Yoga can be messy or experimental and be excellent support for mental health

More and more I am embracing the messiness that occurs in my yoga and in my everyday life, but it wasn’t always this way.

When I did my first YTT (Yoga teacher training) I didn’t like being messy at all. I was pretty much a perfectionist in life, which caused me anxiety and stress and pain.

In YTT it was very much about having “aligned” poses, in which I wanted to be “perfect”. I now have Sacro-iliac-joint (SIJ) disfunction which I believe is from those years of squaring my hips for warriors, trikonasana etc….by the way people, please don’t try to “square” your hips and please don’t listen if a teacher expects you to.

In YTT, sometimes we had opportunities for alternatives, if we couldn’t get the “full expression of the pose”. I often felt very awkward in asking if I could do an alternative. Why I felt I needed to get the permission of my teacher is something I now wonder about. I had a faulty belief that I wasn’t good enough if I couldn’t do it.

I often felt pressure to continue the class even if I wasn’t feeling well. I even attended a class straight after being in a minor car accident! Even though I was shaky, and probably should have turned around and driven myself back home, I showed up because I didn’t want to disappoint my teacher. Did I pause to think about my own emotional state? I don’t think so, sadly.

My YTT was structured, following the teacher’s instructions. I admired her matter-of-fact way of delivering instructions. I was eager to please and tick the boxes. But instructions and expectations are friends with perfectionism.  I remember one of my fellow students running from the room in tears as she was feeling pressured to do a strong inversion and didn’t want to. It was either handstand or headstand.

At the time, I thought the structure was good for me. It was kind of what I was used to, and I felt it was helpful for me, and I thought helpful to manage anxiety at the time. It gave me a sense of containment; it gave me boundaries.

With the benefit of hindsight, I needed space to find my own way to practice; I needed less instructions and less expectations. However, my own yoga did evolve slowly and consistently through my home practice, and my own curiosity, more trainings with other teachers and facilitators, discussions with peers, etc.

I grew to love my home practice, as a dear friend and companion, always there with me wherever I travelled and whatever was happening in my personal life.

Now, more and more, my own practice looks waaaaay less like trying to get the “look” of a certain posture, and more like rolling around on the floor.

YEP!

It’s definitely NOT fancy.

When I share photos on Instagram, I am aiming to offer alternatives to the various yoga-pretzel fancy-looking, on the beach in a bikini type of yoga.

Not that yoga on the beach, or in a bikini, or fancy pretzel looking yoga is a bad thing. Of course not. I want people to know they get to choose. It’s not good or bad, it’s just different. There are choices.

I want the world to know that yoga is accessible to everyone. And there are so many ways to practice yoga….what I believe matters the most is how it feels to you, on the inside.

By tuning in more to how yoga feels to you, will help to cultivate INTEROCEPTION. That is the inner-awareness of your body. Your felt sense. This is something especially helpful for trauma-survivors, and those experiencing mental health challenges.

I love offering Interoceptive cues in my sessions. And it’s something that I work with in my own yoga practice, which allows me to get curious and experiment with different movements and postures and how my body balances (or doesn’t!)

I love the experimenting. And allowing myself to be messy.

I often say to participants in my yoga sessions, yoga is less about how it looks, and more about how it feels. I also to participants many choices and options, and invitational cues. It is afterall their body, their experience, their yoga.

Allowing myself to be messy, and curious, with my yoga practice helps me to embrace the imperfect things about my life.

It’s always a work in progress, embracing myself as I am. It has taken me a long time, little by little, to release the desire and intention to be perfect.  But PHEW, what a relief it is.

How about the effect on mental health? I believe there are strong benefits. I have EXPERIENCED the positive mental health affects for myself.

Imperfect is good. Enough-ness is also really good!

Self-acceptance is brilliant! And when we can accept ourselves as we are, we can accept others as THEY are.

I say let’s celebrate being our imperfect selves, exactly as we are. We are whole and complete, exactly as we are.

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Interested in Yoga sessions with me? I offer small friendly trauma-informed group Yoga sessions. Join us on zoom from wherever you are in the world. Several yoga sessions including Yoga Nidra, on zoom each week. My timezone is Melbourne AEST. I also offer 1:1 private sessions which can be via zoom. New offering – TCTSY, Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga.