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How Yoga Saved My Life

I was an angry child. To this day, people who knew me as a kid will remind me how I would flip out at the smallest trigger. Looking back, I know now, that I had a hang-up because my family was different. My "real" dad, was a jerk. My parents divorced. We had a Step-Family who were not a healthy addition to our own. We were not the same as other families (or so I thought at the time).

I remember vividly, one of the girls in junior school telling me that I couldn't come to the fireworks display because I didn't have a dad. This is the first of many memories I recall that made me feel different, excluded, sad, angry. I couldn't wait to leave that small town. And I did, straight after school. It took many (many many) years of travelling before I came "home" and finally confronted all those built up thoughts and emotions long enough to make peace with them.

It took a long time for me to realize that all my travelling, and reluctance to settle down (professionally, personally and romantically) was but a symptom of my own fear. Fear that I was not actually worthy of a good life, a wonderful partner, a well paying rewarding job. Because I had grown up with certain preconceived ideas in my own mind about my self worth, I was fearful, that I would fail at life. So I avoided it. I distracted myself with the next adventure.

Don't get me wrong, my travels and adventures took me to some of the most beautiful places on earth, and I met some of the most incredible people along the way. I will never regret that, nor would I ever want to change that. But there was always something niggling at me. Something was missing. There was a disconnection. That angry kid inside me was still there, afraid.

I started going to yoga class in Dubai in 2010 - to lose weight (obviously). What I found however, was that with the physical weight, a mental and emotional weight started to lift as well. I found focus and awareness like I had never known before. My practice started to nurture a particular mindfulness within me.

I began going deeper into myself. Looking at the darker parts, right in their ugly, scary face. In Sadhana, I started to become aware of a fear that I had kept and hidden so deeply. I started to confronted my fear of rejection, my fear of abandonment and failure and saw that this is what was actually what was behind the anger. Anger, was just a defense for me. I would rather attack, than be attacked first. It was a way for that kid inside me to survive.

I started forgiving myself for decisions made in anger, words I'd said in anger which caused unnecessary and painful consequences, I spoke kindly to the angry little girl inside me.

I began to feel compassion towards myself.

I have always been compassionate and empathetic to others, but turning that inward was a real challenge. I had to learn how to accept myself, all parts of myself. And also, that I was worthy of acceptance.

As I became more aware of My Truth, I learned to embrace it. I started to focus on a life that I wanted, and not the fear of "what if I don't get it". I resumed my studies that I had put off for years. I decided to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro as a spiritual journey; I wanted to leave my past hang-ups on the mountain. I left an unhealthy relationship. I changed jobs. I thought I was making progress.

I returned home.

It was unexpectedly hard. It was hard to fit in; my old friends had all moved on with their lives. It was hard to go from living a rather glamourous life abroad, to scraping by in a house share with strangers. It was hard to talk to people, it was hard to keep up appearances. I thought I had made a mistake. I doubted my return. I doubted myself. My anger returned. I thought I should probably just have kept travelling (running).

But I didn't run.

I held on to the one thing that had always made sense to me and that was Yoga.

Many people think of yoga as fancy positions by Instagram "yogis" who can bend like a pretzel in a bikini. That's not yoga for me (although I do wish I could bend like a pretzel in a bikini).

Yoga means to "unite". It is a union of body, mind and spirit.

For me, Yoga, in its entirety, is Sadhana. It is my daily spiritual practice.

Yamas and Niyamas form part of my ethical values which I try my best to live by.

Pranayama and Meditation focuses my mind, and these practices help when I feel overwhelmed, when I am anxious, or sad, or overexcited or fearful. It keeps things in perspective.

The Asanas help to keep me fit, and bring awareness to the parts of my body that I need to spend some time on. This practice has become an important part of my own self-care routine. Throughout Covid and the Looting and the increase in petrol and food and electricity, through deaths of friends and relatives, through worry, through work stress, through everything Yoga has been there to show me how to be gentle with myself, to take care of my mind and my body, and to remind me that I AM so much more than the sum of my parts.

There is so much more to Yoga than I ever thought I knew on that first day of class in Dubai; and every time I practice I learn something new or I am reminded of something I have forgotten.

It calms me. It refreshes me. It energizes me. And it truly, saved my life.

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