So any of my regular followers among you will know that as well as my love for great food and wine, I also have a passion for yoga. Now don’t just click the “back” button and leave the page!! 🙂 I’m fully aware that some people’s view on yoga and spirituality are that we are all a bunch of crazy tree huggers (and sometimes we are!) but there is so much more to it.
I first discovered yoga about 18 months ago and dabbled in it on and off in a few different studios for a while before joining the Yoga Dublin studio in Ranelagh about 8 months ago. At first it was just another type of exercise for me to try out, having gotten well and truly bored with the gym and constantly trying to force myself into the running craze (that SO did not happen for me)! But after a couple of months, quite gradually, my practice developed and now a workout / exercise is the last thing on my mind when I take a class. I go for the mental benefits and honestly, the peaceful feeling it brings (hippy alert # 1 !!) … paired with the excitement of managing to twist and turn myself into a pose that I would have thought impossible before of course 🙂
2014 was a pretty turbulent year for me, I had an awful end to the year and was quite unhappy. After Christmas, I booked into a yoga class almost every day… Not wanting to get up at 6am but knowing I’d feel a million times better after it. And I always did. Yoga has a strange way of bringing emotion out of me and I often lay in the relaxation pose at the end of class with tears in my eyes, but I always felt so much better leaving class, things seemed clearer and all the outside noise just didn’t matter as much. For 60/90 minutes I could just leave everything behind and do what was instructed… Twist, bend, fold, inhale, exhale… Don’t think, just move.
A few months prior I had booked a yoga retreat to Morocco with one of my fantastic yoga teachers, Sibylle Dallmann. Sibylle makes it about more than a physical exercise…. Her words and guidance about moving into and breathing in postures can also apply to life situations and getting through them. She makes each class an hour to give time to yourself physically and mentally, while also leaving you with something to think about afterwards and a feeling of positivity within. I looked forward to the retreat so much…. At the risk of sounding like a hippy – my soul needed it and my head and heart needed the break with nothing to take over my thoughts except me and figuring out how to be happy in myself again.
When I set off on the Soulfire retreat to Essaouira in Morocco I really didn’t know what to expect…. I had no idea who was going, if I’d know anyone, what the whole retreat entailed apart from 2.5 hours of yoga and meditation in the morning and two hours in the early evening. What I ended up experiencing went way beyond my expectations.
Firstly the hotel was absolutely fabulous. We stayed in the Le Medina Essaouira Hotel which was a 2 minute walk from the Medina (town centre). With the most amazing buffet breakfast each day and dinner also included we were well fed! The staff there were some of the most friendly and helpful hotel staff that I’ve encountered.
The group of about 15 people on the retreat were all super friendly and approachable, everyone was on the same wavelength with a love for yoga and a willingness to throw ourselves into the meditation and coaching aspect of the course too. The early starts (up at 6.30am!) meant that we still had a large chunk of the day free to chill by the pool, go for a walk on the beach or explore the streets of the Medina in Essaouira… bargaining with the stall holders for scarves, jewellery, oils and other little bits. I’d never been to this part of the world before so it was completely different to anywhere I’d seen…. I loved the bright colours of the rugs and blankets, the blue of the fishing boats at the port….
One of the most special moments was taking our evening meditation out onto the beach and watching the sun set… I certainly felt so much gratitude for being at that time and place with these amazing people.
It wasn’t all easy – for me anyway… plenty of tough postures and tough admissions to put down on paper – but at the end of each day I felt great and fell into bed excited for the next day’s class. I have been to some great places and had some great times over the years but the 5 days I spent there were really something else, the mix of our surroundings, a fantastic group of girls and the best teacher just meant it was a really amazing experience.
Yoga has taught me that I am stronger than I think… I can manage to get myself up into wheel pose – albeit not for too long – but I am strong on the inside too. I’ve gotten through some really tough times in my life not least the death of a parent and numerous heartbreaks. It has taught me that I’m vulnerable too… there’s nothing like toppling out of a balance in front of a group of people people to remind you that you can still have off days on the mat! And I’m vulnerable in life… I’m emotional, I love easily, I trust easily, I hurt easily, I upset easily, I care a lot. This can be a blessing and a curse to feel so much but I have learned a lot over the past while… everyone is on their own path and needs to decide where it takes them…. I trust that life will bring me where I’m meant to be and I’m at the place I should be for me right now – no matter how tough it’s been to get here.
Life is fragile and amazing, it is here to be loved and lived to the fullest with people who love and care for you, doing what you can to bring a bit of brightness into the day for someone else and bringing brightness into your own day… seeing new places and meeting new people, discovering new things… there is so much more to the world than just my life and I intend to fully discover and live it to my best ability. Life can change in an instant, be it as a result of death, a relationship break up, onset of illness, an accident… and once it changes we change too… sometimes we just have to roll with it, no matter how hard.
I saw this quote somewhere before and copied it down – it sums up my views exactly:
You are not your body. You are not your weight on the scale. You are not the amount of calories you eat. You are not the way you dress or how you wear your hair. You are not your job, your education level, or your college degree. You are not your income, the cost of your clothes, or the size of your house. You are not the number of people you have slept with. You are not your sadness or your pain. You are not your scars or your mistakes. You are not defined by anything that can be seen by the naked eye. You are the things you love. You are your favourite music. You are your hopes and dreams. You are the size of your heart and your capacity to endure. You are your passions and the things that make you come alive. You are the jokes that make you laugh and the words that soothe your soul. You are the way you treat the people around you. You are everything and anything that moves you. You are what you bring to the world. You are a force of friendship and love. You are a warrior and a survivor. And no matter who you are, where you come from, or what you have been through, you are important and you matter.
I will finish up by saying if you have ever thought of taking up yoga be it for injury, fitness or for your mind – do it now, it will bring so much more into your life if you let it…I can’t promise you’ll fall in love with it how I have but I really can’t recommend it enough!
Sibylle Dallman teaches at Yoga Dublin Studios and also runs her own courses in both Ranelagh and Sandyford. She has also recently started Life Coaching workshops – more info here: http://www.sibylledallmann.com/