To celebrate International Yoga Day, one of our favourite yogis, Cat Meffan, shares 10 ways yoga has changed her life for the better!
It’s been about seven years since I went to my very first yoga class and a lot has changed. Both physically and mentally within myself and a lot has changed within the yoga world too. That first yoga class at my local leisure centre with my mum was a day I won’t ever forget because I realised that yoga was not at all what I thought it was. I went on to create my own YouTube channel to share my yoga knowledge and experience with others.
Yoga is now so popular, it’s one of the most viewed forms of exercise on YouTube, but in case you have ever wondered ‘What does yoga teach you’, here’s what it’s given to me.
SO MANY STYLES
Like I mentioned, at that first class I realised that yoga wasn’t what I expected. I hadn’t heard a huge amount about it, but I seem to have made my own views about it being slow, boring and mainly for older women. How wrong was I?! I came to yoga in search of a physical practice, something that could build my strength and help my body repair after many injuries and problems with EDS III. Whether you’re in need of something restorative or a practice more like a workout, the asana side of yoga has you covered. And then there’s the spiritual practice, the journey of the self, the meditation… i.e. the really hard stuff! Doing ‘yoga’ doesn’t always mean rolling out your mat and doing a downward facing dog, it can be as simple as taking a few minutes out of your day to close of your eyes, look inwards and be mindful of what is happening within you, emotionally and physically.
This is something I have to work on daily, like many people. Yoga helped me discover a side to myself I really needed to focus on, acceptance of myself and acceptance of others for who they are. This isn’t this kind of ‘yoga’ you’ll necessarily work on in a regular weekly class at your local leisure centre, although there are many amazing teachers out there who will find a way of connecting the physical practice with human emotions and the inner work we all need to do.
AGE IS NOTHING BUT A NUMBER
I’ve been to classes and taught yoga classes where I have witnessed incredible men and women of all ages getting deep into their asana practice. It’s such a special thing to see people of the generations that came before me taking on postures that they maybe thought they’d never be able to do. Some of these people have been doing yoga for years longer than me, others are new to it and it’s the latter I’d like to celebrate today. The men and women who aren’t afraid to try something new for the sake of their physical and mental health.
BOY OH BOY
I know I’ve spoken about men in the point above, but this deserves a point of its own as I think it’s SO important for guys to realise that yoga is for them too. I’ll be honest and admit that I wasn’t sure many men did yoga when I first started, but when we think about where yoga comes from and who was doing it first, it was actually all men and boys. The physical practice of yoga was first created for yoga boys, so it’s crazy to think that there are so many men out there who thinks it’s a ‘girly’ thing to do. Hopefully, we can lure the men in with promises of strong impressive postures and for them to soon find out that there’s so much more to the practice than that.
PUT YOUR MIND TO IT
After I stopped doing gymnastics and dancing, I knew I’d always keep some level of fitness, but I had pretty much accepted that I’d never be able to hold a handstand for longer than I could when I was 13 and my flexibility would just stay the same. Not true. Through dedication and love of the yoga practice, my body is capable of so much more than I ever realised, even at the age of 30. I plan to keep setting goals and pushing my boundaries, using these goals as a way to grow.
This is something I have seriously had to work on. I’m still not great at accepting when I’m ill, preferring to keep on pushing on, but slowly and surely I know I need to listen to my body. Most importantly with an injury. I developed chronic pain in my lower spine a few years ago and it’s something I’m still struggling with today. I have modified my yoga practice because of it and even though at first this made me sad, I quickly realised that there’s no point in doing yoga if I’m just putting my body through hell. Forget about what everyone else in the room is doing, just do what feels right for you. Take each day as it comes.
BEAUTY OF BREATH
In yoga we work on Pranayama, translated as breath control. This can be as simple as deep inhales and exhales or working on slightly trickier techniques such as Nauli kriya. It’s the simple form of breathing that I want to talk about here. Before yoga I did a lot of cognitive behavioural therapy as part of eating disorder therapy and though that’s where I first learned about the power of mindfulness, but the power of breath is something I wish they’d taught me back then, as it’s such an amazing way to relieve stress and anxiety.
Yoga isn’t just about going to classes, it’s about meeting like-minded people who might even become your friends. I have met so many amazing people who come to my classes or who are fellow yoga teachers and even if I haven’t built close relationships with all of them, I have connected with each person and learned something from them.
Yoga can be addictive. It’s like a medicine that makes us feel chilled and energised all at once, but something to be aware 0f – if all the classes you’re doing each week are just to escaped from something else that’s going on for you emotionally that’s not healthy either. I’m not saying that yoga is bad in any way, but I have seen people come to it as a form as therapy and then getting addicted, which is still an unhealthy relationship to have with anything.
Through the practice of yoga (both the asana and mental work) I have been through so many changes, still growing as a human. This growth hopefully won’t stop. Yoga opened me up to a whole world of self-development and inner emotional work, which is exactly what I need to be doing in order to be my best and most authentic self.
If you’re keen to do more yoga, flow with me every Sunday on YouTube.
words by Cat Meffan