Thursday, 3 May 2012

Moving Within

Aaahh Lanzarote - the home of yoga. Ok, it's not actually the home of yoga, but it's MY home of yoga. It's where I discovered yoga, where I 'got' yoga. I found what it could do for me, how it could make me feel and it's where I realised that I needed its teachings for the rest of my life. I'm back to the source, in Lanzarote just now, and my body is thanking me for it.
I'm not in a peaceful retreat, tucked away from civilisation, with only the yoga to fill my day. Couldn't be more opposite actually. I'm in the athlete's Mecca that is known as Club La Santa. Every turn you take brings you face to face with another ironman triathlete (spot the tattoo) whether that's at the Olympic pool, running track, bike station station or sitting in the pool bar sipping a beer. You can fill your day with anything from step aerobics to windsurfing, or indeed yoga.

I first came here in August 2008, 1 month before the World Duathlon Championships, for which I had qualified and was hopeful of winning a medal at. I'd persuaded my husband Kenny that we should come here, and when he'd finally agreed i planned out a week of full on training. I was going to be the fittest I'd ever been and I was going for gold.
What actually happened by the time we got here was that I was struggling with injury and general body pain. I hadn't been able to run for weeks and biking was going down the same road. I wasn't in the greatest of places mentally by time we got here.

Kenny loved the place immediately (thankfully!). I on the other hand felt like a child standing outside the toy shop window watching all the others kids playing with the latest coolest toys. Everywhere I turned there was a triathlete wearing their 'uniform' as if to rub it in even more. I tried to run, no chance. I tried to bike, forget it. I tried to swim, even that hurt. I aqua-jogged, it felt wrong. I worked my way through everything I could on the timetable of activities and each time I reached a blockade. My body was telling me in every way it could possible that it had had enough. But still I was determined to make it move and 'do something productive'.

So on day 3 I tried yoga.

I remember sitting on the lawn, in the sun, thinking to myself that this was not what I'd planned for my week. I couldn't quite believe I was sitting there. To be fair, it was something that I'd always felt I should do, but i wasn't sure why. I'd just always been told it was good for me. So i thought I'd better just get on with it and see what happened. Then the teacher arrived. He was not at all what I'd expected to see. This man was strong, athletic, and dare I say it, tough looking. He looked like an athlete. He looked like the most athletic of athletic triathletes, but he was sitting on the stage barefooted, cross legged and about to teach yoga. He had an ironman backpack with him. i prepared to feel upset.

We sat for about 10 minutes crossed legged as he talked. His strong welsh accent was rich and mellow. It's tone was calming yet commanding. I was drawn in, and I was listening. He talked us through breath. He talked, I listened. As I followed his words I became aware for the first time of the band of tightness constricting me around my centre. I realised I couldn't breathe. I was an elite athlete, yet I couldn't breathe. I focussed on what he was saying and I found parts of me I had never before experienced. I was scared to breathe where he was directing breathe. I thought my breathe would stop and never start again, or that i'd split in two if I breathed the muscles looser. But I felt my breathe, and myself, start to open up. I concentrated on his words as he set the direction for the class. 'This is not a competition. There is no winning or losing. There is about YOU, YOUR body, and YOUR yoga. It doesn't matter what other people are doing, this is about you'. It felt like I'd been given permission to take a break and stop trying. For the rest of the class I just followed his words. When he told me to put my hands in a particular position I did. When he gave the harder option and I couldn't do it I stayed with the lower. He 'd told me it was ok, that this was about my limits, that I would get there, in my own time when I was ready. I trusted him. We didnt do a lot of moves, but i had moved a lot!

His classes became my sanctuary in the week. I handed over pain and worry and simply followed direction. In return I found newness. I connected with prana and I wanted to connect more.

Coming back home my life path and outlook changed. It was going to anyway, it had to. I was worn out, exhausted and heading for meltdown in one way or other. I gave up competing, i trained in pilates and completely shifted my working life. My health and quality of life increased dramatically.

I cant say that Steve's yoga was the start of the change. There were many factors at play at that time. But I can say that it was there at the beginning of the change. For that reason alone his teaching will always have an important place in my heart.

And so I'm here again, having a week of Steve's yoga. This time mixed in with a week of running, mountain biking, swimming and chillaxing. My body now embracing the variety. Yesterday I was there at his class, eagerly awaiting his direction. We sat and contemplated and listened to our body before moving at it's pace and will. It's my fourth year of being at his class and I'm still joyed at the simplicity of his teaching and the utter obviousness of his comments. Within a couple of minutes I was grinning inside like a Cheshire cat. My body released where it needed and found new movement. And the words that really struck a chord to me were as follows: 'your body will only go where it can go today. Do not force it, do not TRY to make it happen today. When your body's ready it WILL happen - trust the process, trust yourself, trust your body, trust life'. 'What you put in is what you get out. It's like that in life. Your body is a reflection of your life.'

And I also loved the moment when we were sitting in a twist and he stubbed his toe while unfolding. Under his breath, ever so faintly, hardly interrupting his flow, in a rich mellow welsh accent: ''f***'' I loved it because it showed me that he can tap into his centre, block out external distractions and focus into his depth. But at the end of the day, when you stub your toe and it hurts then sometimes you just gotta swear out loud. I like that.