“Allora… my Italian – Maldivian yoga lesson”

My story is a little different to most. Instead of finishing school, studying and then travelling to find my purpose in life, as the newer generation do, I decided to fall into the rat race trap. Finish school, study, to receive a qualification, to find a job, to earn money to buy a whole bunch of stuff, that later in life, you learn that you actually don’t need. To be able to create a lifestyle that you constantly need to feed, with money, to survive. A lifestyle, that, once you get to my age, is either not for you, or you realise that you actually do not need it to survive.

I read a quote once, whilst on holiday at backpackers in the Transkei, South Africa, which said: “you do not need as much as you think that you do”.  This always stuck with me, but it was not until last year that I actually started believing it, and wanted to start living it, in every sense and essence of the words. I started to crave the idea of having less baggage, and being able to do more, see more, explore more, and learn to live outside of the comfort zone.

By baggage, I am not just referring to the 23kgs worth of items that I currently own, but the emotional baggage, the items and gadgets that we buy to make ourselves feel good, not because we need to, but because society makes us feel like we need to have them in order to be happy, the things that we hold on to, but can no longer control.

And that is when I really started to embrace the fact that I was a yoga teacher. I think it was while I was lying in hospital, with an inverted disc in my lower back, after hearing that I would not be able to run my second Comrades Marathon, a gruelling 90km road race. I had been training hard for it; I was committed to it this time, whilst surfing every day in between, teaching yoga, chasing my career, getting involved in everything as much as I could. I was so independent, I was capable of anything and everything and there was no limit as to how much I could take on without it catching up on me. I thought that I was invincible.

But life decided to teach me a lesson, and proved me to be wrong. All of a sudden, I could not even drive, I was out of a race that I had trained so hard for, I could not surf, which was my daily tonic, and worst of all, I could not even practice or teach yoga. I felt like a yoga fraud, here I was preaching to people to “listen to your body”, and I was the one who was ignoring my body, the most.

But I took it as a lesson, and slowly started getting rid of the excess baggage, the things that I was carrying around with me, every day, that were clearly breaking my back. It was after a massive clean out, at my parent’s house, that things really started falling into place, literally. To cut a couple of long stories very short, before I knew it, I was in love with that one person that we all dream of meeting but never believe that we actually will, but I was also running away from him, checking in at King Shaka Airport, and leaving my comfort zone to go and teach yoga in the Maldives. A place that I had only ever seen in magazines, and on Instagram, a place that I had never actually believed that I would get to see. I had quit my stable job, my comfort zone, and was heading into the unknown. Literally, into the middle of the ocean.

Arriving in Male, and being informed that I would be spending the night in Male’, was already quite the experience. I had never left South Africa, there I was dragging my life behind me, which was all still cling wrapped in a plastic blue case, watching my back and assuming that everyone was trying to attack me and steal my cell-phone, and belongings. I had no clue where I was, could not speak a word of Dhivehi, but on a ferry boat heading across to Male’, still not letting go of the thought that I had possibly been scammed, and was in fact, on my way to be a victim of human trafficking, or waking up in a bathtub of ice, with my organs next to me in a jar. South Africans are a little paranoid; this is one thing I have learnt! Paranoid, but very patriotic after they have left their home land.

I was greeted by Ali, who escorted me to my “hotel” for the night, and told to be in touch with Sara, the resident marine biologist, who I had never seen, or heard of, but who has since become one of dearest and best friends.

Ali fetched me on a scooter, no helmet, and there we went, sliding and swiping our way through narrow streets, all in unison with about 5 other scooters all at once. No traffic lights, no traffic authorities and seemingly no direction, just point and aim. And go! It was kind of exhilarating, and amazing way to get to see the city, whilst also clutching on and hoping not to be a hit by another scooter. We arrived at the medical centre, feeling as relieved as I did after skydiving once and being free from the rickety, squeaky aeroplane. You learn to appreciate private hospitals and your good old, reliable family GP very quickly when you are in places like these.

I was greeted by very friendly ladies, who, despite the fact that I had been sweating in my leggings and t-shirt, and had travelled for over 26 hours, made me feel comfortable, while I had blood drained from my exhausted arms, had to pee in a cup, and have my chest X-rayed. Getting the medical check is a standard procedure to obtain a working permit in the Maldives.

First night in Male’, I was so grateful to have had Sara with me. She was nothing but kind, friendly, helpful, and exactly what I needed. And she was there to show me where to go the next day, making sure that I did not miss the ferry back across to the airport, or the seaplane that would be one of the final modes of transport to my new home. I will never forget that first dinner that we had together, whilst she sat me down and told me exactly what I was in for. The hidden parts of my job requirements that the resort HR had conveniently forgotten to mention to me. Yes, read the fine print, read between the lines. When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. I am just glad that mine was on a beautiful island, where I had more good, than bad, experiences.

After my first experience on the seaplane, flying over the islands, and not something that I will ever forget, we were on a 2 hour trip on a dhoni, where I would soon be spending a lot of time, out at sea. I have always wished to be in a job or situation where I could live out at sea, and here I was.  In the middle of the Indian Ocean, flying fish fleeting across our wake, the sun toasting my lily white winter skin, laughing out allowed with Sara, while being bumped and rolled around, coated in a layer of salty happiness. This was my new home; I was literally going to be living in the middle of the ocean, something that I had always dreamed about.

I think it was upon my arrival, when I was greeted by HR and told that I must just try to make at least 6 months, and that my new home, was basically just prison in paradise, that I realised that things were not as peachy as they seemed on paper. But, as always, I was going to brush aside the negative thoughts of one individual, and lavish up the sun, and fully embrace this beautiful island, my new life. I was fuelled with passion, with a love of yoga, and so many ideas that I had, ready to embrace the growth that I had anticipated, that I had been craving all these years.

By the time we had moved the last heavy chair that first evening, dressed in a dark navy blue uniform that I would not even allow my dog to sleep on (think of the thickest, most course canvas that you can), and I had learnt how to use everything from a projector, microphone and make a big outdoor movie happen in the middle of an island, I realised just what I was in for. Or at least I thought that I had, the truth is that I had no idea just what I was in for.

I remember planning my first yoga lesson, writing down all the essentials in Italian, Destra.. Sinistra.. Inspirare, Espirare.. I thought I had it all figured out. Not a single guest arrived for that first class, which I had so eagerly planned for, so I just embraced the opportunity to have a little self-practiced. This is what I had dreamed of doing, travelling and spreading my love for yoga with the world. I had to just keep reminding myself of that. I will always treasure the yoga and Pilates teaching experiences that I did have, the Italian phrases that I learnt, and to always “ Allungora Colona Vertabrale!”

I remember my first excursion, my first glimpse of Kalu Giri reef, being so fascinated by the red-toothed trigger fish, the turtles just swimming so gracefully past us, not put off by the large shoal of Go-Pros and muffled underwater shouts  of “Tattaruga! Tattaruga!” . I was in paradise, I was living the dream! How could my colleagues feel so confined by this, how could they be measuring their happiness based on how many days they had left on their contracts?

My first manta ray… it was the most magnificent thing I had ever seen, and I still play that memory in my mind, like a favourite movie, that you cannot wait to see again, no matter how many times you have watched it. Manta Rays are graceful, unassuming, harmless, natural underwater acrobats. Being able to experience guest’s excitement as they first witness manta rays, the occasions that I assisted guests in the water, who were nervous swimmers, or who had never been in the deep water before, enabling them to experience and witness something that fascinated me so much. I will always be grateful for these experiences.

Just about every single skill that I have ever had was put to the test, from my photography, helping people and making them feel comfortable, pushing them out of their comfort zones and limits, to artistic drawing skills, making hand-made banners, fire-spinning and choreographing a dance with my team of marine biologists, water sports instructors and fitness instructor, aka our ‘ evening dance team”,  to one of my favourite dance songs…I will remember my Maldivian New Year’s eve every time I listen to Safri Duo’s “Played Alive – The Bongo Song”. I will be forever grateful of every single time that I got to spend out, and in, the ocean, learning more and more about the fascinating blue world. I will endure the friendships that I made, the lessons that I learnt, and the amazing people that I met from all over the world.

I learnt to laugh at simple things, and to question the most random facts, such as “what sound does a shark make?”. I learnt that you really do not need as much as you think you do to survive. You realise this even more, when winning a bottle of cheap shampoo is as exhilarating as that one time that you won an Audi A3. You learn to just make do with whatever you can find in the local island staff shop, or with whatever left-overs a generous guest has left behind for you.

Another incredible experience, especially for a South African, is how non-racially divided the world is, well not as seemingly as in South Africa. I had the pleasure of working with all different nationalities, Italians, French-Canadian, German, Maldivians, Sri Lankan’s, Ukrainians, and guests from all over the world. Nobody ever once introduced their colleague as “my Italian co-worker”, or “ my Sri Lankan barman”. We saw each other as people, as fellow human beings. You realise just how strong, and sad, the racial divide is in South Africa, when you work abroad. Perhaps this was just in my experience, this is the only working abroad experience that I have had, so far.

But on the other-hand, you also learn how much you miss things like Biltong, the sound of Afrikaans, traditional djembe drumming, as much as I loved the Budoberu drumming every Friday night, the culture, the humour, the way that South Africans love to sit and chat around a fire, or at the dinner table long after dinner time is over.

I am home now, and I am sadly not going back to the Maldives. I really did enjoy the island and the marine life, and embraced the good experiences. I got to teach yoga to people of all nationalities, ages and abilities.  As much as my own personal teaching experience as a yogi did not grow quite as much as I had dreamed of, I learnt to be a real yogi, I learnt to literally accept things as they are, in the moment, “ it is what it is”. I learnt to really embrace the fact that tomorrow is gone, we don’t look back at it, we cannot anticipate for what is going to happen tomorrow, we “make do” with what we have. We may have a large group of guests,  eagerly booking for an excursion, to see Whale Sharks, but we cannot predict the weather or the conditions, or if the whale shark will even show up. We learn that all that we can control, is the moment as it is unfolding in front of us. We may not see the whale shark, but we may be surprised by hundreds of Spinner Dolphins, dancing in front of our dhoni. We may see a little turtle, restricted by plastic, reminding us of what human beings have done to the planet. Fortunately, my colleague and dhoni crew were able to free the little guy.

As for the long hours, the lack of privacy, never knowing who you were going to be sharing a room with, the filthy, septic pillows and mattress that caused me many a sleepless night, itching profusely and running around the resort at 2am in desperate cries for ice, the way that you never get a “thank you”, I will never look back at my decision to not return. But that is all a part of the experience.

But for the friendships, the lessons, the experiences, the manta rays, the cultural experience, the endless ginger and chocolate gelato, the languages that I learnt, and the soothing cup of ginger tea in the evenings with the incredibly nurturing spa girls, I will never forget. I will always smile whenever these memories pop up into my mind, I will always hold these moments close to my heart. I learnt that I like my comfort a little more than I thought, but I do recommend that we you step out of the comfort zone from time to time, as this is where you truly learn to live. To love. And to experience the true meaning of gratitude, of life, and of adventure.

When life starts to feel stale, shake things up a little. Throw away what no longer serves you. You will be amazed at what you learn about yourself in the process, you will be amazed at just what you are capable of, and you will be amazed at how much sparkle you have inside of you, just as you had thought that your light had started to fade.

Now, I am just a piece of drifting plankton. I have no idea where I am heading, what I am doing, I have no permanent home. It is terrifying, but kind of liberating at the same time. For the first time in my life, I have no control, and I am literally taking each day as it comes. I am also not alone anymore, I have somebody who loves me, somebody who has been patient enough to wait for me after only knowing each other for what felt like a fleeting moment. That moment stirred something up inside of me, and I very excited for the next adventure. I have learnt that I do not want to be alone, and that it is ok to want companionship, it does not make you a weak woman. I always secretly dreamed of having my own “Eat, Pray , Love” story, as I am sure that most girls secretly do. I never imagined that mine would turn out to be “Love ( run away from it) Pray, Eat ( return to love) ”. But then, I have never been one to follow the sheep, to follow the normal way of life.

I am plankton, shiny noctiluca plankton, and I am going to shine on wherever the winds and tides may take me. Perhaps I become food to a manta ray, perhaps I drift to another ocean. All that I can do, is drift and just embrace each moment of it. Learn from it, and never look back.

Never lose your shine, never give up an opportunity that you might sit back and wonder one day “what if?”.

Life is short, live it.

Throwing away life as I know it .. the start of my magical journey

If you ever want to feel what it really means to step out of your comfort zone, perhaps my latest story could assist you!

I have been in the same job, for 11 years, 1 month , and 2 weeks. Exactly. I have been working in a very demanding, fast paced and highly stressful role as a designer, but it always suited me, as with everything else in my life, I loved to see how fast I could go, how much more I could fit in, and how much further I could push myself until I reached burn-out.

Until I found Yoga. And surfing. Those of you who have read my previous blogs, will understand where I am coming from.

As my job got more frustrating, and I found I was questioning my purpose there, and literally not wanting to get up in the morning ( except to run/surf/yoga), but for the rest of the morning dragging my feet, all the way to work. It started to consume me, I dont work for a bad company at all, I have a really cushy job, I have a wonderful boss who doesn’t mind if I role in here at 7:50am, still dripping seawater, sand in the toes, and mermaid hair, mumbling something about how amazing the sea was for the morning, and how it was by far, the best surf I have ever had.. while I scurried into the shower. ( yeah, such a cushy job, that my office is even situated just behind the promenade, and we have a shower and bathroom to use)

I started to try and figure out what had changed, why was I suddenly hating this? I used to thrive on the rush, and the stress, and loved to sit and wallow in self-pity and glasses of wine, complaining about all the things that I could not control, but spent my life being anxious over. Until one day, the 500W light-bulb switched on, the one with big neon flashing lights above it :  the job and work situation had not changed, but I had changed. My attitude towards it had started to change, and I was starting to feel “stale”, as if I had reached my expiry date as a designer.

I started to take my yoga more seriously, completed my Yoga Teachers Training, and that is where the magic started. Although I was still working the hectic job all day, and completely reliant on every little cent, I was starting to attract more and more yoga teaching opportunities, and growing even more fond of it, and the reactions and feedback that I would get from my students, after a class. Which fueled my fire even more to take it more seriously.

Combining yoga with my passion for surfing, and ocean life in general, started to become my focus. I have also never had the funds to travel. So I started searching affordable ways to travel, whilst teaching yoga, which seemed like a dream. Something that you see people doing, but never actually believe that you could do one day. We get so blinded by the blinkers of the Rat Race, we fail to see the alternative opportunities out there, we fail to let go of the crutches we create for ourselves, that we need the stressful jobs to maintain. We are full of fear, we are too scared to try “what if?”

It is easier to sit and complain about how unhappy you are, than to actually do something about it. I have never been one of these types of people, thank goodness. So i started to search yoga + travel jobs, narrowed down a couple places that I would like to see, and go to, and all of a sudden, BABAM! I landed a job in the Maldives, one of my dream locations.

So to cut a very long story short, I am currently car-less, as my vehicle decided to collapse on me about 3 weeks ago. Just as I was trying to sell it so that I had some “safety” cash in the bank before I left. I have to be out of my flat this Sunday, so on top of finishing up 11 years of work, and trying to complete the next 2 months worth of work before I go, I have been trying to live around boxes, and absolute mess at home. Not the most ideal of situations for a Yogi who likes her calm, and space at home!

So I am busy packing up my entire life, and fitting it into a 20kg suitcase. On the 24th July, I step onto a plane, and for the first time in my life, I leave South African soil, and literally head off into the unkown, out into the middle of the Indian Ocean, and far away from life as I know it.

It is the most terrifying, but exciting thing that has ever happened to me. I feel like I am starting to live my dream life. I know that it is not going to be easy, I never wanted easy. I wanted a challenge. I want to grow.

To anybody out there who feels stale, just start with a small change, a small goal.. before you know it, you are literally shake, rattle and rolling, and once that momentum starts, it doesnt stop! It is a wild ride ( well Uber/ walk/ catch a lift in my case as I still have no vehicle!) , but I just know that it is going to be worth it in the end.

I challenge anyone who is afraid of change, who cant stand their current living situation.. to CHANGE it, and change it NOW! It is like taking the best breath of fresh air ever!

Watch this space….

Thank you injury, I am grateful for the experience.

Today was one of those days, where you wake up feeling as if something has been switched on, something inside of me has been re-connected. The light bulb was shining brightly again, almost as if I have replanted my trees roots, and am branching out onto a new path.

After a week that was ( I quote, directly from my Boss) : ” The equivalent to giving birth to barbed wire”, I was starting to feel as if I had been disconnected from my happy place, my back started aching again, as it did 10 weeks ago when I landed up in hospital with a herniated disk.

Why?  Because as usual, I got caught in that rat-race trap again, trying to train for Comrades Marathon, surfing the day after running a hard marathon, ( which I beat myself up about because I did not get the time that I wanted), not knowing then that my body was already begging for a break, and that is why I did not run the marathon I had trained and hoped for. All while working all day in a coma of stress, after running most mornings, teaching Yoga every chance I got, and not making enough time for my own yoga. Until my body, and life, forced me to stay in Savasana, which was about all that I could do, that or a side-ways version of child’s pose with a pillow between my knees. And a series of heavy painkillers poisoning my system. I was a yoga-fraud, and beating myself up about it even more!

Self-judgment started kicking in, fear of never being able to live my life to the fullest again, never being able to teach yoga again,  and a couple days of questioning life, why, why me?! Why? Because it was time for the teacher to be taught.

Instead of allowing it to defeat me, I put my running shoes on, and started walking. Doing whatever yoga I could do, listening to my physio, my fascia release therapist, and for the first time in a while, to my body.

10 Weeks later, and guess what.. I am still alive! I did not die from not being able to run, I did not put on 500kgs, I did not lose my strength in the surf, and I did not have to sell all my surfboards and never be able to go near the ocean again. And I have the answers to my questions, why me?! Because I needed to learn!

Since having to let go of all the time that my running was taking up, to wear my body out to run 90kms on the 10th of June , which I have already done, I have had so many yoga opportunities falling at my feet. I have learnt to appreciate the surf and the ocean again, not take it for granted as I was doing, surfing in all conditions to get my fix, to hide from the world that I could not face anymore without feeling a wave of anxiety breaking on my head. I have been reminded how humbling the ocean is, I got to re-live the stoke that one gets when they catch their first wave, something that I had to learn to do again. I have enjoyed only being able to walk, and actually notice what is around me, smile and greet people walking past, take time to appreciate the sunrise. Take time to reconnect with my camera, a passion of mine that I had totally ignored.

And I have learnt to SUP ( stand up paddle board), which was merely as a means to get back into the ocean again safely, while building good core strength again. This has become such a fix for me, paddling out into the deeper parts of the ocean, sitting out there on the board and just watching the sunrise, embracing the fact that I am a part of it in that moment. Having dolphins swimming underneath me, jumping in with them and listening to them underwater. What better therapy, and experience could anybody ask for, before going to work?!

I have learnt to calm down, and appreciate my body, like a real yogi should. I have learnt to handle my stress a little better, but also to learn to let go a little more, with my back aching every now and then, when things start getting heavy, or I start trying to run, I start to feel this little “niggle”, just a subtle reminder from my back that I need to calm down. Or else!

The biggest lesson, I have learnt to ask for help! I did not realise how ungrateful I was seeming by always trying to do everything myself, feeling guilty if I did accept someones help, as if people would think that I was incapable if I was not able to do everything.

I have learnt how to be HUMAN.

When I teach yoga now, I feel like I am more connected with my students than ever before, I am just as human as they are, not this perfect, unbreakable super-human as social media loves to paint yoga instructors as in pretty coloured pants. We are all human, we all make mistakes, and we are not perfect. My students have been able to learn from my mistake now, not listening to my body, not taking enough time out to just “be”. We are all in this life together, it is not a race. And they appreciate my transparency, exposing my demons and mistakes.

So at the end of this week, I celebrate the birth of the “barbed wire”, feeling the stress and chaos of the week and all the challenges that it had for me, releasing and letting go. I woke up this morning feeling energised, renewed, where as a couple days ago, I felt myself going back to that dark space. We tend to put blinkers on and ignore the dark spaces. All we need is a light, a candle, to illuminate them, and see them for what they are trying to teach us, rather than to avoid them completely.

As soon as we have learnt to not let them intimidate us, we are able to truly feel free within ourselves, which is exactly how I feel today. I had a good paddle out this morning, unfortunately my dolphin friends were still sleeping today! I did however, feel like my batteries had been recharged, that I breathed in fresh new life, and said goodbye to the baggage that I have been trying to run the rat-race with.

I’ve realised that trying to win the rat-race, is like trying to run Comrades Marathon barefoot, with blisters on your feet, in blazing hot sun with no water..and they keep on moving the finish line. What is the point of that?  Get out of the race, and just “be” in that moment, it is only in that moment that you will realise your purpose, realise what you have been blind to all these years, and that is when you truly start to live.

I am opening my eyes to so many more doors that have been staring at me for a while, begging me to open them, and suddenly the dark spaces are not seeming so dark anymore.

Have a great weekend everyone, I plan to practice a lot of  Savasana, and enjoy every moment of it!

 

Where are we running ?

I always think that I am looking after myself, getting enough rest, fitting in enough time for my Yoga practice.. until I land up so sick, run down, and miserable.. that I realize that I really don’t get enough rest and recovery time. And that I really do worry about things beyond my control.

Then I beat myself up, feeling like a total hypocrite, I am always preaching to people to give themselves a break, that there is no medal for proving that we can do more than is humanly capable of, that life is not a race. And that we need to live in the NOW, and only control what we can in this moment, right now.

Why do we allow ourselves to get to this point? What point are we trying to prove? Why do we always feel that we have to keep going and going, and add more to the pile of things that we are trying to balance?  Sure, maybe we are wanting to earn more money, who doesn’t need that? But when do you ever get to enjoy your hard earned money, to take yourself away more often, if you are constantly in this race to earn it, and maintain the lifestyle that society has led you to believe that you need to live?

I landed up with severe stomach problems a couple weeks back. And in a way, it needed to happen. Without even realizing it, I had allowed myself to get so caught up in the “rat race” again, I was back on that treadmill to nowhere, making it go faster and faster. Feeling like I needed to do more. For what? There is no prize at the end. I did not realize how much baggage  I was still holding onto, and how it was starting to rot within me, but instead of letting it go, I just kept on going,  trying to make a car go faster and further, with dirty old petrol and oil in the engine.

It made me re-think, re-shuffle things around, and do a much needed emotional detox,  as well as a physical detox. It is amazing how much clearer you can see once you have let go of all of the rubbish!

I am happy to say that I am back to sunshine, and happiness. And since then, new opportunities are opening up. I have space now for new energy to come in, new love and a new passion for life and people.

Life is so short, we do not take enough time to love ourselves, to nurture ourselves. To balance everything. It is good to push your boundaries, and step out of the comfort zone every now and then. It is what keeps us motivated, and inspired to live more and do more.

But don’t break the comfort zone so severely, that you land up crashing completely, without a safety net.

 

 

Warrior II : ever present and looking  forward 

When we are in Virabhadrasana II, we are taught to push strongly on the back foot, while keeping out torso upright and centered, while descending the hips down, grounding, front foot facing strongly forward, front arm pointing ahead of us, the mind however centered. 

As we approach the end of another magnificent year, we can’t help but look back on the year gone past, pushing strongly onto that back foot to take us away from the past,  where we were a year ago this time, doing the exact same thing, where we are now , our minds and torso upright and centered, and how much have we grown since then? And what does the year ahead have to offer, where are our front foot and arm pointing ? 

I always set myself little goals for the year, sometimes big ones, but no matter how big or small they are, I always find myself having a quiet smirk to myself when I realize that what was a mere lines of word of ambition and hope on a piece of paper… Are now memories and photographs, and experiences that have assisted to shape and mound me into what I am today. 

I find that it is in this moment of looking back, and realizing where I am now, that I can really start to plan my future, start making the next list. 

Don’t ever knock down your goals. Write them down, ink is permanent. If you take the time to make your dreams a permanent feature, and not just a mere vision in the back of your minds, you will be amazed at just how quickly they become a reality.

And it is when you have discovered this realisation, that you realize and appreciate your potential. 

I have realized that I have a much bigger box to fill, a much bigger box to think out of, and start living the large life that I have always dreamed about. I can achieve great things, and I am more determined than ever to prove it to msyelf. 

Watch out 2017, watch out world, I am coming for you!

Mind in the now

I have not had my running watch this week, which usually means ” oh no I cant run!” ..and I have been forced to live up to my own words, and ” run how you feel, get your mind and body in the ‘NOW”, NOT according to what the watch says”.. and it has been awsome! I have enjoyed it more, I feel like I have been running stronger, even up some of the nasty hills of Morningside, as I have not been trying to run further and faster so that I have a more impressive post on Strava, and not stressing about what pace I THINK I should be running, or how far my programe said I need to run today, but just learning to find my own natural rhythm, with my breath and foot steps, and running as far as my body feels it can go, today. . Maybe that is 4mins a km, maybe its 7mins a km, the point is that I am taking the time to get up and do something good for myself, remove myself from the real world for a while, and stop chasing a clock, which we do all the time, all day at work, between deadlines, to get to the gym/ run on time.. With the last weekend of my yoga training coming up this weekend, I have realised how much Yoga has taught me about life in general, not just how well we do postures, and how “cool” we look while doing them, Not how much faster or better we run compared to everyone else, but how we feel, right now, in the present moment and time. Not competing with anybody else, but our minds. What an amazing journey it has been, and I cannot wait to teach everybody what I have learnt. So grateful for this incredible “journey” that I set myself on this year. Namaste’ 🙂

The start of my magical life

My first introduction to Yoga, was many years ago, a good friend of mine was always finding space and an excuse to flick back into what looked like something out of Cirque’ de Soliel, or just push up into “upward dog” ( which I now know as Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) and just “ be” , and just breath. Me on the other hand… I was trying to run, and gym, and work more hours in a very fast paced and stressful industry,  listening to angry heavy metal music to fuel myself up even more, and try stress myself out as much as I could, so that , I don’t know, I could have self-pity parties when I was totally exhausted, or because I thought that maybe it made me some kind if superwoman? And of course everybody else that I knew, except my calm and tranquil friend Ken, were in the same boat as me, and we were all full steam ahead, 24/7, pounding our way through rough waters and storms, into the middle of nowhere, with no life boat or a flare gun, in case things went wrong.  I was invincible, and nothing was going to stop me. Who has time for yoga, where you just hold a posture, that is not even getting your heart rate up, how boring, I don’t have time for that!! Well.. I was so wrong, and did not realize how badly I actually needed yoga.

I used to ride off-ride bikes with my dad and brother, and as much as I loved being out in the bush, I also always felt like I had to go as fast as I could, ride where there were risks, just for that feeling of fear and taste of adrenaline. I love it, don’t get me wrong. But then I was introduced to the world of Belly Dancing.. and so my magical journey began.

I remember my first class, I went straight to the back of the room, I had only gone out of curiosity, I had been to watch a concert that my friends mom was taking part in, I had never ever thought about it, or paid much attention to Belly Dancing. But something at that concert spoke to me, screamed out to me actually. I just felt that I needed something new, and not to mention more feminine, and where I could still exercise, but have fun, and be creative, I am a very artistic person, but that side of me was being bullied by my constant need to go faster, be stronger, and never show your weak side. There I was, in a full T-Shirt, nobody was going to see my belly shaking… I met Karen, the teacher, who just oozed beauty, mystery, and magic, all in one. I grew to love the classes, and as my experience and skills improved, so did my self-confidence and smile. Slowly, day by day, my outer shell of concrete began to soften. The T-shirt also vanished and was replaced by beautifully beaded and embellished Belly-dancing tops, crop tops, in an array of magical colours. I then discovered Tribal Belly Dancing, and that was the way forward for me. Suddenly, the quiet, soft spoken artist in me emerged, and before I knew it, I was shaking and swerving my way around that stage, proudly and with confidence,  like some form of majestic, fluid sculpture in motion, completely lost in my own world, and music. Soft, weird and seemingly off-key music, nothing like the heavy-metal mind-set that I had come from.

I still rode the off-road bikes, ran as far and fast as I could, but the softer side that dancing and fire-spinning taught me, seemed to stay with me. I had slowly started to realize what my dear friend saw in yoga, and why he was always so calm and controlled, and so my thirst for Yoga grew.

I changed towns, the dancing came to a sad end, so I started to attend yoga classes to fill the gap of dancing, and just to meet other like-minded people. It also started becoming my “ go-to” after a rushed and stressful day, almost like a drug, that just fixed everything. I started running again, met more like-minded souls through it, and eventually finished my first Comrades Marathon, something which had been on my bucket list from a very young age. During this time, I also discovered the world of surfing. I had been trying for years to teach myself, but I was just loving paddling out into that ocean, a place that had always been a special place for me, it was an escape, nobody could reach me out there, just like being in the yoga studio, phones off, and it was only me and my yoga mat. Except now my surfboard replaced my yoga mat,  and I felt totally one with nature, back to basics, time to restart my mind. I got chatting at a social evening at our running club one night, and one of the guys ( who has since become one of my good friends) said Hey! Come join us in the surf, and lets learn together”.  Well, since then, surfing has become a lifestyle for me. The people that I have met, the experiences that I have had, the lessons I have learnt, are invaluable. There is no educational institute, or price-tag, that could give me the value and lessons, and experience, that surfing has taught me. I surfed more than I ran, during my Comrades training, but the whole mind-set that surfing, combined with my growing love for yoga, taught me, is what got me through, more than any marathon or speed session of pounding away at my mind, and body.

Completing my Yoga Teachers Training was just the most obvious thing that I had to do, and I had been putting it off for the past 3 years. I had started doing more in-depth workshops, and noticed the little changes that Yoga was making in my life. Asides the physical strength, the reduced injuries from all of the running, and general feeling of well-being, something within me was changing. My mind went back to when I discovered Belly Dancing, and how I began to blossom, and soften.. Yoga was the next step. It was removing the next layer of my concrete –shell, But I was always “ too busy” to do my teachers training.

I was given the opportunity to teach a small yoga class from the beginning of the year, from one of the most influential and motivational woman that I know, and I just fell in love with yoga even more, and seeing how it challenged the class in front of me, but made them feel so good at the same time. I made the decision to sign up for my yoga training, the time was right. It has been the most amazing journey of my life. The experience, the knowledge, the friends that I have made, the difficult situations that I had to deal with while doing my training, all the challenges that came my way, I had so much more awareness as to how I dealt with them, compared to how I would have, back in those “ heavy-metal hippie” days, when I did not know if I was an angry, fast-paced, dark hair, adrenaline chasing robot, or a soft and chilled Belly Dancer and artist.  I find that I can now look at myself everyday and be purely content with the body that I have, the people in my life, and accept the mistakes I have made, and learn from them. Nobody is perfect, especially not me, but it’s learning how to accept that, and learn from those mistakes, that makes you grow, and learn to be a better “ human” being.

The world of Yoga has opened up my eyes up to opportunities that I had never even considered, I realized how dehydrated my mind was to the knowledge and life experiences out there, and how badly I need to quench my thirst for travel, and new experiences.

As I look forward to tackling my first Midmar Mile Swim next year, and second Comrades Marathon, on behalf of the CHOC Foundation, I just know that I am going into them with very different goals and mind-set, as I did before. I have run a Comrades for myself to prove that my mind and body are capable of enduring anything, I have run a Sub-4 hour marathon, I have sprinted till my heart felt like it was going to burst out my throat, I have won my own physical challenges. For a change, I have learnt to put myself first, fix myself when I need to, and from this I can now help others, and use my skills for the benefit of others, because I have learnt how to help myself. I used to run myself ragged trying to please everybody else, help everybody else, and in the end, there was nothing left for me.

I now wake up every day with such a happy and grateful heart, which I always thought that I did before, but not with as much realisation and love for my life as I have now. I landed up in a very dark space towards the middle last year. I cannot believe that it is the same person looking back at me in the mirror now. All that I can see now are rainbows and magic. I don’t recognize that dark, serious and stressed little girl anymore. And if I ever saw her again,  would give her a hug, and send her to some surf and yoga lessons.

I am capable of great things, and great adventures await me.! I just cannot wait to share what I have learnt with the rest of the world. And capture it all with my camera  and sketch book, show the world how I see it.

Who knew that learning how to say Sirsasana (Shree-sa-sana) and then trying to maintain it for at least 10 minutes, could have such a “light-bulb” effect on your life, and teach you so much more than just how to stand on your head J

Namaste’  . . .