Right so, yoga in Dublin is on the up, the bandwagon (or brightly coloured mat) has caught your eye, and it looks tempting.
I’m not going to be preachy here, I’m just going to lay it out as it is – yoga is great. For mental health, for physical wellbeing, for anyone who has ever struggled with recognising their own worth and needs a bit of coaxing to help them realise that we’re all entitled to live happily and to enjoy the fuck out of life and our bodies.
Why not start now?
Here’s a (very)shortlist of some of my favourite places in Dublin to practice yoga, in no particular order.
1. Yogahub, 27 Camden Place
It makes sense for me to start with the place where I quite literally fell (over) for yoga. A happy accident and surge of caffeine-fueled confidence led me here one blustery day when I was in desperate need of re-centering, and Matt, Jenny and all the staff of Happyfood have yet to see the back of me!
A friendly atmosphere coupled with classes to suit all levels and timetables, a fabulous team of creative teachers and not to mention yummy vegan food for after class at Happyfood, Yogahub have got a great thing going for themselves. Weekly workshops focus on various aspects of the yoga practice and teacher training courses are also available! Classes do tend to fill up fast so I’d recommend booking ahead. They also organise outdoor yoga in Stephen’s Green/Dartmouth Square during the Summer (header pic above).
Weather depending, obviously!
A stone’s throw from Dublin’s cultural hub in the centre of Templebar, Samadhi on Cow’s Lane is a haven amidst the chaos of tourist-clogged cobblestones. Offering a variety of yoga classes from Ashtanga, to Iyengar, Mysore and Kundalini, Samadhi is a great place to try out a new yoga style in a relaxed and friendly environment.
They also run teacher trainings and regular workshops, offer a variety of massages and therapies, have another studio based in Drogheda – and are situated right opposite the Queen of Tarts! Winner!
These guys have two yoga centres in Dublin, one in Ranelagh and one in Dundrum, handy for ye green-liner Luas folks. Both studios are very well equipped and offer a range of classes of both yoga and pilates, including pregnancy yoga. YogaDublin offers various massage & holistic treatments, stocks a range of Irish products in their reception and facilitate teacher trainings too!!
Home to more than just yoga, the Dublin Holistic Centre on South William Street (above Tropical Popical!) boasts a huge variety of holistic treatments, classes and courses to suit your needs. Between yoga, pilates, reiki, tai chi, acupunture, massages, and much more, you’re sure to find a session that appeals. The yoga studios are beautifully spacious high-ceilinged rooms with hard wooden floors, twinkly lights and all equipment provided.
Check their latest timetable here, and the website for details of the current sessions on offer.
With a focus on promoting health and wellbeing for all the family, Elbowroom in Stoneybatter hosts a huge variety of classes and workshops, yoga styles and classes. One of the only centrally based yoga studios to offer kids yoga, Elbowroom also provides other kinds of fitness classes such as dance, zumba, and pilates, and holds regular workshops & trainings. This includes continued-education trainings intended for existing yoga teachers/trainees to deepen their practice.
Drop in: €10-€16 (dependant on duration & concession) Timetable
Meditation vs Mindfulness – What Is the Difference?
Is anyone else guilty of vaguely agreeing to participate in a mindfulness or meditation session without really being clear on what they’re getting themselves in for? Even after it’s over? I know I am.
Surely it’s all the same, wishy-washy, inhale-exhale, breath-through-your-third-eye kind of stuff, right?
While both meditation and mindfulness stem from the same flowerbed, each complimenting the other and each a tool for focusing the mind and creating space for our authenticity to grow and manifest itself out into the world around us, there are several fundamental differences between the processes involved.
I have to be careful here. I don’t want to delve too deep and scare people away.
While meditation has been defined and redefined over centuries and by a vast number of religious groups and otherwise inclined practices, its premise has fundamentally remained the same.
In simple terms, meditation is the art of sitting with our breath; with a certain thought; with a particular occurrence or sensation, and focusing all of our attention and energy towards it. That’s it. The one thought, thing or sensation, and all attention and awareness, including breath, is focused there. Gradually, somewhere in the midst of this blurb of directed consciousness, that one thing merges with the awareness and we’re left with a beautiful sense of unity and ability to relate whole-heartedly to the object of our meditation, as if it is part of us.
This has led to the establishment of the likes of breath meditation, chakra meditation, guided meditation (where all attention is focused on the guiding words), heartbeat meditation, visualization, kundalini meditation, walking meditation, samskara meditation, pranic (energetic) meditation, intention meditation…the list goes on, and it will forever. As long as humans can consciously think for themselves.
The central idea being that all of this conscious energy and attention is directed towards that one thing, without straying to follow any shiny new thoughts or enticing smells that may pass seductively through our brains in the meantime.
Mindfulness is, admittedly, a branch of meditation. Yet while we still engage that same focus and intention as with general meditation, instead of a single chosen action, thought or sensation, mindfulness requires us to focus all our attention on the moment as it is right now. On our current set of emotions, sensations, actions and circumstances. The present moment, any current physical or mental sensations which we may be experiencing.
A lot of mindfulness comes down to the presentexperience. In fact, all of it does. How much of something are we really experiencing if our mind is off meditating on something that happened a week ago?
Let That Shit Go
This is where the core difference between mindfulness and meditation comes into play – the ability to differentiate between the present moment, the body and minds current situation, and any thoughts which may be hindering that by not being entirely relevant to what’s happening right now. All of this, along with the ability to let them go.
In order to focus properly on what’s happening right now, we have to be able to put our fingers obediently on the lips of any incessant thoughts persisting from elsewhere, and draw the attention back to the present moment.
A fairly simple explanation of my understanding of the differences between these two practices, yet in reality this simplicity and ease of mental activity is exactly what we seek to embody by practicing meditation of mindfulness. Simples.
Sthira and Sukha – 2 Vital Principles of Yoga Explained
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are considered the most concise and thorough explanation of yoga and it’s significance to us as practitioners today. The Sutras, thought to have been compiled around 400CE and literally translated as ‘threads’ from the Sanskrit word, serve as individual definitions of concepts and knowledge that together form the entire ideology of Yoga. The style of the ‘sutra’ is designed to present us with essential knowledge in as few words as possible, free from ambiguity or irrelevant information. Each principle or thread of knowledge is laid out in easily understood and straightforward sentences which has led to their successful and accurate passing from generation to generation, right down to our understanding of them today. Two vital aphorisms which the Sutras define are those of Sthira and Sukha, key aspects of both the physical and spiritual practice of yoga as it is understood today. Although there is no successful ‘completion’ or personal attainment associated with any genuine yoga practice, the translation of Sthira as ‘steadiness’, and Sukha as ‘ease’ are two aims which we should associate and seek to embody throughout our yoga practice.
Strength and Steadiness
To hold an asana (pose) with steadiness and strength (Sthira), we are working our inner core and drawing upon a lengthy period of sustained and regular practice. Strength and confidence in holding difficult asanas is not achieved overnight, and as such the attributes of Sthira are generally realised only after a period of consistent and dedicated practice.
Ease and Comfort
Sukha, on the other hand, is a softer and more emotional element of the asana practice which usually follows Sthira in its revelation. To truly relax within a posture or given situation, we must feel both strong and at ease within our bodies. Sukha embodies the feeling of ease and peace of mind that comes with a comfortable flow from one posture to the next and the ability to maintain each asana comfortably. It is this comfort and contentment within a given posture or flow which successfully defines Sukha.
The softness of Sukha combined with the alertness and strength of Sthira is the real goal of any yoga practitioner; no matter how far or deep the twist or stretch may be, once it is held steadily and comfortably with a sense of both Sthira and Sukha, both the body and mind will be at ease within it – and there’s nothing better than the feeling of finally being able to comfortably hold a posture you once struggled with, whether it was mentally telling yourself you weren’t able, or being too physically weak to do so! In this sense Sthira and Sukha further promote and maintain the unification of mind and body we seek to achieve through yoga practice.
5 Amazing Places to Practice Yoga in Bali – Upward Facing Blog
Whether it’s a spiritual awakening you’re seeking or simply a place to tune into your body again after a hectic stint of travelling, it’s no secret that yoga in Bali is huge. The tiny island is home to some of the most amazing studios and locations to practice yoga. We’ve compiled a short list (in no particular order!) of just some of the delights yogis simply must experience during a trip to Bali..
Serenity Eco-Guesthouse and Lodge is an absolute haven for the travelling yogi and surfer alike. Literally 100 metres short stroll from Batu Bolong Beach, you can surf, do yoga, chill by the pool, receive any number of their holistic massages and treatments, all whilst nourishing your body and eating spectacularly healthy food at’Alkaline Restaurant’, the motto of which is “Let thy food be thy medicine’.
Speaks for itself, really. With a vast yoga timetable spanning from Mysore, Yoga for Surfers, Acro Yoga and Gentle evening Yin and Meditation, the options are endless whether you choose to stay here or not. Drop-in rates and class passes are available, as well as bike/scooter rental and extremely friendly and helpful staff and teachers to answer any queries you may have about getting around or which yoga style might suit you best.
Another Canggu gem, Samadi Bali also provides daily yoga classes, access to spa treatments, meditations, workshops, facilitation of trainings and retreats, rooms, and it’s own yummy café/restaurant serving healthy eats and tasty treats. The weekly Sunday market here is extremely popular with local expats and business owners alike, as residents of the ‘gu’ can stock up on fresh produce and the latest trends! Samadi yoga in Bali regularly hosts yoga and meditation workshops focusing on varying themes and with guest teachers too, so it’s worth keeping an eye on their schedule during your visit!
Possibly the most well-known studio for yoga in Bali, certainly in Ubud anyway, The Yoga Barn is exactly what you’d imagine if “Eat. Pray. Love” had been set in a one place. A paradise for the travelling yogi and spiritual seeker, Yoga Barn boasts one of the most hectic yoga schedules I’ve ever laid eyes on, but the enormous space and numerous high-capacity studios in and around the complex along with the juice bar, garden kafé, restaurant and various chillout areas mean you could actually spend entire days here in complete bliss and solitude from the outside world.
They’re constantly adding to and changing the existing timetable and layouts too, so you wouldn’t even get bored! Yoga Barn also host Yoga Teacher Trainings and retreats, and while it’s possible to stay within the complex, it may prove cheaper (and a bit less intense!) to get accommodation nearby in Ubud.
This is one of those places that enticed me purely on its external appearance and the promise of extreme proximity to the beach, having been shown a picture of the beautiful bamboo yogashala by a traveller-friend in Sri Lanka. The Power of Now Oasis in Sanur on the South Coast of Bali is one of the leading facilitators of yoga and meditation retreats, trainings, and holistic therapy treatments on the island, and one glance at the website will have you drooling over the stunning design and apparent perfection of each little blade of grass….it’s beautiful, really.
Between a daily yoga and meditation schedule, teacher trainings, retreats, and the local touch of colour and daily offerings, there’s always a peaceful, friendly, and positive vibe to be felt here.
Aandd it’s back to Canggu we go! Last but certainly not least on this brief list of havens of yoga in Bali is one of my favourite corners of the world – The Practice in Canggu. This relatively new studio (they opened their doors in early 2016) has achieved an astonishing amount of success in the short time they’ve been facilitating their classes, workshops, retreats and trainings in the locality of Canggu.
Octavio Salvado and his team provide concise, effective, and deep-reaching classes focusing mainly on Hatha Yoga and the varying elements of Sun, Moon and Fire, each class focusing on one particular element and delving into the unique properties of the practice associated with it. Their motto of ‘On and off the mat’ aims to promote yoga as a lifestyle and not just a daily physical routine. The 7am flow was a staple for me during my time in Canggu, and I honestly could not have asked for a more friendly or peaceful environment in which to start my day! Weekly Kirtan sessions are also a highlight for those interested in music and harmony. Keep an eye on their website for details on workshops, new trainings, and a new Online Yoga programme which helps those abroad keep in touch with their Practice even when they can’t be in Bali!
Ok, so your office doesn’t exactly include being able to ‘quit the day job’ and fulfill your lifelong dream of becoming a yoga instructor yet on the list of holiday options. That’s ok. These things take time, (and money!). We all know what it’s like to sit uncomfortably at a desk for hours at a time, secure in the knowledge that next month’s rent will be payable, yet physically itching to drop to downward dog and stretch out that spine on the office rug after hours staring at a screen. As we learn in yoga, finding a middle ground is key, and if you really can’t wait for your 6pm Vinyasa class or escape for a quick lunchtime flow at Yogahub, we’ve compiled a list of 7 subtle yet effective ways to get your yoga on as you tick through your daily tasks.
Sit up Straight It may sound simple – and it is. Ensuring your spine does not round and become accustomed to curving over your coffee cup and keyboard is vital to maintain a good posture and core. Uncross your legs. Simply adjust your sit bones and belly to an alert and attentive posture, and peel your shoulders back whenever you notice a curvature. Practice balanced and strong breathing, like in Tadasana. This will make sure you maintain focus, and lessen anxiety, allowing you to meet deadlines as required. You’ll also feel and look more confident! Post-it notes can be a helpful reminder to ‘sit up’ whenever your attention wanders to the walls or floor or ceiling…anywhere away from your work!
Last I checked it was a perfectly acceptable office activity to have a little stretch now and then – now all you have to do is practice mindful breath awareness as you do it! On a deep inhale, raise both arms above your head. You can remain in a seated position, with your back and shoulders straight. Touch the palms together, and hold for 5 breaths. Alternate between leaning to the left and right to experience a stretch in both sides, holding each side for an equal number of breaths.
It’s called ‘Chair Pose’ for a reason! Sitting straight and comfortably with your two hands on your thighs, take several deep breaths. You can even close your eyes if it’s particularly busy today – achieving calm in the chaos of a stressful office environment is no easy feat. Raise hands above head, and using the strength in your legs, lift the sit bones several inches from your seat, maintaining the ‘seated’ posture as you hover for 5 breaths.
While you may lack the floor space and general social confidence to complete a round of cat-cows by the printer machine, simply peeling your shoulders back and down on an inhale, and rounding your spine to suck your bellybutton in the direction of your spine on an exhale several times is a great way to compensate. Make sure you begin sitting up straight and breathe slowly! This pose is great for alignment and re-configuring your entire system after a stressful meeting.
Seated Twist What’s that behind you?? To the left? Hmm, not sure. How about to the right? This one is easy to do subtly, but don’t forget to focus on your breath! It’s easy to get carried away in the physicality of yoga, and an environment like an office space makes it extra hard to focus on the interior, most important and beneficial side of the pracitce. Twist from below the waist, letting your head follow your spine and remain on each side for several breaths.
Forward Bend Depending on the understanding of your co-workers this pose is more easily accessible for some than others. Of course, you could always just pretend to have something in your shoe! With feet shoulder-width apart from a standing position, slowly bend forwards from the waist on a long exhale. Don’t force your hands to touch the floor, rather let them rest comfortably wherever they reach naturally, and remain here for several breaths. Exit the pose in a similarly controlled and mindful fashion.
Tabletop Shoulder Opener Using the actual top of your table or desk, scoot your chair back several inches so that your arms can stretch out straight, palms still on the desk. Drop head down between the arms and hold for several breaths, ensuring the rest of your torso remains in line and legs are uncrossed. If anyone asks, just say you lost something under the desk!
Aeroplane Safety Pose
I’m not quite sure what the actual name of this pose is, but it looks like the seated forward fold from your chair that’s instructed on aeroplanes to assume should the plane get into any difficulty! Widen legs and drop slowly from the lower back and hips until your torso is resting on your legs, head hanging towards the floor. Several breaths here could serve as your new go-to pose for any panicked or stressful situations!
Pranyama and Meditation
Remember, ‘to practice yoga’ does not merely mean working through a successful flow of asanas and feeling like you’ve completed a great workout. There is much more to an active and authentic yoga practice than physically challenging yourself to a pose you’ve never done before. In this sense, an office environment can actually be the ideal location to practice breathing and pranyama techniques you’ve learned in class. If nothing else, it is certainly the environment in which they may become necessary at short notice – stressful situations and work-related anxiety hits even the most practiced yogis at times, and it is important to be able to take 5-10 minutes break from work, not necessarily from your desk, but to just breathe. Close your eyes and practice “4-2-6” breathing, or quietly work through a round of Kapal Bahti as your colleagues quabble over who’s going to pick up this week’s lotto numbers.
This can be as simple as saying ‘thank you’ to the new intern who’s just dropped off your coffee, or more meditative as you calmly remind yourself to appreciate the job you have for the funding it provides you to live, to travel, and to attend yoga classes! Whenever it becomes too much, remind yourself of this, and be thankful for all the little things. Thank your body for being a healthy and functioning vessle by nourishing it at lunchtime, and ensuring your continued growth and focus!
There are many other adaptations to help you maintain your practice and focus in the office, especially with the emergence of Chair Yogain recent years and the variety of simple stretches and twists that can be practiced from a seated position. Though they may not provide a full body stretch and sense of invigoration that a full practice will, they at least will help you get through the day in the office without tensing up too much and will definitely help maintain your flexibility and strength.
Alternatively there are also now many yoga studios and independent teachers offering corporate yoga classes to groups of workers in offices in their area- why not suggest it to your colleagues and organise your favourite yoga teacher to come to you?
Those are the words I said aloud to my yoga teacher this morning, as I transitioned into a pose I knew I was physically capable of, yet suddenly felt terrified to push into.
Overcome with anxiety in that moment, I convinced myself I was unable to pull it off. I wobbled. I shook. I gave up, laughing as I untangled myself from the confusion of limbs that had collapsed onto the mat in defeat. Not today, Jenny.
I moved on, slightly irritated, yet able to loosen my grip on the negativity enough to let it go and finish the rest of my practice in peace; in the middle of the room, without any wall.
We’ve all been there. A confident and strong flow of daily activity, social interaction, creative output, financial stability; whatever it is, going uninterrupted and progressing steadily for a time. Then all of a sudden there it is – The Fear.
What if I’m doing it wrong? What happens if my safety net disappears??
It’s natural to worry about not being able to continue if something happens to that wall of support –the constant, whatever safety net you associate with a certain aspect of life disappearing behind you.
My yoga practice has helped me facing these sort of difficult times. Times when I have felt I’ve had no one but myself to turn to, to lean on or ask for help. Times when it would be downright unfair to burden a loved one with problems that only I have the responsibility and capacity to solve.
Not only has yoga strengthened my physical core, enabling me to stand straight in whatever pose or inversion life throws at me, but it has also strengthened my mental capacity to correctly recognise when I am leaning on or blaming things outside of my control for my problems. It has helped me take responsibility for my own life, my own problems, and become confident in my own space on this planet and potential contribution to life. I know if I try hard enough, practice regularly enough, and pace myself accordingly without expecting immediate success or results, that things will come eventually, however slowly.
Removing the walls I had constructed around me allowed me to see the extent of my own potential; the potential of the world and how much there is still to experience – to see, to learn, to explore. I’ve since started learning Japanese. Improving relationships that had suffered before due to my emotional dependency on them. Attempting and succeeding in yoga poses I’d never dreamed of being capable of. Spending time by myself and actually enjoying my own company, whereas before I would have run a mile at the prospect of a quiet Sunday afternoon spent alone with my thoughts.
I like my thoughts now. They’re not all bad.
Sometimes it’s the easiest thing for us do to depend on that wall of physical or emotional support, and fall into using it as a crutch to maintain balance. It’s natural to need support at first, but the danger begins when you become dependent on that support to maintain a steady and balanced mentality. My yoga practice has helped me in more ways than I can describe, yet this dominant strength to stand up tall and support myself is what I keep returning to with pride when asked what I see in the practice.
It’s natural to be scared when you let your walls down. But you’ll never progress anywhere if you don’t at least try to go it alone.
Of course, there are always days when a little nudge of reassurance will be necessary – sometimes even just knowing that the wall is there can be helpful. But there’s nothing quite as fulfilling as finally achieving goals alone, and sustaining oneself independently of outside support!
Here’s to being (still trying to become :P) self-sufficient!!
A clear head and a stretched out body makes for a clean and positive start to the day. Cheesy, but true. I’ve made a pact with myself and a new goal to ensure I attend at least one yoga class in each new country I visit. Backpacking with my mat has been both a conversation starter and a cause for funny looks, as the original mat that has travelled with me from home has now gathered an unholy amount of dirt and probably smells like the underside of some of the buses and interestingly covered surfaces I’ve now used it on.
I’ve already ticked off Hungary, Bratislava, Cambodia, and Vietnam, along with various other European countries, and in two weeks with a little luck I’ll travel to Indonesia to spend some time in one of the ‘yoga capitals of the world’ – Bali, something which I’m both excited and apprehensive about – surely the hype can’t be all that? With typical Irish cynicism I am dubious already, but this destination has been a dream of mine for so long now that I’m willing to risk it all for the potential anticlimactic flump of a mediocre experience.
I’m not sure why I’ve suddenly placed all my energy into practicing yoga and the consistency of my practice whilst travelling, but it sure as hell beats having all that energy wasted on worrying and being anxious what I look like, how much and when I eat and what certain people think of me or how wrong/right the choices I’m making are. It’s as if all the energy that went into the massive effort of striving for ‘perfection’ (lol,jk, there’s no such thing!), is now being put to better use and helping me to balance upon my own two feet and move my body along instead of hindering it. The energy is being diffused physically instead of mentally, a terrible habit I’d fallen into which merely exhausted me and meant I had less cognitive capacity to deal with and process actual problems when they did occur.
It really does benefit you to pay attention to your own expenditure, be it money, energy, emotions, or anything else. Travelling has really opened my eyes to this, in more ways than one. It may seem like something fairly obvious, but the very fact that I am now aware of the new spectrum of potential for me, and where I want to lead my life means that I know whenever I find myself slipping backwards into the old ways of worrying about what people think and about how I am percieved by those around me, that I have wasted valuable energy that could have potentially been used to strengthen my body or to creatively express myself and generate something new. This contribution to the world by adding my original stamp to things is something that simply will not happen if I fail to balance my body and mentality on a regular basis. I have dreams of writing songs, novels, articles, poems and stories that will make a difference, that will change and help people, and also some that may not impact or alter anyone whatsoever. To be able to focus my attention on these things, I will need energy and the ability to control where I direct it. Finding balance through my yoga practice and maintaining it by staying aware of myself won’t singularly ensure that all of this gets carried out successfully, but at the very least it will provide a firm foundation on which I can build and mould these plans and ideas.
As I travel I am putting energy into moving along in an alternative way, trying to make the right moves and go in a direction that will take me where I want to go; like a board game where rolling sixes and being let win by parents who only want to see you succeed is no longer an option. Many ideas float past regularly, and I find it difficult to pinpoint exact and definite concepts, instead casting short bursts of energy into writing them down to ensure I don’t forget them. It’s a totally different kind of energy expenditure which took several weeks of getting used to, and one which I’m still forcing myself to combine with as regular a yoga practice as possible.
Because of the nature of a ‘backpackers’ budget’, yoga classes while on the road are considered somewhat of a luxury, even if the going rate in many Asian countries is less than half of what you’d pay at home. For this reason, over the past few weeks I’ve found myself practicing on various deserted rooftops, balconies, and most interestingly secluded bathroom and poolside areas when I’ve found them available in places we’ve been staying. Generally this is in the morning before most of normal society has awoken, or else during nights interrupted by loud music and noisy fellow-dormers returning from drunken nights out. Don’t get me wrong here, I’ve also been on the other end of this situation, and I’m not condemning it in any way – I’m just a particularly light sleeper and prefer not to lie in a state of semi-consciousness while people prolong their party around me.
Self-practice whilst travelling is something an awful lot easier said than done however, even though the addition of the yogamat to any backpack surely suggests otherwise, creating the image that’s it’s bearer is a highly dedicated and strict tree-hugging practitioner.
This couldn’t be further from my reasoning for carrying my mat with me. While I do practice at any available opportunity and location I find myself presented with, it’s more of a ‘recharging’ ritual for me. The stress of moving about and carrying your life on your back is certainly something which requires regular recharging and reassessing of both self and belongings, and it simply makes sense for me to practice whenever I can if I intend to maintain any kind of balance and help myself to move from place to place without getting too worked up or anxious.
Yoga has changed the way I see things, not necessarily life in general or the way I live my life, but it’s changed how and where I stand when it comes to expanding and living through certain things and has helped me improve my outlook on many aspects of the world. The fact that I have chosen to travel with my practice and maintain some of the balance I’ve achieved getting myself here has made me view this progress as a kind of animated road that’s extending out before me, but that is created only about a foot ahead at a time as I take one precariously balanced step and place one foot in front of the other day by day. One slip up or failure is not going to knock me off completely, but it will mean that the next few steps will be more wobbly than those before, as I strive to find the inner balance again.
Even though the general and accepted attitude to adopt whilst travelling is one of apathy when it comes to external appearances, I really feel like I’ll be able to continue this lessened sensitivity to things on my return home, and continue to channel this energy into my practice and bettering myself instead of worrying that I’m not enough. Because I am enough. I will always be enough. Yoga shows me that I am. Moving with my disagreeable body and mind shows me that I am. It’s imperfect, but it still takes me places. It still supports me through waves that sweep sunglasses from your head and up steep hill climbs with backpacks twice as wide as any grown man’s shoulders. It supports me through each flow, each movement, each difficult leg or section of my journey that has left me unsure of where I am and what on earth I’m doing this for. Yoga just brings me back to my body, and back to the realisation that it is actually okay for me to occupy this space, and to enjoy being here.
I’ve included some pictures from the beach resort of Mui Ne down the South coast of Vietnam where we’ve been chilling for the past few days. A sunrise trip to the sand dunes, fishing village and fairy stream trek were highlights, and were all organised through our (very affordable and clean!) accomodation Mui Ne Hills Budget Backpackers. Motorbike rental is available also aswell as windsurfing lessons, but our budget didn’t quite stretch that far and also I was so drained after Ho Chi Minh that a few days chilling by the pool with intermittent yoga practice/classes was exactly what was needed. The nightlife in the town was fairly non-existant but the poolside bar and restaurant were great. A lot of older couples holidaying and (strangely enough) Russian tourists everywhere. Would advise eating at some of the smaller family-run kitchens along the street as the prices were often half of what they were charging in the hotel and given the sheer amount of tourists around the menus were mostly actually catered to Western pickyness and cases of ‘oh no I don’t like that, thanks’.
Life today is so fast-paced and hurried that it’s easy to lose sight of yourself and what you really need in favour of what ‘seems right’ or what ‘everyone is doing’. If it means the next step from A to B will be easier, the majority of people will generally take the easy option and ensure the quickest escape and fix for what’s currently bothering them.
I’m not just talking from a backpackers’/travellers’ perspective, yet seeing as that’s the lifestyle I’m currently engaged with it makes sense to speak from this point of view at this present moment in time. This is another thing humans are guilty of – thinking that it’s not okay to change your lifestyle and habits to suit where you currently find yourself. Seeing as change is the one constant we seem to ever have in life, it makes no sense to cling to ‘the way you used to be’ or anything that ‘used to’ be a part of your life in general. Because of the familiarity, it’s often the easiest and most obvious thing to do to resort to it, yet we rarely stop to think actually, maybe this is not the most beneficial thing for me right now.
By practicing mindfulness, yoga, meditation, or even just taking a few minutes at the beginning of each day to reconsider, re-adjust, and observe your situation, it becomes easier to fully immerse yourself in the moment and your current state of being, instead of merely trying maintain something that worked in the past for the sake of convenience.
I regularly have to mentally remind myself to slow down, to not rush ahead to achieve things or arrive to places before it’s necessary. I’m a chronically early person, and this I feel reflects my tendency to anticipate and become apprehensive about things that don’t really matter all that much.
I feel a lot of what has been going on in the world recently reflects this exact inclination of humankind to rush ahead and try to solve issues without really taking any time to properly understand them or consider what options would most benefit them. Surely we are aware by now that violence only leads to further violence, the harshness and extremity of one groups’ actions generating a need and expectance almost for an equal reaction?? Why is it still happening that people are using violence to combat hate, hate as an excuse for lack of understanding, and premature movement and immediate responsiveness in a rush to solve issues that have taken time and many wrong turns to form into the catastrophic difficulties they have only now manifested as? Surely they will also take a similar amount of time to rectify?
While I don’t pretend to understand everything about the goings on of various political, paramilitary or otherwise groups who have been the subject of a lot of attention of late, I do understand that beneath all the violence, hate and unneccessary suffering there is an underlying confusion and general lack of understanding as to how this can all be allowed to happen. It’s easy to brush it off as something that doesn’t concern us when it’s not immediately phsyically affecting us, but the images, new stories, and panic of safety ‘check-in’ buttons being used online are enough to send even to most balanced and steady mind reeling and rushing ahead to assume the worst.
By slowing down and assessing the situation at hand and our own position to rectify or change anything about it, we remove the ‘panic’ element of things. It’s the same process I’ve employed since coming out travelling. If things have gone slightly wrong or awry in any way, which given the nomadic and changeable nature of just about everything in my life at the moment, I’d be stupid to not be prepared for, I now have comfort in the knowledge that I can deal with it, take a step back, and figure out another way around the issues that present themselves.
It’s a work in progress, and something that’s only ever going to be attainable by making a conscious decision to set a new and realistic pace for ourselves and our thoughts – one that doesn’t rush ahead, or assume too much, because in the end the only things we can ever actually know for sure are already here right now.
A poem I wrote here early last month inspired by the changes I’ve experienced through regular yoga practice has led me to further explain my new obsession with yoga!
Excess is Easy
Excess is easy. That much I know for sure. Too much, too little, too often. It is one of the easiest things to let ourselves indulge in the safety of the extremities. It takes courage, balance and practice to remain upright in the midst of it all, and stay grounded in the middle of chaos. Being aware that there will always be limitations, and things we cannot do – yet along with these limitations will be good things; positive and progressive possibilities with every new movement.
Yoga and the Yogahub in particular have helped me achieve some of the balance required to walk along the narrow space between these extremes I used to bounce between.
Already on my way through a slow but steady recovery, a regular, daily yoga practice added into my daily routine proved the missing link between the confused streams of thoughts that raced through my head on a daily basis. The breath being added back into my conscious flow of thought aided to bring me back to the now, to the moment of what is happening as I speak, as I write, as I sit here.
It reminded me that it is ok to occupy the space I have been given on this earth, within the often disagreeable walls of my body. It is ok, and perfectly acceptable to be myself, to be in my own skin, and to allow myself to enjoy being within it, even if I’m not always it’s biggest fan.
The Yogahub provides a healthy and friendly atmosphere for me to learn all of this, and to relearn it as required – because balance is not something you can achieve once and expect to be able to attain again at the click of a finger. Even though it is always fairly accessible, there is a constant upkeep and awareness required to maintain it – much like the physical balance required to ride a bike.
In the monthly unlimited membership I took out at the beginning of September with the Yogahub, I not only found this kind of strong balance in daily practice and attending classes, but it was a stable balance. Stable enough to maintain for a prolonged period of time.The variety of classes available, styles and flexible timetable really allowed me to personalise my practice and accomodate for all levels and intensities, to suit how I was feeling on a given day. Each friendly face glows with a welcoming smile as you step foot inside the doors, whether for a random drop-in class or a scheduled flow, the delicious HappyFood vegan and vegetarian café providing the perfect pre or post – class fuel to help your body move through the hour.
I’ve realised during my month with the Yogahub that yoga teaches me not to rush ahead – to remain calm and to accept what is happening when it does. There is no use in constantly casting your gaze forwards, anticipating anxiously things that are beyond your control. The one thing within my control is my own body – not even my mind is always controllable. With yoga, my focus is shifted back to the physical power which resides within my body, and the very fact that I was bringing this body on a daily trip in to the city centre to the Yogahub was enough to begin the positive reactions within, and aid me to maintain a comfortable and healthy distance from all extremities I used to reside in.
The people at the Yogahub eminate this contentedness and oneness with the world, hippie-style ‘tree-hugger’ labels really not being necessary or applicable in this sense – it’s just a truly calming place. The huge variety of yoga styles means that everyone is catered for, no matter what level, and each class welcomes newcomers with open arms (or elbows, knees, hips, legs, whatever you’re stretching into at the moment!!).
In moving my body, and staying with it as it goes, I have grown more accepting of both it’s limitations and it’s strengths. I appreciate what it does for me, and I work daily toward improving it so it can bring me where I want to go, and move me all the different ways I want to move, difficult poses and balance included.
It will always be an ongoing thing – constant maintanance and awareness is what is needed, and the Yogahub has given me the strength to accept that I will need to maintain this. It requires effort and practice, yet each time now that I return to the mat and begin my practice, I feel the benefits mentally before even beginning to move.
The extremities are always going to be there, and I may not always be able to avoiding brushing off them from time to time. Instead of shying away from them and fearing the downs and bad days however, I try now to embrace them for what they are, and allow them to serve as a foundation on which to start rebuilding a new day, a new practice, and new movement. We’re only human, and I feel that limiting yourself too much in anything inevitably leads to an equalising swoop in the opposite direction, as your mind and body try to balance things out. In maintaining as level a field as possible for as long as possible, the breadth of that level is strengthened, and makes it easier to stand on.
It’s probably a good thing that the monthly membership limited me to one class per day though, as there were days where I wanted to stay and do more! On these days I had to pull myself up on the urge and remind myself that excess also comes in the form of good things. Finding and maintaining this balance is how I have come to be where I am now, and I am looking forward (but not too far!) to re-commencing my practice with the Yogahub as soon as I return home from travelling.
I can’t begin to describe the effects a regular yoga practice has had on me in the past few months. It’s been remarkable, and I’ve felt the strength in every aspect and element of both my mind and body. I may eventually lengthen this out into a detailed post of exactly the ins and out of how and why I feel it has aided me so much, but for now take just a few verses, and try not to get thrown off by the cheesyness…
‘On The Benefits of Yoga…What I Have Learned”
It makes no sense
That being where we are at this moment;
Right here and now,
Should take practice.
But it does.
Yoga teaches me not to rush ahead.
The meeting will come. Lunch will happen.
There will always be the threat of rain,
Even as we salute the sun rising hopefully
Over the arched back of beyond.
Anticipating is an anxious act
– Putting on the dog’s lead as you see a larger one approach.
Yet up, down, sideways, or around,
We cannot escape this moment.
Nor would I want to.
I have learned to occupy my space,
Exhaling into the changes underfoot.
A warrior standing her ground,
Even when the earth itself shakes and cracks,
The trees swaying and casting away leaves
That never served them much at all.
In a binding contract,
My feet have cemented my place here,
A far call from the apprehensive steps
I used to take to my own kitchen.
The scales in my head finding
Balance atop arms stronger than ever before;
A crow flying high over the gorge of
Mental anguish, supporting itself through
the turbulent, turbulent clouds to land lightly on the other side.
In the knowledge that each bend, twist,
and long stretch in the road is actually progressing me forward,
Refusing to look behind
Refusing to waver.
This is where I am now,
This is what I need.
This day, this second, this letter, this space,
I hear now louder than ever.