I first rolled my mat out at the age of twelve... next to my Mum in our Village Community Hall in the sleepy South West of the UK. We had the kind of relationship where we could talk about anything and everything... unless it was connected to deep feelings or an excess of emotion. This weekly yoga class became a space in which we could move in synch together and I treasured those ‘Mum and Me’ times where our bodies flowed side by side in silence.
From an early age I had a challenging relationship with my body. I never truly felt at home in it. Fear of failure coupled with the perfectionist paralysis of a ‘good girl’ mentality meant that my head often blocked conversation with my limbs. The prospect of an aerobics class peppered with the compulsory dreaded ‘grapevine’ routine was my worst nightmare. I was always the tomato faced rogue student; unceremoniously face planting into the wall at the opposite end of the room and then desperately trying to ‘style it out’! I used to get so mad at myself that something so seemingly simple as utilising physical co-ordination was like translating hieroglyphics to my toes! Joking aside, I always, always had this sense that my body let me down... like it made me different, like it was the reason I didn’t belong and somehow I always belonged on my mat. My body listened on the mat, my body felt intuitive on the mat, I could truly ‘be’ on my mat... there’s magic in that, I know.
Forever trying to shrink myself into the background, forever trying to minimise my size, forever trying to fit in whilst simultaneously labelled too big, too loud, too much... ‘just like your ******’. I suffered at the suffocating hands of anorexia intermittently through my teens and early twenties. It became a way to manage a world that intoxicatingly spiralled around me: parental divorce, peer group suicide, exam pressure, moving from my friends at school to social ‘no mans land’ at college... and the ice cold exclusion that came from trying, and failing, to fit into well established friendships groups – all because I was different. Teenage times were tough, I was an outsider on my own inside job... and yet somehow yoga was the thread that kept me moving in my body throughout. A place where I could cry, a place where I could collapse, a place where I could crumble and crawl - my mat was my safe space, my mat was my emotional home.
- Trigger warning paragraph *
The night before I took my driving test, aged seventeen, I was brutally drug raped. When I finally made it home the first place I went was the shower, for what felt like hours, the second place... my mat. I became so detached from my body that I could barely sit still. I couldn’t bare the red hot pain within but I didn’t know how to take it out; to ‘unsee’, to ‘unhear’, to ‘unfeel’ that cinema reel of wide awake reality whilst my body JUST lay there... unresponsive to my screams, to my fight, to my fire within. It would take many years before I would be able to begin to slow down and allow myself to feel again, to truly connect with my body, to understand that ‘I am safe’ in my own skin.
The thread that led me home? Yoga.
The practice that cracked me open? Yoga.
The words that reached me on the other side of the emotional fog? Yoga.
The postures that brought me peace and comfort? Yoga.
The discipline that kept me in flow when I felt utterly frozen? Yoga.
The conversation that connected my heart to my human home again... yep, you’ve got it, yoga.
As a woman of words with an agile and articulate inner critic, having a practice that enabled me to quiet the world within was a true gift. My mat signified a safe space for the waterfall of emotions that I struggled to speak and a place where I could wrestle, release and relax my mind. With time I would come to recognise the enormous significance of yoga as a tool for self-care and an invaluable form of physical expression in my personal journey.
Some of my biggest, heaviest and most freeing realisations have taken place on my mat (which reads ‘I am enough...’) and two years ago I had a strong call to become of service within this community. When the email arrived announcing Island Yoga’s first Teacher Training dates my heart flooded forward and self-doubt took a back seat. I worked two jobs for nine months with very little time off to make it happen, there was something deep inside me that rose forward and stood tall with a resounding ‘yes’! Two hundred hours (of heart beating, sweat dripping and tears tracing) later and I am so proud to be officially certified to share my practice with other Yoga Girls too!
Yoga is a practice in which I can feel, feel it all.
The joyous highs and the pain scraping lows,
Experienced in my body from my fingertips to my toes.
Yoga keeps me grounded, it keeps me humble,
A place where I can stand tall, lean in, and regularly tumble.
A daily discovery of this human experience in my skin...
... long may this be a space for conversations within.