I was teaching a yoga class to teens on the beach last week when one of their educational guides asked me to talk to them about why I do yoga. For a moment, I went totally blank. How could I break down something that has been the most transformative saving grace in my life? Yoga is the thing that has guided me through forgiving a father who abandoned me at four years old, anorexia whilst enduring professional dance training, an abusive relationship, motherhood, divorce and most recently the death of the father of my two children.
The words that came to me in that brief moment were ´Yoga makes me feel good.’ Yoga makes me feel good when I feel like my whole world is crumbling around me; yoga gives me the strength to keep going when I feel like giving up, yoga tells me I can when my mind says I can´t. Yoga reminds me of the queen that I am on the inside when everything on the outside seems to want to drag me down.
I am 41 years old and have been practicing yoga since I was 18. I started to teach yoga when I was 25 and a young mother. I soon realised that I was too young to teach because I lacked the life experience I felt I needed to really share the transformative and healing power of yoga. At this time of my life I had it all, the most incredible life partner, money, a beautiful one year old baby son and a new life in Barcelona. My mother had also recently moved nearby with her family and I had started dancing again. Life was easy, but teaching yoga was difficult because I found myself teaching older women who I could sense were on the mat for more than just a physical hit; they were searching for a connection with themselves in a deeper way. For them, life wasn’t always easy and they were in need of healing. So, I stopped teaching and became the student, always knowing that I would return one day, when I really had something of value to teach.
Sixteen years later, my life now is all about being on the mat and teaching yoga and it´s simply all about feeling good. Not feeling good in a disco kind of ‘quick hit’ way, but feeling good in a deep, grounding, delicious and transformative way. Yoga means ‘union with the self’ and that union with the self can be as simple as lying down on the yoga mat and breathing, that is literally all it takes to just begin to get a glimpse of who you are and what really matters. If just for a moment you can give up everything that you identify with, to instead lie on a yoga mat and breathe, because somewhere something in you is fighting for the good, that is enough.
I do yoga because it is like sleeping, or eating, or showering to me. It is essential for my daily wellbeing and as I get older, it is essential for riding the storms that life brings. In August of this year the father of my sons Dahli and Arjuna, died of an unexpected heart attack at the age of 52. After the shock of his death had lifted and I found myself on my own for a couple of days, my first instinct was to go to a restorative yoga class and open my chest and let myself cry all the tears I had held in while I had tried to hold the space for my sons. I was exhausted and my heart needed to be cleansed and healed and as a mother I needed to cultivate inner strength for my boys. I practiced restorative yoga to rest, because grieving takes a lot of energy and in these classes I practiced heart opening poses to release the emotions and in dynamic Vinyasa flow classes, I did strong standing poses to cultivate strength.
Yoga has always been emotional therapy for me. Beyond the physical benefits, yoga and meditation have been my medicine on a daily basis. My roots lie in dance and so when I move my body, I remember who I am and I forget about everything on the outside for a moment. Whether we like moving our bodies or not we need to take time out from the world and who and what we identify with and break it down to a simple conversation with yourself; so, when I say just getting on the mat and breathing is enough, I really do mean it.
Yoga practices are varied and it’s important to discover what kind of yoga practice is relevant to us right now. If you are stressed from work then you may need a really quiet class like Yin. Alternatively, some mothers like a really dynamic workout to release worry, to feel energised and strong.
Our biology is our biography and so we cannot undervalue the physical benefits of yoga postures, but we are also deeply emotional beings and so when we are out of whack emotionally, mentally or spiritually we get sick, off balance and also can´t make decisions. I see Yoga as much as a preventative medicine as a healer. It is a way to rest and release stress before it manifests into a physical ailment or dysfunction.
As both a yoga teacher and mother I have learned that more than anything I am a human being and that this is what I can teach. By getting onto the mat we can learn how to be okay with the emotional mess that life often is. You can learn how to forgive yourself when you repeat a toxic habit and to never ever give up on your dreams regardless of how old or stuck you may feel you are. I could write for hours on the benefits of yoga but as I say to my teen students- you have to experience it yourself to understand the magic, even if that is only 10 minutes lying on the mat with your breath. Like life, yoga practice is a journey, it has nothing to do with perfecting poses or how long you can sit in meditation. It is about discovering your inner delight, your fierce medicine and your magic.
This weekend I invite you to indulge in a free unique 20 minute gentle yoga flow and live cello class. This class is appropriate for all levels and perfect for those days when all you want to do is lie on the mat and listen to the music. Over the past 3 years I have been developing YOMU project -yoga flow, live cello & beats classes to help to get us out of our heads and into our bodies and breathe. Music, like yoga heals the pain and raises the spirits. In bringing these two elements together we can maximise our bliss. Here is the link to the class.
Have a great weekend, on and off the mat !
You can find Lucy @yomuproject via Instagram and at YOMU project online