When I moved back to Brighton in October of last year my yoga practice was sporadic, to say the least. I had moved from Warwickshire, where I had a fairly regular Ashtanga practice at a wonderful local studio (‘Stone Monkey’, run by Digby Platt in Leamington Spa) and had dabbled in and out of self practice with varying degrees of success and commitment. Although weightlifting was my primary sport, yoga had been quietly ticking along in the background ever since my running days. I had first attended yoga because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re training for a marathon. I had continued going to a beginners class following my hospital admission for Anorexia Nervosa, and found that it did wonders for my mindset, if not my hamstrings. Over the years my practice certainly improved, but more as a result of me gaining strength, size and a willingness to surrender, as opposed to me practising on a regular basis. Nonetheless, yoga and meditative practice have long felt that they are key to my full recovery.
Upon moving to Brighton I started looking into local yoga classes, but found myself overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of studios, classes and teachers in the area. It seems that there is a real thirst for yoga and spiritual practice down here, which makes me even more excited to be home! Despite the flooded market I soon found myself signing up for a couple of workshops being held by Richy and Lena from ‘LoveLightYoga’ at a lovely space in the Laines in Brighton. The first of which focused on hip and hamstring openers – something that my rigid body (and mind) was crying out for – and I was delighted to be joined by Janey Railton, who is a yoga teacher and good friend of mine from Warwick. Having her energy in the room gave me a real sense of safety, and a willingness to be open and true. The second workshop focused on inversions, so all things headstands and handstands. How beautiful the world looks when we are upside down! I left both workshops with a sense of excitement towards yoga that I hadn’t felt in some time.
However, sometimes when we inherently know that something is good for us (or not so good, as the case may be), there remains a reluctance to fully embrace it. Deep down I think that yoga scares the life out of me – way more than running 26.2 miles, way more than standing on stage in a tiny bikini flexing my baby muscles. Why? Because on the mat I am my true self. I am vulnerable and scared and flawed and I am NOT THE BEST. So facing this, openly and whole heartedly, is bound to come with a side serving of resistance. Even so, I hadn’t forgotten the fact that Richy and Lena had, in just two workshops, held a beautiful space for my body and mind that had made me feel nourished, accepted and warm. So, on a ‘Brighton beautiful’ afternoon last week I finally made it to one of their Yin classes, which are held every Thursday at 4.30pm at ‘About Balance’.
Unlike my Ashtanga practice, Yin yoga is a slower paced discipline, involving long stays in each asana (posture). It involves sitting in asana, deepening into it without striving, moving instinctively and intuitively, following the breath and the body as they work together in sweet harmony. As I had found several months previously, Richy and Lena’s calming energy soon made me feel at ease. I released my hair from it’s ponytail, released my body into each pose and released all concerns about how I must be looking. As I touched my arms and legs with my hands I began to question, as I increasingly seem to, whether this muscular, Alpha shell is really very good for me. Another scary thought. However, as the class went on I managed to hold less attachment to these thoughts, to these feelings of uncertainty. Richy’s hands on my back, inviting and encouraging me to relinquish further into each posture, were placed with the perfect intensity. Later in the class he placed his hands on my forehead – an intimate gesture where I would typically throw up a thousand brick walls, and then some. But, in this space, I found myself accepting the support, accepting his permission to release.
Yin yoga is out of my comfort zone, as is placing my trust in a male instructor, yet ‘LoveLightYoga’ did an incredible job of opening up my hamstrings, my hips and my heart. Richy and Lena are wonderfully passionate about Rocket Yoga, which is an Ashtanga interpretation that is more dynamic and playful than its Yin counterpart, and I am looking forward to attending one of their Rocket classes in the near future. In the meantime I have a reignited passion towards my Ashtanga practice, and with each forward fold I can feel myself letting go just that millimetre more. I am allowing myself to fall out of headstands and handstands, allowing myself to be playful and imperfect. What this means for the future I do not know, but I know that the future will take care of itself, as it always does, moment by moment.