When I started on my yoga journey I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew that there was more to yoga than just the postures – the asanas. But I didn’t know what exactly.
I knew that there was a life philosophy underlying the physical practice but truly I had no idea what to expect.
So (in a rather cliche way), off I went to India to discover for myself…….
And wow, was I surprised with what I learnt about the practice. However more than just the physical stuff, I learnt so much about myself than I thought was possible.
I now understand that this is what yoga is about – internalising, feeling and observing oneself and then most importantly, living this wholeheartedly.
Here’s my story of what I discovered on my yoga teacher training…
On day 1 at the yoga academy, as I stood on my mat, sweeping my arms up to the sky and then down to the mat I took a sneaky look at my neighbours flattened palms and head against knees only to find myself feeling those all too familiar emotions of ‘am I cut out for this?’ why am I here, I can’t do this’….I’m not good enough….ahhhhhh I could just about touch my hands on to the floor and had a massive inferiority complex day 1 of yoga training. The ‘Claire’ that I was so used to, was ready to run out the door. I’d done this so often in my life, running from things that I was scared of – from day 1 I was confronted with my yoga ‘mirror’.
This for sure was going to be one interesting journey.
As the weeks went by, I slowly got over myself and my inferiorities. Now I’m not saying that they went entirely, oh no they kept popping up, but at least I learnt that yoga vs so many things in life is our opportunity to let go and just ‘be’ in the present moment with ourselves and be happy with where we are right now. It’s one of the only things that is not meant to be competitive, which is such a beautiful thing.
Day after day we were challenged, both physically and mentally. Our bodies were screaming by day 4, but it was a relentless and seemingly never ending onslaught of waking at 5am, starting with yoga asanas and then a full itinerary of meditation, pranayama, yoga anatomy, philosophy and homework before lights out and crawling into bed at 10am.
I could feel some changes happening in the first week but I couldn’t put my finger on what they were. At the start of meditation it just felt like a really nice time to sit still and quiet, maybe take a quick nap. That’s a great meditation right? Or maybe sit with some nice memories, or nice thoughts. Just a bit of time out from the usual ‘to do’s’ of life…. Wow what a great meditation… Umm I wasn’t quite getting the point.
But by day 5 I was in a super relaxed place, a bit floaty and whilst thoughts were coming by, I was not engaging with them. When meditation ended I felt so much lighter – I actually felt renewed for the first time ever.
During the days that followed and for months and to this day, things that people had said about me or events from the past would pop up and like a slap in the face they were sent for me to examine and take a good look at myself; the way I have behaved in the past, what I said, how I acted. This ‘space’ from all of the mental buzz and away from our mean and self absorbed part of selves is such an enlightening feeling but also incredibly confronting.
But then………. I got sick. Sicker than I think I’ve ever been. My stomach blew up. I was bloated beyond belief – it felt like I had an enormous air bubble stuck in my belly that was sloshing around. I could not eat, spent far too much time rushing to the bathroom and could only manage tiny sips of water. I went for 3 days like this thinking that tomorrow I’d feel better. I didn’t. On day 3 of nil by mouth I was suddenly awakened from my dilirium by a realisation that I was all alone in India, with no support network, no family to care for me, in a country where thousands of people die everyday. I was a nobody here. I looked down at my starved body and saw bones poking out, my knickers hardly holding up and my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. From that point I knew I needed to drag my arse out of bed and take myself to the hospital.
I was taken to the hospital (if you can call it that). There were a few doctors working around a half collapsed building with piles of rubbish, with sleeping cows in the front of the building. I saw a doctor, who promptly demanded that I be pumped with a IV drip and antibiotics. There was no messing around with this guy. He told me that I was lucky and that I needed treatment straightaway otherwise I would die.
Yikes, of course I obeyed. Ok, now was the time to face massive Claire fear number 2 – hospitals.
There were 3 hospital beds – each covered in dried blood spots. Such is the hygiene in India that washing sheets even in hospitals is not a regular activity. Two nurses and a doctor then pursued to find veins in my arms to pump me with rehydration and antibiotics. I was literally stabbed all the way up both arms in their desperate attempt to find my veins in a dehydrated prune-like body.
As I lay on the bed, ‘poor me’ thoughts popped into my head – ‘why did this happen to me’, ‘I’m so alone’, boo boo.
And then it hit me.
A significant turning point.
I felt an unbelievable sense of my smallness in the world but also my connectedness with it. I felt grateful to be in a hospital receiving treatment while so many local people are dying on the streets, never receiving care for their injuries or illnesses. Who was I to feel sorry for myself.
It was an incredible feeling and I believe it was an other worldly force comforting me at that time. Reflecting back this was a pinnacle moment that has made me realise how powerful our minds are. The external situation I was faced with – lying on the bed receiving treatment did not change in that moment, but my thoughts and my internal state changed the way I felt about the situation that I found myself in.
There were changes afloat.
I had begun to be an ‘observer’ of myself and my thoughts, a perception shift was happening. I wasn’t the ‘victim’ anymore, a role I’d been playing in life, I suddenly felt so much more than that.
After a few hours, the last few drops of liquid in the IV dried up and I was left in a state of utter delirium. I slipped off the bed, and I was handed a form to sign in Hindi stating that I agreed to not hold them responsible for anything that happened to me after the hospital, yikes. And then I was asked for the equivalent of $8 to pay for my treatment.
A little while later a motorbike driver turned up and took me back to my hotel. I sat on the bike, with no strength left in my body and held on with just one hand. As we bumped along a road strewn with potholes and cows, tears streamed down my face…..
At that moment I gratefully made a commitment to forever listen to my body and to trust its inner callings…….
I’d love to hear your thoughts and whether you’ve had an experience that has changed the way you look at the world…….
Have you had experiences when your body speaks to you and you listen to it?
Have you had a perception shift where the external situation remains the same but something inside of you changes?