January Yogi of the Month : Helen
Now in our eighth year of teaching ashtanga yoga in Townsville, one of my favourite things is to introduce our monthly featured yogi to help inspire you to get on your mat and practice. It’s also my way of honouring the dedication and support we get from our amazing community. Our first yogi of the month for 2017 is the beautiful Helen who just keeps getting stronger and stronger. She’s an absolute joy to have in the studio and I’m excited for you to read about her yoga journey.
When and where did you first start practising yoga?
I first started practising yoga at a gym about 16 years ago. I chose a yoga class one day, firstly out of curiosity and secondly as an alternative to the thumping music and yelling instructions of step aerobics, and soon discovered the health benefits of relaxation. When I mentioned the classes to a friend she invited me to come to the Iyengar yoga school where she practised. From that point on, yoga became an important aspect of my life.
Why were you interested in the first place?
I was interested in becoming more flexible and symmetrical. As a child, I had scoliosis and one side of my body was significantly tighter than the other.
What is it that got you hooked?
What got me hooked was the difference that yoga started to make to my physical and mental health. I noticed the difference in my mental stability – my ability to cope with difficult situations with greater clarity, calmness and focus. My first teacher Annie, although tough, was amazing in helping me to realign my body and release tension in parts of my body that had previously been a source of frequent painful spasm. I learned about the different layers of the body and the way they interconnect with one another. I just wanted to keep learning. Another of my teachers, Carol, a few years later, often used the expression in class of “making space between your organs” I love this visualisation and often bring it to mind randomly to correct my posture.
What do you love about Live and Breathe yoga?
Live and Breathe Yoga is a place where I feel welcomed and supported. It is more than just a yoga studio – it is a community. Allison encourages me to extend my practice and gives me confidence to challenge myself. She reminds me when to slow down and be more mindful in my practice and gives me the motivation to keep working towards my strength goals. I was so nervous when I first started doing mysore classes and now I love these practice times as much, if not more than, the led classes. All of the teachers at Live and Breathe are patient, kind and generous with their time. Best of all there is a culture of humour and reminders not to take yourself too seriously.
What benefits/changes have you felt since practising yoga?
There have been so many changes, some of which I have mentioned above. I practise yoga as much for my mind as my body. I have lived with depression most of my life. Yoga (and meditation) have been primary sources of recovery and healing after major depressive episodes. These days thanks to yoga there are no deep pits that I fear falling into. My yoga practice helps to keep the dark clouds away.
How do you stay motivated to keep getting back on your mat?
In my job as a psychotherapist, I spend a great deal of my time holding a safe space for my clients to express emotional distress, trauma, and grief. Many hours are spent sitting in an armchair. So for me to be the most effective therapist I can be it is so important to look after myself. I need to stretch my body and recalibrate. Recharge my energy, clear my mind and come back to myself. I find that if I get lazy about getting back on my mat other things in my life soon get out of balance.
What’s your favourite thing about Ashtanga Yoga?
Definitely, my most favourite thing is also for me the most challenging. It would have to be the Vinyasa’s. Finding that flow when moving from one posture to another. Equally, I like the way Ashtanga yoga makes you sweat.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about trying yoga?
Just give it a go! The benefits will become evident very quickly. Don’t worry if you are not super flexible or coordinated. It is not competitive, and no one is yelling at you go harder or feel the burn.