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’ . . .