Wobbles on the mat, wobbles off the mat

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This month’s blog post has been submitted by a dedicated yogi, who has been practising yoga with me during lockdown – here she reflects on what it has meant to her to practise yoga regularly through a time of world-wide challenge and uncertainty.

“I have felt myself trying to ride a unicycle with juggling clubs in my hands for these last 3 months. I have full time work I can do from home (I am grateful for this and acutely aware of my good fortune). But with our children, who are 8 and 11, also at home, I have mostly felt that if I am at my desk I am failing as a parent, and if with the children, that I am failing at my job. This has brought about a strong sense of ‘dis-hyphen-ease’ (a phrase Donna uses in her yoga teaching) most days.

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I am grateful for the roof over my head, the food in my fridge, the green fields outside my window, but I long to feel that I am actually succeeding in some part of my life. Perhaps you feel the same. There are times where the groundhog-day nature of lockdown has completely overwhelmed me. In the first few weeks, I struggled to find sleep, and woke in tears more than a few times. I’m sure my experience has been replicated many, many times over across the country. If you have felt low, despairing, anxious in the midst of all this – you have my genuine empathy.

At the same time, perhaps it hasn’t taken very long at all for us to all look back to the life we were leading before Monday March 23rd and see the flaws there too. It is human to find ourselves stepping eyes closed on to the hamster-wheel of daily existence, and this time has given some of us, though by no means all, the opportunity to pause and consider. In normal times I lead a pretty hectic existence, spending part of the week working away while still feeling my motherhood responsibilities keenly. This busy life can mean that I put myself at the bottom of the priority list. Sinking so low, so fast, at the start of lockdown, I realised I needed to make conscious time to focus on keeping my batteries charged, my body and mind well cared for.

I’ve meditated for much of my adult life, and long known that there are connections between yoga and breathing practices. The direct translation of the word in Sanskrit is a complicated business, but one interpretation is ‘yoke’, as in the yoke that joins two cattle or horses together. The metaphor at work here is yoga joins body and mind together, allowing both to settle and be at peace. Yoga has travelled some considerable distance in its near 5000-year history, from practice of Indian ascetics to a multi-million-dollar industry with a studio in every town in the global north. This can mean that it is seen as exercise, as workout, divorced from the potentially much deeper wider benefits it can have as a practice and a philosophy that can serve as guide both on and off the mat.

Early in lockdown I attended an online event jointly hosted by Helen of Helen’s Sound Meditation and Donna of Simply Soulful Yoga and found it hugely beneficial. So, I took the leap to booking into a handful of Donna’s online classes. I am so glad I did. Meeting Donna and other students, on Zoom, 2 to 3 times a week has become the backbone of my self-care routine. Donna has helped me to embrace the fundamentals of yoga movement over Zoom, giving effective guidance on safe positioning, and I feel myself fitter and stronger – even though aspects of lockdown have left me more sedentary than previously. I can plank for the first time in my life, and find myself much more flexible than ever before, and experience far fewer nagging aches and pains, even after just three short months.

Donna’s talent truly lies in her ability to blend the physical benefits of yoga practice while also opening the door to the contribution it can make to your mental wellbeing. Because she can share the stories of the yoga traditions, expertly making links between the metaphoric adventures of Hindu gods and kings, animals and celestial beings and the daily challenges of 21st century life, Donna’s classes not only serve the body but also the mind. She brings humour and insight to her teaching – if a balancing move doesn’t work for me, we laugh and consider how the wobbles on the mat reflect those off it – and this helps me integrate what I am learning with her into my life outside the classes. I do a mix of flow yoga and yin yoga classes weekly (there are times across every day of the week, so you are sure to find something that fits in with your current schedule) and I’ve also been participating in her current series of Saturday morning yang and yin workshops, which have felt truly restorative.

Too many commentators have already said that this is an unprecedented moment in our lives. I have tried to help my children see that if we are lucky enough to be safe and well during it, we are fortunate indeed, and that we should use the time wisely. In taking classes with Donna and allowing her wisdom and expertise to sink well in, I have practiced what I preach”

This month’s blog post has been kindly written and submitted by Leoarna Mathias.