Last month, my Instagram account was all about yoga as I took part in the #yogagirlchallenge. The challenge was to practice yoga every day for 30 days, to post a picture related to your practice and to get real about how you were feeling that day. I signed up to make myself stick to getting on my mat, to connect with other yogis around the world and to try something new. I decided not to post pictures of my daily practice as that's just me on my mat, on the floor every day. Plus, I suck at selfies. So instead, I chose to post pictures from my yoga journey; a journey that started long before I'd even heard of Instagram. The challenge turned out to be an interesting experience. Somehow, I was always able to find a lesson from the past to help me deal with whatever I was going through in the present. Everything appears to be connected. Also, I had never realised before that all my yoga trips had taken me to places where I was surrounded by jungle, palm trees, monkeys and beaches. Ending up in Ecuador no longer seems like a coincidence. I was always coming here...
Bali was my first yoga trip and my first experience with a practice that would open up my eyes to a whole new world. My friend and I travelled here in July 2012 to take classes at The Yoga Barn in Ubud. Inspired by the movie "Eat, Pray, Love", we were hoping to spend two weeks in a peaceful paradise but the reality of Bali turned out to be something completely different. Don't get me wrong, it's beautiful but it's also hot, humid, messy and loud. People were always asking us where we were going and although we found it a bit annoying at the time, I later learned that this is an important part of the Balinese culture. Knowing where everyone is at all times is their way of maintaining balance in the world. Our answer was always the same:
We're going to the yoga studio.
When we asked the guesthouse manager where he was going, his answer never failed either:
I'm going to sit by the road to watch the traffic.
Another phenomena that I found curious in Bali was the flower arrangements. They are a form of self-sacrifice and devotion and Balinese women prepare them every day, putting in the time and the effort, even though they know for sure that by the end of the day, the flowers will be gone. From this, I take away the lesson that there's no point in trying to hold on to anything because nothing is forever. The people that are meant to be in our life will come and stay. Others will come and go. All we can do is breathe, surrender to what is and trust that everything is as it should be.
Those first yoga classes were much harder than I had expected. Believe it or not, my first ever yoga teacher's name was Pain and she certainly lived up to her name. She used to make us lie on tennis balls until our bodies were full of bruises and if we cried, she laughed. But the tennis balls had a purpose - they were there to release emotions that needed to come out. And Ms. Pain didn't laugh when she saw me sitting up straight in a room where everyone else was in a forward-fold with their foreheads touching the ground. Instead, she walked up to me and said:
I'm jealous of you. I'm pretty much done but you - you've got somewhere to go...
Throughout the #yogagirlchallenge, I would arrive on my mat dressed in the same T-shirt that I wore in Bali and even though it says "Home of the Brave", I was feeling anything but. Around the same time that I signed up for the challenge, a friend and I had a falling out and didn't speak to each other for several weeks. Unwilling to deal with this unnecessary drama, I was uncomfortable and upset, which reminded me of going to yoga therapy in Bali. The healing sessions brought up memories of past hurts and all I could think about was the scene in "Eat, Pray, Love" where Richard from Texas says to Elizabeth Gilbert:
I know you feel awful... but your life is changing. And that's not a bad thing.
So that's how it all started, on a magical Indonesian island about five years ago. Through yoga, I was invited into a community that is welcoming and warm and my life has changed in so many ways since then, which is a very, very good thing. Even so, it would be a year before I stepped on my mat again. A year before I found myself in a place where the monkeys are just as loud as the ones in Bali and the sunsets every bit as spectacular...