Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

Tag: aroundtheworld

Around the world in 80 yoga classes

I’ve done it! This week I’ve hit 80 classes of yoga since starting this blog and my yoga travels. This doesn’t include classes I’ve taught myself – just those I’ve attended. I’ve done 17 different types of yoga:

Types of yoga

Perhaps more importantly, I’ve had the privilege of being taught by 30 different teachers, whose experience ranged from 40 years to just 2 weeks. I’m grateful to them all:

Mike, Sarah, Adam, Vidya, Raphaelle, Gabriela, Roberto, Lidiya, Jess, Carl, Marcus, Lamonte, Charlie, Chetana, Jasmin, Nina, Josh, Dylan, Alex, Marina, Tara, Bob, Sammi, Richard, Drew, Tamzin, Jenne, Amanda, Cyrus, Alicia

What have I learned from my 80 classes?

There is no right or wrong.

Every teacher and every class is unique. Sometimes I’ve been taught ways of assuming postures in one class which directly contradict those taught in another. Sometimes classes are so different that it’s hard to believe they’re all called “yoga” My take on it is that it doesn’t matter too much. As long as the teacher is sharing their practice, with enough instruction, guidance and support to keep their students safe, the differences only add to the experience, and help me to stay more present.

Every teacher teaches you something worth learning.

As a recently qualified yoga teacher, I’m trying to soak up everything I can to make myself the best yoga teacher I can be. Often the flow of a class will exactly fit with the way I like to teach, or I’ll be in awe of the teacher’s creative sequences or their inspiring words. These are the classes I rush out of to find my notebook and scribble everything down before I forget it. In other classes the learning might be more subtle, and less easy to articulate. But maybe I’ll notice later in the day a shift in the way I feel. Or a week or even a month later, something that teacher said to me will come back to me, and I’ll be grateful for their insight.

Yoga will meet you where you are, but it never leaves you where it found you.

There have been yoga classes where I’ve been aching so much from some ridiculous workout the day before that I’ve told myself I could leave after the warm-up if it was too painful. There have been classes at 6am that I’ve had to almost literally throw myself out of bed to force myself to get to. There have been classes that I simply couldn’t be bothered with. But every single time, once I get on the mat, something changes. Somehow the yoga meets me in whatever state I’m in, acknowledges that and then gently moves me through it. There hasn’t been a single one of these 80 classes that I’ve regretted making the time for. So when my motivation to go is low, I do just have to remind myself that the hardest bit is turning up. Once I’m there, things are already starting to get better.

What’s next now I’ve done 80 yoga classes?

When I started my yoga travels, I told myself I’d maybe do this until September, but that was unrealistic. 80 classes is not even close to being enough. I still have so much I want to learn. Maybe I’ll aim next to be taught by 80 yoga teachers, or to try 80 styles of yoga. Or maybe I’ll let go of the numbers altogether. Whatever, I’ll never consider myself a “finished product” as a yoga teacher. I’m going to keep practising, keep learning, and keep writing. I am eternally a student.

Why it’s great to come back…

DSC_0350-2When I started travelling, I had this idea that I’d be roaming all over the place, seeing as much of the world as I possibly could. I never thought I’d come back to somewhere I’d already been. There’s too much of the world to see.  In fact, when I arranged for my second Workaway placement to come to Suryalila Retreat Centre, I thought one month (their minimum stay) might be a bit long. But I liked the look of the yoga here, so I told myself I’d make the best of it.

However, within days of arriving here in March, I knew one month was nowhere near enough. Before I even left I made arrangements to return.

So here I am, one week into my return visit to Suryalila Retreat Centre. Here’s a few reasons why it’s worth going back to a place you love…

  1. It feels comfortable. Travelling is great. The constant movement, the new experiences, the lack of a routine, and the (barely) organised chaos. But when you travel, your whole environment is constantly shifting and changing, and it takes a lot of energy to keep up. Sometimes it’s good to stop and take stock a little bit. During my tougher moments in Thailand, the thought that I would be coming back in the summer to somewhere I felt as comfortable as Suryalila kept me going.
  2. You already know the ropes.  You don’t need to learn a whole new set of systems or ask a million questions. Aside from a few inevitable but unsettling changes (the place the muesli is stored has changed – did not see that one coming!) it’s probably quite easy to slip back into a routine.  This allows you to focus right from the start on being fully present and making the most of each day.
  3. Same same, but different. You’ll always find plenty of new in amongst the familiar – not least new people. Getting to know plenty of new, interesting people and catching up with those I knew from my previous visit has been the ideal combination for me.
  4. You appreciate it more. It’s so true that you don’t know how good you have it until it’s gone. Sometime you have to go away in order to appreciate all that is great about the place you started. It’s like going back to your parent’s house after moving out and appreciating fully for the first time the joy of a fully stocked fridge and showers that actually work. Except this time I fully appreciate having beautiful vegan food, a space to escape to during downtime, and a schedule that is prepared in advance and fair.

There is still a lot more of the world I want to see and experience, but it’s really good to know I’ll be here for a couple of months. It’s even better to think that I don’t have to re-pack my backpack for a whole two months! I’m borrowing my final thoughts on this from the brilliant Terry Pratchett:

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

The flipside of positive thinking

Why maybe it’s okay not to like stuff…

11143479_10101215361562849_8306339481437872885_nFor about three years I ate prawns for dinner at least three times per week. That’s not so strange you might think, except that I don’t like prawns. I’ve never liked prawns, or any other seafood for that matter. There’s something about the texture, a squeakiness, that repulses me. So why would I eat something that I didn’t like?

Partly because at some point I got it into my head that there was nothing I did not like. That any negativity was just a thought, and that I could tackle that by simply deciding to think positive things instead.

I’ve applied this to lots of areas of my life and it’s been fairly successful. Marking huge piles of books became far more bearable when I told myself I loved reading student’s writing. Attempting a difficult yoga posture became a more positive experience when I decided that I enjoyed the challenge. Terrifying first dates were a lot more fun when I decided to love the awkwardness and embrace it, knowing that the worse things went, the more entertaining the stories would be afterwards.

But I’ve realised recently that it’s okay sometimes just not to like things. I’ve been teaching yoga at Moinhos Velhos, a beautiful retreat centre in Portugal, and I’ve had the chance to try out loads of amazing new things. Most of these I’ve loved – great meditations, yoga practices, vegan recipes. But there was one night I was talked into trying Biodanza. This is a practice of self development through music and dance. The idea is that as you progress through the practice, dancing and moving with people, you get in touch with your emotions, and feel a deeper sense of connectedness to others.

The lovely teacher assured us that although it might feel strange at first, that would quickly disappear. We’d feel completely relaxed and lose all our inhibitions. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, this never happened for me. The practise that was meant to leave me with “reduced stress and an enhanced sense of wellbeing” left me cold. All I wanted to do was run away. It was a feat of endurance not to fake a headache/ upset stomach/ broken leg and leave. I don’t entirely know why it didn’t work for me – I love dancing and I’ve had a great time at a (sober!) yoga rave before. But I just didn’t like it.

Afterwards I felt frustrated with myself. I wanted to like it. I wanted to find the positive, but all I could think was, “I’m glad I tried it, so that I know not to again.” But I realised maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s alright to dislike things sometimes. We all have individual preferences. Yes, there are some things that we need to do, and they’re a lot more pleasant if we find things about them to like. But there are some things that just aren’t our preference. And that’s okay too.

So why did I eat prawns for so many years? I was in a relationship with someone who loved them, and it was easier just to tell myself I liked them than cook separate meals. When the relationship ended, one of the many unexpected positives was realising I could stop eating prawns. My travels have become as much about working out what doesn’t work for me as learning about what does, and that’s all valuable. So I’m making a promise to myself now to remember that as long as I am open to new experiences, it’s okay for me not to like stuff.

And I’m genuinely excited about the prospect of never having to do Biodanza or eat prawns again…

Teaching my first ever yoga class

The Om Dome. SuryalilaWhile at Suryalila, I had the opportunity to teach my first ever yoga class. I say opportunity, but to be honest I had to be coaxed, bribed and coerced into taking the class. I was terrified. Because the thing about teaching yoga in a yoga retreat is, people know what you’re doing. And therefore they know when you don’t know what you’re doing.

But they’re very persuasive people these yogis, so I found myself at 7am in the beautiful Om Dome with my lesson plan, laying out mats, blankets and blocks. Despite the vast differences in my surroundings, the nerves were very similar to my feelings six years ago when I taught my first English class in a Teach First school in Derby. They were Year 7, and lovely, and lulled me into a false sense of security. The Year 10 class I taught second lesson were not quite so compliant, but that’s another story…

At least my class size this time was small, with just four lovely students. Except that three of the four were qualified yoga teachers themselves. I couldn’t blag this. They were all very encouraging though, and as they all managed to come in without shouting “blow job” or attempting to forcibly remove their mate’s nose ring, I decided I was onto a winner.

In fact, the atmosphere was incredibly calm (I realise given that this was a yoga class, it shouldn’t have come as a shock to me.) In guiding the class to relax and let go, I couldn’t help but do it myself, and I let myself be completely present in the space I was holding for the class. I realised how much I had missed this aspect of teaching. While I don’t claim that my English lessons were ever as calm as a yoga class (although some weren’t that far off), I always found that teaching had a way of making bringing me into the present moment. The world outside my classroom, and beyond my students’ immediate actions would drop away, and I would be absolutely in the zone with whatever was happening right there. It was mindfulness practice in action.

The rest of the class ran smoothly. I gave some odd instructions at times (“Take your foot between your front two hands” As opposed to the back two, of course.) and I did miss out a few postures, but I’m hoping no one noticed. I also discovered that guiding to class to centre themselves between postures, and focus on their breath gave me the time and headspace to think about what I needed to do next. I wondered how often I’ve been in a yoga class, dutifully checking in with my breath and taking a moment to be present, while the teacher remembers what to do next…

After the class was finished, my students were lovely, and I got some useful feedback from them too – teaching teachers does have its advantages! What’s more, I was able to tidy the room and walk out without a single book to mark, guilt-free. Teaching without hours of marking – I don’t think the novelty of this will wear off for quite some time.

Facing my fears at Suryalila Retreat Centre

TSuryalilahey say you should do something every day that scares you. I feel like I’ve been living by that mantra both on and off my yoga mat in my first week as a Workaway volunteer at Suryalila Retreat Centre.

When I arrived here last week, I was assigned the task of looking after the resident chickens. In the sunshine, as I was shown how to feed the chickens and collect their eggs, this seemed lovely. The next day, when it was freezing, and the rain had turned the field into a mud bath, it was less delightful. Fighting my way past hissing geese, I made it to the chicken coop, where most of the chickens were huddled out of the rain. I glanced to the side and saw one chicken on top of another. Oh look, I thought, 2 chickens having sex, how cute. Then I realised that the one on the bottom was dead. Horrified, I forgot all about collecting the eggs, and ran straight back to the centre, where my host told me that this was no big deal – lots of the chickens are very old and may well die soon. He calmly explained the “chicken disposal process” (essentially bag it, and bin it).

The walk back to the chicken coop, bin bag in hand, tears rolling down my face, was not a pleasant one. I tried to tell myself that this was nothing – it’s perfectly natural for old chickens to die, and really not a big deal to get rid of a chicken corpse. This didn’t help. I’m still not sure what I found so terrifying about getting a dead chicken into a bag, but I suppose fears aren’t always rational. It took a very long time to get the body bagged for removal. It was such a relief when I was finally able to leave the coop and know I didn’t have to return for another 24 hours. Surely I would not be unlucky enough for this to happen again anytime soon.

Unfortunately, luck was not on my side. The next day brought another dead chicken. I don’t know statistically how improbable 2 deaths in 2 days is for a relatively small brood of chickens, but this did not seem like very fair odds to me. At least this time I was slightly more prepared. I had bin bags with me, and although disposing of the body still left me retching, at least I didn’t cry this time. Which I am considering huge progress.

I have also been making considerable progress in my yoga practice at Suryalila. The daily vinyasa yoga classes here are brilliant. Except on my teacher training, I have never practised yoga so intensively, and I am loving it. The yoga teachers have been great at helping me to overcome some of my non-chicken-related fears. For the first time this week I have managed to kick up into a handstand properly, rather than jumping into it, and I have finally moved away from the wall and attempted a headstand in the middle of the room, under the watchful eye of my lovely teacher. Admittedly when I tried this again on my own, I fell over, but as she pointed out, once you’ve fallen, the fear isn’t so bad. And she’s right.

So I’m really excited and slightly terrified about the other challenges Suryalila has in store for me over the next three weeks. I feel like I’m learning a lot and being pushed out of my comfort zone, which was the whole point of this trip in a lot of ways. As long as there are no more dead chickens, I think I’ll be fine…

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