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
Before I begin I want to make clear that the views expressed here are purely objective and that I’m only going on what I experienced, not an in-depth study or survey.
‘What are the differences between practicing yoga in the West and practicing in India?’
This is a question I’ve been asked quite regularly in recent weeks, having embarked on a solo trip with no definitive end on the basis of exploring the ancient practice and contrasting attitudes towards the study of yoga around the world (well in Asia, anyway). To be honest, I came to India expecting (or maybe hoping) to experience some sort of revelation when it came to my yoga practice, the stories I’ve heard having inspired me to explore the places most attributed with the origins of yoga and somehow find or realise something I haven’t before by immersing myself completely in a strange country and alternative habits, values, and climates. I wanted to really push my boundaries and experience yoga as a lifestyle properly for a little while, embracing new aspects and styles with unfamiliar surroundings and people – places you don’t see on Instagram or enticing Google adverts boasting a luxury yoga retreat and 5-star accommodation. In a way, that’s kind of what happened. In another way, it’s not. At all.
It sounds obvious to me now, but the biggest thing I’ve realised since coming to India is that it really doesn’t matter where, when, why, or how you practice – yoga is both universal and intensely personal. Yoga is as unique to each practitioner as their individual height, weight, hair colour, daily nutritional requirements and sleeping patterns. Each person’s practice is their own, no matter where you do it, for how long, or at what intensity.
Or at least it should be. Strangely, one of the things that brought me to this realisation was attending classes that seemed very impersonal, and I was surprised to find that some of the guided classes I attended in McLeodGanj (Dharamsala, North Indian province of Himachal Pradesh) in particular lacked in creativity. Disappointingly they felt like going through the motions of a standard fitness class in the gym back home. At the same time, I understood the reasons behind these elements of the practice.
After speaking with several yoga-instructor friends and enthusiasts alike, I came to understand that some of the more established Indian yogis (I won’t name names for obvious reasons) have been doing the same ‘routine’ sequence and practice every day for over 40 years. Because of this, it has become almost mechanical in its routine progression, and one could almost argue that anyone who’s attended enough of the classes to learn the routine by heart could in theory also ‘teach’ a class themselves.
I want to be careful how I vocalise this, but the truth is I found that this sameness has both positive & negative aspects.
On the positive side, the benefits of 40 years of consistent Ashtanga practice are blatantly apparent in the physique and steady, controlled way these yogis speak.
It’s also inspiring to see that the practice itself has become a sort of constant for them, in the way that prayer or religious devotion has for the many Buddhist monks and nuns inhabiting the Northern Himachal Pradesh Himalayas. It’s ritualistic, which can be a valuable thing in a modern world that otherwise lacks rituals.
On the negative side, the lack of creative exploration & facilitation for the fluctuations of the body from day to day during these routines flies in the face of one of my own beliefs about the practice of yoga – that it is a way of accepting and appreciating change with ease and grace, being open to and moving with it, instead of resisting.
I cannot help but marvel at the depth, widespread popularity, and general understanding and acceptance of the entire practice of yoga in India. I have already learned to open up and trust myself and those around me more thoroughly than I thought possible.
For me, this is what yoga is all about – opening up (both physically and mentally) and accepting what is. Trusting what you have and that which is constantly in flux around you, instead of creating unnecessary anxiety worrying about things outside of your control. A feeling of harmony in body and mind. Harmony within your place in the world.
This includes change.
Change and evolution are part of who we are, the only two constant reliable elements of life that we can depend on outside of our own minds. Being able to tolerate and adapt to natural and environmental changes is crucial for so many reasons, and it confused me to see some of the yogis upholding a practice that seemed quite stagnant and repetitive, unbending even. Maybe I’m just too used to attending creative classes that adapt and cater for the elements and our bodies – a rainy day class at home in Yogahub Dublin once focused on shoulder and chest-opening poses in response to the week of horrible weather we’d just experienced, hunched over and hurried pacing a necessity with disregard to posture or discomfort.
But it seemed to me that the whole ‘oh she’s gone to do yoga in India’ myth and expectation of self-understanding and epiphany-gaining experience is exactly that – a myth.
This is what I mean by having an evolving practice. India as a country is still evolving; it is a land of extremes. Colours, tastes, wealth, poverty, heat, rain…you name it, India has an extreme to meet it.
Avoiding extremes and finding balance has been part of my own yogic journey, and I found the almost extreme lifestyle and all-or-nothing vibe of several of the yoga studios and gurus I attended to be somewhat overwhelming and contradictory in their message. That being said, there were several teachers that were more supple in their ideologies and achieved a more rational balance between the unchanging ritual & the realities of a living daily practise, so I can’t be too generalistic here either.
My point in writing this was to express what I’ve learnt, and to disprove the theory that yoga can only be learned correctly or experienced fully by travelling to India. I’m guilty of harbouring beliefs such as this, although deep down I sort of knew the truth for what it is – that yoga is accessible anywhere, to anyone, and in whatever capacity you have to experience it and your own body. Even on a balcony in a tiny hostel in Sri Lanka where the cleaning lady tries to sweep crumbs and dust from within an inch of the mat around you. I’m still practicing. I’m still moving. Evolving, changing. And that’s ok too.
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?
A sweeping, dangerously powerful wind.
Big waves in the sea so strong they steal the sunglasses from your head.
Very loud, thumping music.
Crowded Saturday-streets, and flashing lights everywhere as night falls and you suddenly find yourself alone in your head; alone with your thoughts.
Quick! Run! The bar! The fridge! The gym! ANYWHERE to escape spending time with this egotistical and self-centered, ugly body I’ve found myself inhabiting.
Hold it right there. Breathe.
Sure, it’s chaotic. The outside; everyone rushing to be here or there, meet so and so for dinner or drinks to discuss where they went for dinner and drinks with him or her or what’s the latest on THAT guy and how’s your mother doing and what about those politicians, eh? Sorry I have to dash I’m not too drunk I just can’t be around all these people and all the thoughts in my head at the same time because I end up spinning around before we even start to dance and then I look in the mirror and remember what I should have worn instead and also have to do tomorrow and where the hell is my purse and what is that guy staring at my hair must be a mess and dear GOD please just get me out of here.
It’s ok to leave. It’s ok to stay. It’s ok to think these things, and feel that way.
I’ve been on both sides of this situation – I’ve been the one to leave and run away from my problems, finding other ways to forget about and ignore them, and, more recently, I’ve been the one to stay and push through. To remain where I am, and work through the unbalancing extremes of thoughts and emotions that send my head reeling and wobbling on a regular basis.
In yoga, what do you do if a pose makes you wobble?
You do your best to straighten the hell back up, is what you do. You push down through your feet, and certify your stance; your position; your space in the world.
Because it is yours.
It’s about the only thing we don’t have to pay for in this world – our bodies. It’s an involuntary, but rent-free location, that we somehow have to figure out how to stand up straight in, and learn to navigate through whatever environment we find ourselves.
It’s not an easy task. Don’t listen to anyone who pretends it is, or who pretends they’ve never struggled. Because every single person does.
The asanas in yoga are merely a physical manifestation of our mental state – I know if I’ve had a particularly off-day or feel unusually anxious about something, my yoga practice is weaker than normal and I tend to wobble and lean and shake quite a bit more than usual. Because I have succumbed to the external chaos. I have assimilated it into my body, a place that has been created and cultivated for singular, simpler, and more straightforward thoughts, with no consideration for the external chaos that may or may not happen on any given day. I’ve let it in.
When we consider how many things in life are uncontrollable by our own bodies and minds – the weather, the financial state of the country, the popularity of a bar or restaurant or public place from which we suddenly want to hide, to list but a few, it’s remarkable how blurred the lines can become when we start thinking we have influence over more than just ourselves.
In taking control of our own inner situation, we are taking responsibility for the little space we inhabit on earth. Sure, we may not have asked for it, but we are here now regardless, and may as well make the most of it.
My yoga mat has travelled with me, and shown me that it doesn’t matter where I find myself; chaotic, over-populated, noise-polluted city, or tranquil, isolated and balmy beach miles from anywhere – I am always, always within myself, and returning there is the only way to truly find this ‘peace of mind’ or satisfaction we so often seek in all the wrong places. Yoga serves as a reminder of this. A healthy, lighthearted little poke in the back that injects a sense of calmness into even the most uncontrollable and chaotic situations.
Things don’t have to be so complicated.
Breathe. Just breathe. And Be. Even just that is more than anybody has ever asked of you.
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor”. – Thich Nnat Hanh
Today something really weird happened. I’ll try to keep my explanation of it brief.
I was in a yoga class. (hello, Yogahub Dublin– !) and the teacher mentioned anchoring down against negative thoughts and allowing them to pass us by…a fairly standard mantra to base an extremely enjoyable class around.
With me so far? Alright.
It just so happened that I’d recently discovered this picture on my phone, taken by accident of a canopy of trees above my head as I stood at Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I’d set it as my screensaver on the train on the way into class. Inevitably I found myself thinking about it as we exhaled and rooted down.
I now think it might be the most significant picture I’ve ever taken.
It shows the trees as individual organisms, yes. But it also shows their similarities; the cracks and passageways between them. It’s difficult to tell where one tree ends and another one begins.
It’s made me consider my entire brain composition differently.
It’s made me see the cracks in between what I now understand to be tectonic plates of thought; continents of beliefs, passions, negative and damaging habits and feelings which make up the circumference of my brain.
It’s like this:
Once upon a time, the continents existed as one individual and solid mass of being, consciousness, and innocent, untouched thought;
that of a child.
Somewhere along the way, this ‘pangea’, if we’re to use the geographical term, encountered some unexpected upset, resulting in quite permanent and irreversible damage. Either that, or just the continuos expansion and erosion resulted in gradual minor movement which in turn caused a larger break, causing the continents to float in all directions, and fall apart into the random assortment of misshapen cookies and their crumbs as we recognise them today.
Puberty, you say?? Or something more uncontrollable?
Hear me out, here.
Only one thought, idea, or passion has managed to reign over each continent. One thought, or else a vague confusion of several, has been marooned alone on each of these continents to fester; each landmass offering promises of a new and unique culture, perspective, opinions, lifestyle, and possibilities.
These ideas have however been declined the opportunity or space to spread out and moderate their extremity evenly, remaining instead stuck and concentrated solely on their own intensity.
It’s as if each passion, ideology and notion has been designated its own population, culture, and religion – wild tribes inhabiting each unique and promising island, waiting impatiently to pounce on any passing explorers or trains of thought in the hope of improving their own inexplicable situation.
Enter, my train of thought.
Or in this case; a ship.
Which, after years of leaping straight onto the banks of each new ideology or passion encountered and becoming so enraptured with the entirety of the initial apparent potential and/or ‘brilliance’ of a given concept, has finally learned to anchor briefly offshore, before plunging ahead full-on and succumbing to the enticing newness of each place. All seems well, until realisation hits that this place has fully-consumed any sense of individual thought or ability to reach other thought patterns.
There are no bridges between these continents.
When the ship is in motion; when the platform of departure and arrival is uncertain and unspecified, any port appearing safe and trustworthy is going to appeal to latch onto if an anchor is not in existence. Trustworthy, that is, until advantage is taken of the deprivation it has experienced whilst at sea, harbouring urgently and wolfing down deficit supplies with no escape; obsessed and utterly drawn into the centre of this new continent and the exciting yet dangerous discoveries it promises. All resistance is ceased, and assimilation begins.
Maybe I’m going too deep here.
What I’m trying to get at is that in viewing my thoughts as these isolated places I’ve finally learned to navigate the cracks which exist between them; the extreme passions, and ideas – enough at least to allow me to anchor briefly offshore to take a peek and try it out. The picture of the trees resembling a globe was only the beginning of it. There’s not much hope of getting the continents to reconnect or to return them to how they once existed – but that too would be against the natural flow of the streams I now live relatively comfortably upon.
By anchoring my ship and thoughts just slightly offshore within the cracks between the continents, I am embracing the damage that has occurred instead of avoiding it. I am leaving the islands accessible, completely within my grasp to feel and experience, yet still rooted firmly with the knowledge that at the first sign of any negative, infatuous, or damaging behaviours, I will be able to find my way safely back to return to the flow leading onwards.
That I can leave the negative behind and remain safe and in control of whether I return or not is empowering, and I enjoy balancing the flow of this current.
This current which naturally bears me along from one emotion, breath and experience to the next, embracing them as I see fit, and leaving them fondly behind as I move onwards.
It’s mad that I got all this from an accidental picture taken whilst my phone was on selfie-mode and the sun was too bright for me to see the screen.
But there you have it. Angkor Wat and yoga have literally anchored me.
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.