Failures, set backs, things we aren’t proud of. What happens when you have them in the very thing you teach or preach?
Continuing this series looking at practitioners’ thoughts on their own successes and failures, with self-care practitioner and pysychologist Suzy Reading and Mindset Coach Suzy Ashworth having shared their thoughts, I’m lucky to have my very good friend Emily Graves aka @generaljoy tell us about her yoga practice now that she’s a teacher.
Ems and I have known each other since we were just out of Uni, thrown together in an NHS temp job and being pitched against each other as the two blonde Emily’s. Quickly we realised we had nothing to pitch against and became a fearsome pair for that health service’s senior management team. How lucky to have watched her grow and change as time has gone on, which is why I’m so keen to share her with you too.
Q1. You’re a recently qualified yoga teacher. What drew you to this and the style of yoga that you gravitate towards?
I am a recently qualified yoga teacher, of what feels like millions! Who isn’t a yoga teacher, or doesn’t have a friend who is a yoga teacher?! It’s because we are all – as a planet – totally overloaded! Aren’t we? And yoga is basically the perfect antidote of overthinking, overdoing, over achieving, over consuming, analysing, of total sensory, physical and mental overload.
Living & working in London, travelling lots, partying hard, playing hard, working an average 11 hours a day, with NO OFF TIME; time on my own became totally sacred.
I re-discovered yoga and everything started to unravel. In a good way, in a way I never anticipated. Hot yoga vinyasa, the faster, more dynamic the better – less time to think. My body opened up, became stronger and more flexible, and my body changed shape in a really strong way.
Q2. Where do you feel you succeed in your own yoga practice?
In all honesty, I miss being just a student. I have personally found, once you’re a teacher, your practice is sort of not your own anymore. I catch myself in classes thinking “i like that linking posture, I like the way he/she said that, etc”, and sometimes comparing myself and putting myself down!
In the early days it was exhausting, especially as I was wracked with self doubt for about the first 6 months. I still have those days where I think ‘what am I doing, what do I know, I’m waffling?!’ but then I remember how much yoga has taught me off the mat, and that’s the real beauty.
So I guess I succeed in my own practice, not by getting up at 6am every morning to practice – because I do not do that! – but by acknowledging all the judgement and criticism of myself and working through that by being kinder, letting go and remembering we are all magnificent, and we are all trying our best.
More and more now I trust and like myself in life general, and am certainly more true to myself – because of yoga in it’s entirety … it is boundless, limitless in it’s application to every moment.
Yes the physical practice is important, but it has the potential to teach us so much more if we just start to listen. I also love that it’s a constant journey and can take you wherever you want it to. Recently I’m getting more interested in biorhythms, essential oils, yin yoga and thinking of doing a massage course; it constantly inspires me, and while that can be overwhelming, it’s also pretty cool. This reminds me that I get to choose and take action – whereas before I’d think ‘I can’t do that’, now I know if I really want to, I’ll make it a priority and I will give it a go.
Q3. Although of course we want to celebrate successes, I’d love to know where you feel you ‘fail’ in your own practice and what this teaches you?
I fail by not practicing as much as I could or should, and working to tame that inner critic. It’s not about not having time, not making it a priority, for whatever reason I put other things first, and I think if I did not teach I’d have all this time to practice! But then I wouldn’t teach! it’s a constant battle, and in fact just writing this has made me want to get on my mat!
This I guess teaches me acceptance and also reminds me that everything comes & goes, it’s never lost forever, yoga is a tool for life, and it will ebb & flow with your energy and your life.
Keeping it regular is the best thing you can do, but if for any reason you can’t, or you don’t, then I’d say don’t add a layer of guilt to that, but try to unpick why it’s not happening and re-order your priorities. If you take the time to listen in, chances are you’ll be back on the mat…we are good at avoiding the things that are good for us!
Q4. What do you think we could all learn from knowing that even experts don’t have it all together all of the time?
That we really are all just trying our best and no-one is perfect at all, and also quite often we create little stories about how great this person is, or how together they are, and it’s so unhelpful. So I think to remember we are all a constant work in progress and just big balls of energy working out where to put that energy, sometimes we get it wrong, but when it’s channelled right it’s glorious. That to me is what yoga is; your energy channelled in the kindest, most loving way. Right now for me that’s sitting in my pants in the garden eating a snickers!
Q5. What’s the one thing you think we can all do to start a yoga practice?
Writing a daily gratitude. That is yoga. That is enough and will lead to more self-love and worth and that will make it easier to step onto the mat, or to meditate, breathe, whatever you gravitate towards…writing will help you to listen in…to pause and see where that takes you, with no expectation, or judgement. That’s the beauty of yoga; the magic happens with everything in-between – not from trying really hard to touch your toes on the mat, which by the way I can’t do yet!