My First Month as a Yogi

Since the beginning of the year, I've been spending every Thursday evening (except for the first one when I got completely lost) at The Yoga Tree, an absolutely beautiful new yoga studio which has recently opened in Norwich.

The classes I've been going to are taught by Jessica McKenna, who teaches ISHTA yoga. ISHTA is an acronym for the Integrated Science of Hatha, Tantra and Ayurveda, and is also Sanskrit for Individual. Individual is exactly how the classes feel! There have been varying numbers of participants each week so far, but after only a couple of minutes of moving onto the mat, it's easy to forget you're in a room full of people. I've found I spend most of the class with my eyes closed, only opening them to check my alignment (or have a quick peek at what I'm supposed to be doing!) and because Jess explains that each pose has varying levels of intensity, and encourages participants to move to the rhythm of their own breath, theres no chance of feeling silly if you do it wrong, because everyone is more than likely doing something slightly different anyway!

Each class has a different focus, which really seems to help me to get more out of my practice. The weeks Jess explained she would be 'pushing our buttons' I found myself really wanting to push myself a little further and really challenge my body. This weeks class was mostly made up of poses performed while lying down, with lots of hip stretches and spinal twists, which was great for me and my ol' piriformis syndrome!  One pose in particular seemed a little more difficult than anything up until that point, and it wasn't until Jess pointed out that this pose would work on the piriformis muscle that I realised why!

I'm also finding it really helpful to spend this time really focusing on what my body is doing. When you're concentrating on breathing (and I mean really breathing!) flexing your feet, the angles your body is making and the weight of your body pressing into the floor, there's no room left for anything else. I realise now how often I bumble along throughout the day without really noticing how my body feels, so it's really good to properly connect with it, 'sending' breath to any areas which feel tight or sore (quite often lots of areas!) and also noticing which areas feel free and open.

I thought I would find beginning and ending the sessions with chanting a bit odd, but it's not strange at all. It really marks the beginning of the class, and is almost like flicking a big switch in your brain with the word YOGA on it to the on position, and I find the 'white noise' effect of chanting sort of cancels out whatever is going through your mind and clears it ready to begin.

I've learned so many little things already: that sitting on a block makes meditating so much easier, that I was doing bridge pose slightly wrong and the crack from my shoulders when it was corrected was the best feeling ever, that breathing is absolutely pivotal, that I've been holding my pelvis all wrong, and that putting on socks and a jumper and being tucked up under a blanket for savasana should feature at the end of every day!

I've also learned that you get some pretty funny looks from people when you emerge from the building after being completely relaxed. My face probably looks like I've just woken up, and my hair definitely looks like I've been attacked my a wild animal. As I've been going straight from work and changing when I arrive, I've been stumbling back to the car wearing half work clothes and half yoga clothes (which are basically just pyjamas!) and when I stopped to go to the toilet in the shopping centre I'd parked in last week, I actually laughed when I looked in the mirror: spotty plimsoles, fluffy socks with cats on, leggings, long wooly jumper, work coat and the non-stylish kind of messy bun, the kind that hangs limply from one side of your head with hair grips dangling from it! By that point I feel so good about myself I care even less than I normally would!

I feel like this is only the beginning of my yoga journey. When I filled in my Unravelling the Year Ahead Workbook, one of my (very) long term goals was to become a yoga teacher. I'm only four classes in - but it's four classes closer than I was!


(Print from Olive et Oriel, Frame from For the Love of Timber, Circle Garland was made by me, and is recycled wedding decor!)

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