Journey into Yoga

I remember the first time I decided to put on a pair of stretchy pants and try yoga. I was eighteen and living in Nairobi, in that weird space between high school and college where you don't really know who you are, and you're terrified of what is coming next. I was bored and restless, so I found a DVD lying around with a lithe looking yoga teacher on it. I popped it in the DVD player (remember those!) and some guy told me to sit still and close my eyes. Cool, I can do that. Then he starts to chant, "OOOOMMM". The sound made me sick to the stomach. I turned off the video immediately. It was six years before I tried yoga again! 

The problem was this: I grew up extremely religious and religion seeps into your bones, it's extremely hard to shake, if not impossible - maybe, I'll let you know. So even though I had long ago ditched churches for nightclubs the "OM" sounded religious, and from where I stood, participating in something so closely linked to Hinduism felt like agreeing that there was a God other than the Christian God. I was still wearing spiritual blinkers, battered as they were. I was shook and I wanted nothing to do with yoga.

Then came college and a year of traveling in Australia. Still no yoga. I didn't know anything about it, and I didn't care to find out. Six years after that experience, I was in my mid twenties and living in a small town in Northern Kenya. I was noticing that my body was starting to need upkeep. Ugh! But the town was so small; there were no gyms, no exercise classes, nothing. Then a young girl from England arrived, and started to teach Ashtanga yoga twice a week. It was extremely popular, and out of sheer desperation I decided to go. I will NEVER forget that first class - I thought I was going to die. My face obviously gave nothing away though, because she came over to me and gave me a deepening assist in Trikonasana. In that moment I was convinced my entire upper body was going to fall off! My curiosity was officially peaked. I went back, over and over and over again. She never chanted, she sometimes showed up a little hungover, she cursed. She was a real person; my kind of person. I will always be grateful to Stacey Jones for showing me her Yoga. 

Stacey stuck around for two years and when she left in 2013 I asked her to record a yoga video for me so I could practice at home. There was no sound; I had to keep looking up to make sure I was following. But after I while I had learned the sequence by heart, and it all started to flow very naturally. It wasn't long after that that Instagram showed up. And a whole new world opened up to me. There were yogis ALL OVER THE WORLD all doing amazing things, speaking with kindness and strength and can we just talk about "that" video of Briohny Smyth for Equinox! I felt more connected to the world than I had in a long time. 

My first ever yoga class in Kenya (in the pink with my head in my hand haha)

My first ever yoga class in Kenya (in the pink with my head in my hand haha)

Stacey filming a video for me

Stacey filming a video for me

I moved to the UK three years ago and I had a stable wifi connection in my home (whippee!!) I began practising online regularly with Yoga By Candace, doing instagram yoga challenges, attending classes when I could and connecting with the members of the online and UK yoga community. When I decided to do a yoga teacher training, it wasn't because I wanted to teach. I was just thirsty to know more! I spent MONTHS digging away at a pile of programs all over England and the world. I didn't know what I wanted, but I knew when I found it it would speak to me. And it did, just as I was about to throw in the towel I found a studio around the corner from my friend in London that described the course in a structured and professional manner that called to me. I could afford it, the dates worked perfectly, and in a week I was signed up. 

The start of my journey in 2013

The start of my journey in 2013

Yoga teacher graduate in 2018

Yoga teacher graduate in 2018

I'll leave it there for now. But I want to say that these are just the technical details, this path has not been easy. Understanding that yoga is not a religion, but a lifestyle to unite all religions has been a difficult truth to understand and accept.

I also had to accept that yoga would change my body, and not in a way I wanted. I even walked away from it entirely a couple of years ago because of this. Right now I am the heaviest and biggest that I have ever been, but I am also the happiest and most comfortable in my body that I have ever been. Sometimes feelings of resentment, imposter syndrome, frustration, guilt catch me out but, to keep going despite this, or maybe because of this, has lead me to this place. A place I never knew I wanted to be, but now that I am here I cannot imagine being anywhere else.

 

Kathrine MacLeod