The amazing potential of our bodies fascinates me. Last year, this was highlighted to me when my body was able to transition from not being able to jog for more than thirty seconds to running 5km in less than thirty minutes. I said to myself that I could never be ‘one of those runners’, and now that I am one, I have decided to also be ‘one of those fabulous yoginis!’ I have been doing yoga on and off for years but I have never developed a regular, dedicated practice. I flit from centre to centre, never settling on a teacher or a schedule. I wish I had practiced more regularly since I first started, but obviously it was just not right for me then, as I now have the desire and almost the need to practice daily. I find it so grounding, relaxing and stress busting, as well as fun! I have therefore set myself the goal of practising yoga every single day for a year.
I would never be able to afford a daily yoga class, so I have signed up to a yoga website that gives you access to a fantastic range of high quality yoga videos for a monthly fee. This is also gives me the flexibility to practice whenever and wherever I want to. I have started getting up at 6:30am to fit in an hour of yoga before work each morning, and when I can I try to get twenty minutes or so in on my lunch break also. I am also going to go to some drop in classes and workshops throughout the year, as although yoga videos are great, nothing beats the knowledge and personalised direction of a yoga teacher, or the enjoyment of practising with others.
Yoga should be about the journey, rather than the destination, so my goal is simply to practice daily for a year, rather than set myself particular goals for the poses. I am however aiming to concentrate when it feels right on the poses which I need to improve rather than constantly re-do the poses that I enjoy and have perfected. I know where I would like to be, and what I need to do to help myself get there. What I mean is, I know how to do these poses that I wish to improve, but my body just isn’t able to go there yet, and that’s okay. This time next year I will do another post and see what ways my body has changed in the twelve months of daily practice and if my ability in these poses has progressed. I think it will be interesting to see! I do believe that I can get there with positivity, patience and perseverance!
My weaknesses are my tight hamstrings and hips which prevent me from going further in to some poses, and my weak upper arm strength, which makes all of the inversions, arm balances, handstands and headstands impossible for me at the moment. As well as strengthening my arms through yoga poses in preparation for these, I have started doing resistance training to strengthen and tone all my muscles, and it is amazing!
I have been following the very inspiring and beautiful soul Rachel Brathen on instagram (‘yogagirl’) for the past few months, and her wonderful photos of handstands on sunny beaches are inspiring to say the least! A lot of her practice and favourite poses involve my ‘impossibles’. When I saw that she mentioned in a post on instagram that she was going to be doing a workshop in my home city, I scrambled to the laptop like a dorky fan girl as I knew that it would sell out fast!
The workshop was described as follows “In this Vinyasa style class we will create plenty of heat, diving deep into our practice to explore our physical space on the mat. Beginning to break down the foundation of handstands and other arm balances we learn how to incorporate flying into our flow practice, one pose at a time! We work handstands into our transitions, finding the courage to little by little get our feet off the mat and up in the sky. By expanding the breath and working our core we connect to our center strength, finding a place of stillness in the midst of movement. Taking our first steps towards flying, expect fun transitions between traditional poses and plenty of opportunities to get upside down. Suitable for all levels – no previous handstand experience needed.”
The no previous handstand experience part was reassuring, but I knew that I wouldn’t be flying very high without increasing my upper arm strength. I only booked the workshop two weeks before it was scheduled to occur so for the fortnight before it I was planking and doing push ups like crazy trying to pump the (non existant) guns! I wanted to be as prepared as possible but knew that it would be an informative, inspiring and enjoyable workshop even if I could not get very far in to some of the poses. Rachel has a great energy and sincerity and it was a really enjoyable two hours. We were encouraged to work with partners in order to help each other with inversions and handstands, which was a nice way to build community in the class.
Needless to say I didn’t do a handstand this time, but I got a good tip for practicing -transitioning from down dog to a L shaped handstand with both feet flat against a wall. This will help to strengthen the upper body and arms in preparation for for inversions. (I should probably add, be careful -the first time I tried this at home I literally nearly killed myself by almost kicking my six foot bookshelf on top of me! If I wasn’t decapitated I would have suffocated under a pile of books, my whole antique collection and my Granny’s china teacups!)
Click here to see a video of some of the workshop. Unfortunately (or maybe I mean fortunately, I’m sure I wasn’t looking too Yoga Goddessy!) I don’t feature in the video, I am just out of the shot whenever the camera comes over to my side! It gives a nice snapshot of what the evening was like and I thought some of you might be curious about what a workshop indoors in Ireland might be like seeing as many of her followers are so used to seeing her in more idyllic beach settings in Aruba! Given that I usually practice on my own in my room, it was great to go to such a large workshop. There were at least a hundred people practising together in the room and it felt wonderful to be with so many like minded people. Namaste all round!
All photos in the post are from http://www.rachelbrathen.com