexy hot yoga studio, hating it and making up your mind yoga is not for you, or conversely, going to a yin class and finding it totally boring. Find a teacher that's passionate and experienced, and be consistent about your practice.

True yoga is not about the shape of your body, but the shape of your life. Yoga is not to be performed; yoga is to be lived. Yoga doesn’t care about what you have been; yoga cares about the person you are becoming. Yoga is designed for a vast and profound purpose, and for it to be truly called yoga, its essence must be embodied.
– Aadil Palkhivala

Never believe you are too inflexible to start yoga - that's like saying you are too dirty to have a shower. Besides, yoga is more about flexibility of the mind - flexibility of the body is just a happy bonus. If you're breathing, you are doing yoga - that's it. You don't need to do a headstand and you don't even need to touch your toes. You don't have to look like a supermodel and anyone of any age or any size is a yogi - no one has a 'body for yoga' - if you have a body, you can do yoga.

And sometimes, yoga is really confronting and uncomfortable and painful - and that's okay too. That's part of the journey. If we suffer in the yoga room, we suffer better in real life, because we've practice how to meet things when they arise.

Natural Medicine is encouraging people to write about their wellness journeys, whatever they might look like. You can find the challenge here.

With Love,

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Quite a lengthy one here. I didn't know you studied yoga and I basically use to think that yoga is just about the meditation alone until I started reading and watching yoga videos.
Truth is it's been quite a journey for you. Cheers!

Oh it could have been ten times longer so I appreciate you stopping by to read it. I'd understand if you didn't!!! Sorry. There's quite a few aspects to yoga - most people think it's about the physical shapes and don't realise it's also codes for living, and meditative practice.

Never believe you are too inflexible to start yoga - that's like saying you are too dirty to have a shower.

Ha, right! It is quite tricky to get people to get started, many think they are too old or it would be too difficult - start at the start then!

At present I'm only doing 1 session a week, but I can certainly feel that I'm getting better and yoga feels like the most essential workout of the week at present.

Bottom line, even if you don't want to go for the spiritual side of it, the physical stuff is pretty awesome too. Back in the day, there were kinda two schools of thought - one, no point doing meditation and practicing a moral life if your physical body was too out of shape to persist or your mental life was too all over the shop to concentrate - so, do physical asana so that you can prepare for it. The other school was like, nahhhh, you don't need the asana, just concentrate on the meditation. BUT - once people started doing the physical stuff, the other stuff just came along anyway, so I'm on the side of getting bendy and stretchy! I've met so many people that started with the physical stuff and learnt all these yogic lessons without a guru at all - one being that 'this too shall pass' - it might be painful as you are doing it, but you persist and get the benefits, right? So surely that's true in all areas of life? And that the body is different on different days - we can't expect everything to go as planned.

I just read a post on HIVE about a guy who got his 75 year old grandma to start doing yoga, so that's pretty cool! I used to do Bikram, very hot and sweaty in a super heated room, and you'd get all these footy dudes coming in. They'd think they were really hard and end up in a puddle on the floor - but they'd come back, because there was something in it that was different to gym, or running, and they'd get the benefits from it.

Ah, I could talk about it for ever - both the physical side of it and the spiritual side of it! One door opens, another twelve open...

I was thinking, she lived in Devon when she was a kid? Thought she's from Australia? Then i realised you have a Torquay in Australia as well!!

Interesting challenge, I need to see if i can answer five of those questions as my life isn't 'zen', at all 🙃

Btw, is you first link supposed to link back to this post? I wanted to find out more about the challenge and it kept on looping back here, had to get to the end of the post for the correct link.

Oh that's so weird!! Try this one

Ahaha yep, the Torquay in Aussieland!!!!! There's lots of questions to choose from. Oh and my life isn't zen either - it's rare persons who is! Healing isn't always about 'fixing' or even totally making everything perfect all the time. It's just part of our life experience, to be the best we can be - and dont worry, sometimes that's totally failing haha - like the red wine headache I have this morning.

I think you must have linked the wrong post in your first link that's why it loops back to this post...

And I hope your red wine headache is from last night and that you're not already drinking in the morning!!!!!

No, but I wish I was haha! No, lots of water and some yoga and time in garden sorted me out haha!

I did yoga once. I was rockin' a pose and slipped ending up in a pretzel shape. All good though, only took me three days to get out of it. Never had another go figuring I may not be able to break out of the pose twice.

Wow, you posted this just about 2 hours before I posted about my yogic journey, so interesting that we were so synchronized 🙂 How lucky you are that you discovered yoga at such a young age, I started my yogic journey when I was around 30. But it's never too late. I recognize a lot in this post from my own experience. Let there be more compassion and love ❤️

Yoga is very good for health. It is better to be able to get up in the morning.

It certainly is better to get up in themorning!

Thanks to this challenge I have become convinced that I must learn more about yoga LOL... Nice article, the words couldn't be better. Blessings always <3


I think sometimes I "try" too hard while doing yoga. It's a challenge to let go of "I need to be working out right now" and just flow, but I'm becoming more aware of that and just letting it happen. I think both my mind and my body can stand to be more flexible and bendy. ;) Thank you for the motivation to get on the mat this morning.

Look at you with your down dog!!! Mind flexibility is the hardest thing I reckon! I used to let the ego guide me for years in yogic practice!!! Does my bum look big in these leggings? Why can't I flex like HER? Check ME out in dancer's pose haha - but once you start to let go, and use the messages from the body as a key for going inwards, the magic happens!!! And then you get into the same zone you get into with your running! xx

Ooch, apparently I did tap into the physical more than I thought as my shoulders are sore today, haha! In a good way of course, but it surprised me to wake up and feel that familiar sensation after a simple half hour flow.

Thank you for inspiring me to get back in my practice⭐️

You're welcome!! Sometimes a break is needed too!

You bring so much depth to yoga that you give a whole new perspective of it to me! Inspiring me to incorporate it in my life (especially when you gave that advice to beginners - that no body is too inflexible for yoga - my biggest concern with yoga - being flexible!)
I never thought of yoga with those valuable lessons of impermanence but you explained it so beautifully!
And that

work through things on the mat
We often work through things on the meditation mat!
Thank-you for sharing your story and letting us get to know you better!