My first memory of yoga is as a child, on New Years Eve of 2000 and something, when I distinctly remember googling yoga poses, printing them out (much to my parents dismay, ink is expensive, I now realise) and continuing to pretend that I could do the splits. At the time, I think I found something about yoga interesting- perhaps I wanted to get fitter, or maybe I’d seen something about it on the telly. and I was trying to be like that person. I doubt that the spiritual aspect of yoga was on my radar aged 5-10 (I really don’t know when this was), but I was a passionate yogi… for that one evening. I then didn”t return to yoga until adulthood. Or semi- adulthood, since I still don’t think that I’m adulting well now, never mind 4 years ago, when I was at Drama School,aged 18/19, and realised that, basically, I was super un-fit. I needed to find some form of exercise that I found enjoyable, and that complimented the movement and voice classes that I was doing there.
At some point in that first year, I discovered Yoga With Adriene, a Youtube Channel and website created by Actress and Yoga Teacher Adriene Mishler, who despite living in Texas in the US, makes you feel like she is in your bedroom with you as you practise. In Adriene, I think i found a kindred spirit. Then, after a failed relationship with ‘ The Gym’, where I actively avoided any machinery that I didn’t understand, I also started exploring the studio classes in my area, and spent that summer going to hot yoga classes.
Since 2014, I would say, I have had a regular practise, consisting mostly of Yoga With Adriene videos (it’s a testament to her that I can still watch the same ones I did 4 years ago and not be bored), occasionally dropping in to classes where I can. It’s an expensive hobby, sadly, and that means that I can’t always practise how I’d like to.
Yoga has been there for me at the worst of times; during break ups, before auditions, when there are no auditions (like right now), when I’m stressed, or tired (especially when I’m tired), when I’m angry or sad. I miss it when it’s not there, and I’ve now become that person that attempts to take a yoga mat on holiday whenever I go away, because if I don’t practise for a while I start to feel terrible. I don’t mean ‘terrible’ in a guilty way, like how some people talk about not going to the gym for a week, I mean that I genuinely feel less like myself. Whilst some sequences are still challenging, it’s not the kind of exercise that I dread doing (like Body Con at drama school, despite the absolute dream of a lady who taught us, who was lovely. It still hurt and I just never really got that good endorphin thing going.)
I try to practise 3-4 times a week. Sometimes it’s for 10 minutes, sometimes I can do an hour. If I go to a class, I find it much easier to commit an hour to my practise; there are less distractions. I am by no means the most flexible person I know, nor am I the fittest, and if anything I go through phases. Sometimes, if I’ve been doing a 30 day challenge or had time and money for a lot of classes, I can hold crow pose, and sometimes I can’t. I don’t think my heels will ever touch the floor in a squat, because my body just won’t let me. However, after my practise, I never fail to feel better than I did when I went in, even if it’s just that I’m grateful to myself for exercising, or because I feel more centred after an anxious day. Yoga can calm your nervous system, aid your digestion, lower your blood pressure and ultimately give you a moving meditation practise and peace of mind that you carry off the mat and into your day, as well as make you fitter. When I was 18, the thought of exercising for an hour made me cringe (queue nods of agreement from any drama school friends reading this, who will remember literally trying to drag me into a physical theatre rehearsal). The thought of meditating made me laugh awkwardly because that just was not cool. Now I enjoy both, and I want to learn more about myself and my practise.
A vinyasa flow class definitely raises your heart rate, but I’m aware of the fact that I should probably do more cardio (ie. swimming). However, I really want to focus for a while on my yoga journey. I’m committing to going to my local studio more, because for me checking in with a teacher is super- important for me, and I’ve just ordered my fourth yoga matt, a decent one this time, eco- friendly and all, because the more into my practise I get (and the more David Attenborough talks about recycling) the more conscious of the environment I get too. I’m finding that a regular practise is ever more important the further I get into graduate life; keeping me grounded and giving me perspective in this crazy, difficult world.
Sometimes, when I’m in a class where everyone can do a headstand and I can’t, I still get that feeling of inadequacy. Similarly, joining a new studio last week was as daunting as ever, because of that human nature we all have to prove ourselves, even though I think most people realise that yoga isn’t about comparing yourself to others; it’s a personal practise. I suppose what I’m trying to say here is that everyone has to start somewhere, and if you’re thinking about beginning a yoga practise I promise that you won’t regret it.
Do you practise yoga? Do you have any tips for someone wanting to deepen their practise?