One of our biggest assets at Yoga Quota is our wonderful community. Thank you Esme for your beautiful (and hilarious) post on what it's like to be a part of the Yoga Quota fam. x
I came to Yoga Quota having not really used my body in 7 years. That is not an exaggeration. The last time I exercised (begrudgingly) I was 15. From then on, for a multitude of reasons, I had been a pretty reliable nominee for Girl Least Likely To Voluntarily Exercise or, perhaps, Girl Most Likely To Take A Really Long Nap. I felt weirdly about my body: bits ached and other bits didn’t work the way I wanted it to, but I felt like there was nothing I could do to change it, and perhaps I didn’t even care enough to try. It was a bad relationship. In January of this year I had just arrived in Oxford, and facing the unseasonably cold harsh reality of a shitty job, anxiety that allowed adrenaline to course through my body uninvited and the beginnings of a bad back. Halcyon days these were not. And yet, in that January gloom, my love affair with yoga began.
I can recall, with total clarity, the moment during my fifth or sixth class when I thought things might be getting serious. I was sinking down into goddess pose, preparing myself for the burn that was about to start creeping up my thighs, frown firmly fixed. Just as it arrived, our teacher reminded us that we are ‘strong enough to feel and not react’. Feel and not react? This idea was very novel. I am at the whim of my feelings, riding tide and swell of emotions. And yet, here I was being shown that I was totally capable of being an observer of thought and emotion, just as I was able to observe that, in goddess pose, my legs hurt and I’d quite like to have a little snooze, yet carry on just the same and see how I feel in a moment or two. The practice of taking a few breaths just to bear witness to my reactions, as opposed to implement them, has helped me on my mat and beyond.
Yoga with the wonderful instructors at Yoga Quota has equipped me with some excellent pocket mantras. The most useful however, is not particularly pocket sized. I adopted it from Cassie, and I don't think she even realised was a mantra: ‘We’ll meet in child’s pose. Remember, this pose is available to you at any point throughout the class, and the only person you have to ask permission from is yourself’. Sure, it isn’t snappy, but I’ve found myself repeating it, mentally or out loud, whenever I feel things are just too much and I need to stop. She’s right; the only person I need to ask for permission to pause and gather my thoughts is myself. I have welcomed this little reminder that curling up with my head on the floor (figuratively or literally) is not only a useful part of practice, but a useful part of life. So often I find myself in all manner of environments, through university and work, where self sacrifice and battling on is encouraged, implying a kind of honour in not looking after yourself in order to Get Shit Done. So, it was a real revelation to be encouraged to tune in to, and prioritise, my own feelings and shake off the momentum of objectives.
Like all great love affairs (I <3 extended metaphors), my love for yoga has been part and parcel of a newfound self-appreciation. Starting yoga has made me willing and able praise my body in ways that are new: I can celebrate what it can do (bend backwards like a candy cane! Balance on my hands (for, like, a second)!) as totally separate to how it looks. I am able to look upon it with kindness when it still doesn’t perform perfectly. I have pretty much zero balance, so all balance postures are a battle, but I have learned to totally rework the self-criticism that surfaces when I topple gracelessly out of my balance into amusement, and then leave it there. I have a natural and unhelpful inclination to competitiveness, and practicing yoga has really helped me unlearn that reflex to measure myself against others. I feel healthy and strong, so all is well.
I was reading one of Harriet’s YQ blog posts the other day, where she said that her and Adam often don’t see each other all day until they meet at yoga in the evening, so the time spent together is really special. In a weird way, this is kind of how I feel about yoga too (yup, minus the partner): I spend all day rushing around and living life, so when I get to yoga in the evening it’s a chance to hang out with myself and see how I’m doing. Often it’s only when I have some time to lie on my mat and cycle through some postures that I have any clear idea of how that day has gone for me. Things often look quite different from the studio floor than I had initially thought.
I’m about to leave Oxford, and I’m sad to leave behind the wonderful friends I’ve made at the studio. I’m going to have to find somewhere new to practice, and might even have to think about actually implementing that home practice that I aspire to. From now on, my visits to Yoga Quota will coincide with weekend visits home, but this love affair is not over. It’s just a long distance relationship.
- Esme Sprigings