Sarah Shannon Yoga



Yoga To Me


The simple benefits that I get from practicing yoga


We had a hug day during the week. Yes, a day when ‘Ola’, ‘Hello’ and ‘Namaste’ were replaced with a sweaty hug from strangers who have now become friends.

Hugs are an interesting one. They force you to experience the moment of the hug and the emotion you feel. If you are sad or stressed, a hug will make you cry or feel better; if you’re happy a hug will make you smile. You can’t avoid your emotion because you are literally face planted in it. And that’s why a hug is so refreshing, it releases our pent up emotions.

For me yoga does the same. Through difficult and uncomfortable poses you intensely feel each emotion as it squeezes to the surface. You feel the pain and awkwardness of bending your body and your ego’s frustration when you can’t hold your balance. You feel irritation when you can’t focus on meditation and when your mat is too close to the person beside you. You feel vulnerable when you open up your body in ways that you never usually would. And you self-criticise if it’s been a while since you’ve been on the mat or you were out like a lunatic the night before your pre-booked class.

You really feel and experience the stuff that comes up because you have nowhere to hide on the mat. You can’t distract yourself by looking at your phone and you can’t rely on someone else to make you feel differently. So you have two options; give up and come out of the pose or you can hold the position, breathe, focus and gently release. You learn that emotions and thoughts are just creations of the mind and are not you, and that they evaporate if you are patient and you let them go.

The teacher told us week two was going to be tough, physically and emotionally. And like clock-work, I woke up this week with a cold and then walked into a rock and stubbed my toe. Neither ideal since breathing through your nose and bending and flexing toes are pretty much the key elements of yoga. I felt my zen ebb.

I asked our Indian teacher did he have anything, herbal of course, he could give me for the ailments. ‘Promise me something Sara’ he said ‘do not take anything’. The cold is releasing toxins and emotions from the body so why suppress this release, he asked, let it happen. Mystified by his advice, I thought maybe this need to hide every symptom, to ease every pain is not what we should be doing. Stress and pain only happen when we resist life’s events. Feel the pain, feel unwell, let it come up, don’t attach to it and don’t suppress it. Experience it and then release it, and as you endure you become strong.

And Saturday night at the ashram offered the perfect tonic (sin gin) for week two. We were sitting silently cross legged in a semi-circle in the shalla waiting for the talent show to begin. The eldest lady from our group, an Austrian woman in her 50s, got up unannounced and started spectacularly moving and dancing. Her legs striding, arms circling, and her long blonde hair and dangly earrings flowing and clanging to the rhythm of the beat of a drum that only she could hear.

There was a pause, definitely, while everyone processed the moment. And then it passed and the moment was accepted; and one by one we got up to join her dance. And then we danced for no reason and to no music except the sound of our clapping and some people banging on the floor boards. A release of all the aches and pains of the week. And a release of thoughts and self-conscious feelings.

The movement, just like in the yoga flow, releases trapped energy and emotions from the body and mind. You feel better, refreshed and free like after the eccentric dancing or the random hug. A release of all the things the mind wants to hold on to; that is what yoga is for me.

I did my 200 hour yoga teacher training (Multi-style Vinyasa, Hatha and Yin) at Green Yoga International in Mallorca. Highly recommend it