I am grateful to yoga every day, as it changed my life. I first started practising yoga because my back was sore, but it did not take too long before I fell in love with it. In the last 15 years, I went through many different styles of yoga before I found ashtanga. Ashtanga or ashtanga vinyasa is a dynamic style of yoga. It is practiced Mysore style, which means it is not a led class. Students have to memorize given sequences and practice them in the same order every time. There are several different series, from the most basic first series through to most advanced, advanced D. Only a few get to the last series though. I have been practicing ashtanga for probably eight years now, almost every day for the last four years and I am still at the beginning.
Since the end of last year, I could not practice much though, because I sprained my wrist jumping into the bhujapidasana posture. My wrist has gotten much better since then, but it is taking time to get back into the level of practice I was before. Last week was the first week in ages that my practice started feeling almost normal again. I lost a lot of strength and some flexibility during the time I could not practice yoga, but with spring days getting longer and warmer lately, it all started slowly coming back.
I missed it so much! Yoga has become a part of me over the years. Since I found ashtanga, my life started slowly changing for the better and I am so grateful I found it. I have become more mindful and my life has become more purposeful. Before I used to feel lost and without purpose or direction. Nonetheless, it takes a lot of determination to get up at 5.30 every day to practice before going to work, especially when it is dark and cold. It takes o lot of determination but it is all worth it. Not only my body feels strong, through yoga, I am also learning to love my body. Yoga is making me realize what my body can do and what a miracle it actually is. I suffered from an eating disorder in the past and although it was a long time ago, I still cannot say I love my body completely. Believe me I am trying! Sometimes I have better days but sometimes I still have days when I do not particularly love my body. On some days, I do not like it at all, especially when I am having some health issues and it is not working the way it should. I know that on days like that, we need to love our bodies and ourselves the most. However sometimes it is just not possible.
We all have bad days and therefore, it is so important to take it one day at the time. You can make a mistake, or a few. We are all human. What is important is to every time forgive yourself afterwards. Just do not beat yourself up for it. In life and in yoga, progress is never linear. It comes and goes in waves. My life and my journey has definitely not been linear since I started practicing. Up and down, forward and back. My journey is slow and winding and it is progressing slowly, but with each step, I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be in the given moment.
Yoga teachers us patience. Yoga (and meditation) brings my mind to rest. It allows me to get out of my head. Every day, I get on the mat and do not know what to expect, what my practice is going to be like that day. In ashtanga, although we practice the same sequence of poses in the same order every day, the practice is never the same. I show up on my mat every day, at least every weekday (traditionally you are supposed to practice six days a week, but my body usually needs to rest on the weekends) and let the magic happen. What is meant to happen will happen. Some days I practice the whole series, sometimes only the daily minimum, the opening sun salutations and the closing poses. And that is OK. I used to practice the whole series every day, went to the yoga studio every time and then had to rush to work. I do not rush anymore. I practice mostly at home and do whatever I feel like that day. Afterwards, I have my breakfast and walk to work. When I am tired, I rest, or I just meditate. I began to approach my whole life like that, I let it flow and do things the way I feel in that given moment.
Before I found ashtanga, I did not know what to do with my life. I was not sure what interests me, what my passion is and felt inferior because of it. Since I was little, I wanted to be a writer. I learned to read by myself when I was four and used to read under my blanket at night when I was supposed to sleep. I started writing poems when I was six or seven and journaling a few years later, and still do sometimes to this day. Writing was always easier for me than speaking. I somehow felt, that on paper, I could be more honest. I could say whatever I wanted, whatever I felt. Paper can take it. Paper did not judge me and it was lenient. Creative writing was my favourite class in university. However, I did not think I was good enough to become a writer, I thought I did not know what to write about. I could not make up stories. I still thought that I would write a big novel one day. Today, I do not think anymore that I am supposed to write novels. I believe I am here to inspire others with my writing and to give them hope and courage.
You might have guessed that my second passion is helping people. I have had this feeling for a very long time, that I have a purpose in this world. That I am here for a reason. That I am here to help others. For a long time, I did not know how to help. A few years ago, I thought I could help people through humanitarian aid. I decided to go to uni a second time, even though I hated it the first time, and study international relations: At the same time, I volunteered for a couple of major humanitarian organisations, and wrote my master’s thesis on humanitarian aid. Someone asked me once, when I was fundraising money on the street for people in Africa: “Why are you helping people on the other side on the world, who do not even want to be helped? You should be helping people here.” That question resonated with me but I could not answer it at the time. Moreover, writing my thesis, I realized humanitarian aid is not the solution. I wrote about the effectiveness of humanitarian aid in countries which are experiencing a long-term armed conflict and came to the conclusion that in these cases it is not effective at all (I am not talking about acute cases, such as natural disasters here). Until we find the root causes of problems (in this case armed conflicts), we cannot solve them with band aids.
It is the same with health. There is no point covering up symptoms with drugs, as traditional medicine does. The solution to healing is to find the root cause of disease and to address it. However, I had to go through it all, experience it, graduate, and get an alleged dream job that turned out to make me sick. It was all meant to be this way. Sometimes you have to go all the way down in order to bounce of the bottom and raise back up. I had to get sick in order to realize what is really important, what has meaning for me, and what I want from life. That I need to start healing myself in order to be able to help others on their healing journey. People whom I understand because I went through something similar like them. This way I can be useful, I can make a difference, I can help to change the world which also needs healing. Each of us has to start with him or herself.
Yoga taught me to go within and look for answers there. I could never find the right answers outside. For a long time, I did not believe in myself and I did not listen to my inner voice. I felt like I do not know who myself was and what myself wants from life. Therefore, I am actually glad that I got sick, otherwise I would not have found out what I really want. I am also grateful to yoga, that it brought me on this journey. That it opened my eyes and taught me to perceive myself.