I’ve labeled myself “Self Taught” – but really it is “Taught By Many” <3
I have had so many teachers. Every Instagram yogi I follow, every Youtube yogi I have watched, every yoga article I have read online, every magazine I have picked up, every yogi I have had the pleasure of practicing with – I have been taught by so many.
I spent my teenage years as a competitive swimmer, training my butt off to get split seconds faster. I didn’t know, nor understand, how my body was meant to feel or meant to function. Due to lack of awareness to my body, I dislocated both of my knee caps. It was a combination of weak glutes and hamstrings, along with over strong and tight quads. This halted my swimming career, my swimming dreams – but threw me onto a whole other path of discovery. In hindsight it was perfect timing, it was exactly what I needed. I stopped sports, hated fitness. I was so bummed and frustrated about my injuries that I had no intention of rehab or any other fitness related dreams.
It took about 2 years for me to realise what I was doing to my body by neglecting it. I couldn’t walk 300m without pain or discomfort, I couldn’t wear certain types of shoes without agony. I realised that at 19 years old I wasn’t fit for life – my quality of life was seriously affected. It was then that I sought for help, and started the long rehab process. With some great people, doctors and professionals I finally started to understand how my body was meant to function, and meant to feel. It took a really bumpy 2 years to go from 300m walking to running a 10km obstacle course.
It was toward the end of those 2 years of rehabilitation that I discovered yoga. I remember my first glimpse of it, my first class. It was hot, and I had ran 7km before hand – thinking yoga wasn’t a workout. The first pose in the sequence was a forward fold; I clearly remember how uncomfortable I was, how frustrated I was that I couldn’t get to my toes, nor my ankles. The rest of the class went on, and I was uncomfortably inflexible. I knew I didn’t want to feel like that, I wanted a better quality of life, I wanted my body to function and feel great.
That’s where the work started, with that darn forward fold. I would sit in front of the TV and wrap a towel around my feet pulling myself deeper. I would spend 20 minutes after every workout stretching and stretching – feeling like I was getting nowhere. This was 14 months ago. 14 months ago I had only ever attended one yoga class, and I only started to stretch my hamstrings.
It was about a year ago that I discovered more about yoga. Back bends, inversions, hip openers, and more. Mainly through the world of Instagram. I was inspired! To see other women able to make the most beautiful shapes with their bodies. I saw the aesthetic aspect of yoga, the flashy and pretty side. The cool factor of doing a headstand, or to be able to do scorpion! I didn’t ever imagine the emotional and mental benefits of this practice. I didn’t realise the power of yoga, the deeper beauty of yoga. I sought to find a way for my body to function well, but I didn’t expect to learn how to appreciate my body.
I’m asked daily: “How did you start?”, “Where did you start?”, “How did you teach your self?”, “I want to start yoga, but I don’t know how…”
So how can you start teaching yourself yoga?
- Why do you want to learn? Find what you want to get out of this journey. I started with an urge for more. I started with the search of fulfillment, the need to feel great. I started by being curious. I started by wanting to wake up energised and my body to function well. I started with the need for a better quality of life.
- Be proactive! If you want something, get up and do it. It isn’t going to just come to you, you need to go find it.
- Make some goals to start. Work towards a particular pose, such as: headstand, splits, or dancers pose. Focus on achieving that one goal, and soon progress will become addictive.
- Start with stretching, and working on your flexibility. Research some stretches for the splits or to open up your chest and back for a back bend. Research about how your breath can be used to deepen each stretch. Use Instagram and Youtube to learn more. Not just one yogi, but many! The more information the better. Learn from doing various Instagram yoga challenges. @ellefitactive has a brilliant full body guide about stretching for yoga! I bought it months ago, and a lot of my progress came from that.
- Start with stretching you mind. Understand that you a capable of anything you work for. Understand your possibilities. Learn to appreciate and love your body for what you can do. Learn to love your body one pose at a time!
- Be brave. Don’t be afraid to try. Don’t be scared to try and fail – be scared of not trying, of not knowing if you could have been successful.
- Take progress videos and photos! This is a massive tool which helped me, and still does! I film some poses, and see where I can improve my technique, see if I am grasping the essence of the pose or flow. Take photos to monitor progress; progress is progress, no matter how small.
- Consistency is key! It is about everyday doing something towards your goals, consistently. It doesn’t happen over night, I didn’t wake up like this. It wasn’t one good practice which led me to where I am, it was months of good practices. It took months of everyday committing to my goals.
- Don’t give up. The first 4 months of my yoga journey was hard. Not many people could see my vision, believe in my dreams, understand why. What I was yet to learn, was that they didn’t need to understand or believe in me; only I had to. Trust me, proving yourself right is the best feeling – so keep going!
Keep learning, keep searching. Stay curious! And remember, if you are the smartest person in the room, find a new room.