• Grace White

Stretch your Mind as well as your Muscles

The first time I took a yoga class, I hated it!

I hated how bad I was at it. I couldn’t touch my toes, following the teacher’s instructions was hard – there were so many of them. Which foot was I meant to put where? How was the arm meant to reach? Which direction should the palm of my hand face? Where was I meant to hold my gaze? Breathe? How could I breathe?

I left the class, vowing I was done with yoga, and yet the following week, I was back on my mat, ready to go again.

That was fifteen years ago, and my life would not be the life it is now, without yoga.

So, what brought me back?

It was a little voice in my mind that said, ‘okay, so you can’t do this, I get that. But tell me this – if you walk away, where does that leave you?’

During that class, I was so focused on my physical inadequacies that I didn’t realise I’d already made an important gain: I had given myself access to the inner workings of my mind, and a truth had been revealed to me. Turning up the following week was a commitment to that truth. I wasn’t fully aware of it at the time, but aware enough to sense that giving up would somehow mean building a wall in my head that would forever limit me.

As I’ve practised yoga, over the years, I’ve been able to shine a light on many of these walls. The one that compares myself to others and therefore keeps me in a place of ‘I’ll never be as good.’ The wall that says, ‘I don’t feel like going to class tonight’, which denies me the one experience guaranteed to elevate my mood.

In learning to touch my toes, I’ve learnt to climb over these walls, so that whenever I find myself doubting my ability I breathe and I remind myself that I can be as good as I want to be. The yoga mat doesn’t judge, it only ever says, ‘well done for showing up, for listening in.’

I’m fifteen years older, my poses are stronger than ever and not just because my muscles are trained. My mind has been stretched too. Gone is the feeling of overwhelm in a particular pose where my brain cannot handle all the information, struggling with half a dozen points of focus. Now, I see where the feet, the arms, the eye gaze and the breath meet. This isn’t an effortless meeting, rather a culmination of mental practice. One that I am grateful for. It enables me to walk through life, see five simultaneous challenges coming my way and hold firm, no matter how much sweat runs down my back.

by Gabriela Blandy - Creative Coach and Yogi

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