Yoga was my saviour….
It was late 2005 and I had ended up in the UK working for a massive multi-national mining corporation, doing a high pressure, high travel job in a city where I knew nobody, having just completed a highly stressful MBA during a year I also lost my father. It was not an easy time. In fact, it sucked.
I joined the gym in Bristol as a form of escapism and noticed that they held occasional yoga classes which piqued my interest, having dabbled with yoga but never really committed to it some years prior back in Johannesburg. So, I tentatively joined a hatha yoga class, relying on the fact that I had done ballet for many years as I child and thus thought I had the required level of suppleness that I somehow had managed to retain well into adulthood, even though this was generally reserved for the party trick of doing the splits after one too many tequilas (yogis are not all pure….).
Anyway, I attended a few classes and soon became hooked, coming to love my weekly date with my mat which, when the opportunity allowed (i.e. I wasn’t on a plane somewhere), became a more frequent experience. Of course, for me yoga was much more than flexibility and after time I acquired an inner peace that I didn’t even know was possible and became so centred amidst the chaos of my life, allowing me to see things clearly.
Yoga for me, in those dark, dreary and lonely days, was my salvation. It allowed me to cope with the trifecta of the complex combination of a new country, new city as well as new career. While my family and beloved dog were back home in the sun, I was on a plane every 5 days, heading to meetings or site visits and not getting enough sleep and eating poorly. Being able to have my regular yoga fix grounded me and energised me to a point where I started running again and got myself back on the health track. But integral to this was the mental and emotional strength that came from yoga at a time I was weak. Even the outwardly tough ones need some TLC and to learn self-love.
My first teacher in the UK, Gary, specialised in Hatha Yoga and also hosted workshops on occasion and this allowed me to explore my practise of asanas and pranayama on a deeper level and thereby my appreciation of and benefit from it. It was through his teachings that I also experienced the sheer joy of my first proper Prasarita Padottanasana (wide-legged forward bend – with head touching the ground) after months of dedication and arduous inner thigh and hamstring stretching. Yoga was and is for me, very much a journey and this ongoing commitment to the practice of yoga is part of the grounding that you benefit from.
I met Clara and her husband Andrew in late 2006, during one of my frequent visits back to Johannesburg where we had a subsidiary office (so yes, I got to see my dog often too!). We were at an Oxford alumni function (of which we are all graduates) and I got chatting to the lady with the ‘Yoga Warrior’ nametag and ended up on the topic of diving and dolphins, a subject Andrew is very familiar with. I promptly joined their next yoga retreat to Mozambique later that year. Well, needless to say I was hooked and have since been on most retreats with them to Mozambique, Drakensberg and Tulbagh.
I moved back to SA (having given up the high stress UK job) during 2007 and became a regular at the Yoga Warrior studio, having been there since pretty much the beginning at its current premises. I wanted to deepen my practice so I signed up for the teacher training course taught by Clara in 2008 and have since attended numerous workshops including Patrick Creelman, Noah Maze, Paige Elenson, Paige Chapman among others, all thanks to Clara, as well as doing my own exotic retreats in Bali and Bhutan. My yoga attendance over the years, however, has been less than consistent, again owing to a hectic travel regime as a consultant as well as adventurer, interspersed with attributable injuries, but I still find solace on the mat and perpetually aim to have a more regular practice. I sometimes even find myself putting up a fuss as I drag myself to class, but at the end of it, I have never regretted attending a single class. Ever.
The great part about getting fit and running properly has meant that I have become an avid sports enthusiast and have expanded into high altitude mountaineering. Among my most memorable races was competing in the Antarctic Marathon in 2014 and being 3rd woman across the line (in an admittedly small field!). I have climbed a few big mountains too, having done 3 of the 7 Summits with plans to climb Everest soon. The success of these adventurous endeavours is in no small part attributable to yoga – from the breathing techniques used with each step, the core strength from prolonged yoga practise or the meditative ‘centering’ and focus achieved during the most arduous of exertion – yoga has been the back bone to these personal achievements. I have long wanted to do a yoga class specifically aimed at Sport Yoga to allow focus on some of these techniques, and I look forward to bringing this offering to the Studio, among others.
Throughout this time I have been an avid fan and regular supporter of Yoga Warrior, coming to class between adventures. But I have also become a friend and family member of the Woodburn clan, becoming godmother to their second child.
Now, roughly 10 years to the day of my first real yoga class, I have taken the plunge into running a yoga studio, thanks to the opportunity which has come my way as my own existing business takes a backseat role, thanks to a miserable mining sector and low commodity prices. I am taking Clara’s first baby, her studio, on a new journey while she focuses her energy on her family. This baby is fully-fledged with a team of wonderful teachers and a strong following which has built up over the years. I aim to take this teenager through its next growth phase and give it wings - as a yogi and businesswoman I have great dreams for it.
I hope to share the many benefits of yoga with as many people as possible and provide old and new practitioners a sanctuary where they may continue to learn and grow, and too find the path to inner peace.
Johannesburg, January 2016