by Zoe Barclay
Breathe deep and with intention.
I’ve been breathing my entire life. It was literally the first thing I did – you might say it came naturally. So you can imagine my surprise when I started practicing yoga to find that there is so much more to breathing than what I’ve done all day (and night) long my entire life…
When I first started yoga, focusing on my breathing would actually give me a headache. I had this inability to surrender to myself and just be mindful. It took me a few classes to realise this was all I really needed to do - I was so focused on trying to force my body into strange poses that I quickly became frustrated. This did not help. The more I forced it the more my body resisted. I had to slow down.
My first class at Stretch Yoga was a Deep Stretch class (a class where you hold passive stretches for 3-5 minutes at a time). PJ (the owner) told me that this was the perfect class for me – I regularly rock climb and am definitely on the less flexible side of the spectrum. I expressed to her my intense dislike of downward dog and after she laughed she assured me that not all yoga classes are the same as what I had been doing, and that there was the perfect class to suit my needs.
One of the ideas of a Deep Stretch (or yin yoga) class is that as you breathe you are breathing ‘into’ the pose, breathing into that area of the body. Breathing into an area deeply helps to relax it further and gives you a deeper stretch – makes sense right? As I lay there relaxing into the stretch I found I didn’t have as many thoughts jumping around my head. Ari, my teacher, would tell us to breathe into this part of your body and that part of the stretch, and I found myself just doing it. It was really strange how easy it was and how natural it became.
It’s strange to me that something that started out as so uncomfortable to me, is now really quite soothing. I guess persistence is the key with this yoga business. I’m not yet at a point where it occurs to me to be mindful about my breathing unless instructed to, but I’m told this comes with time. I’m finding that as I listen to my yoga teacher tell me where my breath should be moving, I become acutely aware of how much I don’t trust my body to do the things it knows how to do.
I had not (as far as I was aware at that point) been approaching yoga with any pre-conceived ideas. But as I came to realise, laying there on the floor in a room full of strangers, I’d already pigeonholed this practice and what I thought it was going to mean for me. I had walked in with the idea in my head about how it was all going to go, and had tried to force my body to work within this stereotype I had in my head. I had to try a bunch of different classes before I found one that got me in the yoga ‘zone’. One that broke down my ideas of what ‘doing yoga’ was. And now that I’ve found it, I can move more freely from here.
There’s more room to grow, softly, and organically, with this new found friend of mine that is yoga. This has the foundations to be something great, I don’t know if we are both ready to drop the ‘L’ word just yet, but I’m definitely in ‘strong like’ with yoga now.