It’s been a while since my last post (5 months and a new year!) and I don’t have any excuses other than we’ve been having far too much fun. But, to be honest, I was lacking the motivation to write as I was busy dedicating my time to my yoga journey.
Recently, my life has taken a more focused turn – and turn for the better. For those who don’t know, I’ve been dedicating myself more fully to my yoga, both in practice and in life choices. Recently, I completed my 200-hour Teacher Training in a permaculture farm in the jungle of Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. It was a transformational experience – not just a ‘yoga teacher training’ – and one that’s given me a giant kick up the butt (ahimsa, yogi style, obvs).
Myself and 21 other goddess yoginis (their only all-girl group!) were immersed in the jungle for a 3-week intensive where we were up with the howler monkeys for a morning practice, followed by hours of technique, anatomy, philosophy; lectures on wom(b)en wellness, our menstrual cycles, our intimate relationships with the moon and mother nature, learning – and sampling – the magic of plant medicine; we did a cacao ceremony, had many, many, MANY healing and releasing exercises in catharsis… the list goes on. There were wounds opened (and healed) that I didn’t even know were there. I cried tears I hadn’t cried in years and sang more than I’d ever done my whole life in kirtan, ceremony and mantra. We ate delicious farm-grown food and produce locally sourced from Costa Rican organic farmers, all meals vegetarian or vegan, gluten and dairy free. Oh, and we stayed in upcycled shipping containers and pooped in compost toilets. Saving the planet, one go at a time!
But rewinding a bit. Before my training, way before, I’d felt something was missing. For a while. I felt misaligned. I felt lacking, spiritually, and I felt like I was going in a direction that didn’t fully serve me. Travelling was/is great, but it wasn’t enough. All throughout Asia I missed my yoga practice terribly (which had started a few years back, first in freezing cold gym halls, then in Uni on the floor of bouncy karate crash mats, later in London in fancy – and overpriced – hot yoga studios, and finally under the wonderful instruction of my Mum who is a yoga teacher herself).
In Asia I easily found reasons (excuses) as to why I wasn’t practicing: not having a mat, being hungover, it being too hot. The thing is, I could have gone to yoga classes here, there and everywhere if I’d have made the effort. I just didn’t – and then punished myself for it, mentally, guiltily, after.
I knew I needed a reset, falling victim to the temptations of travelling like late-nights, crap food and copious amounts of alcohol, so I took myself off for a retreats in Thailand and Sri Lanka to reconnect with my practice, and myself. Aside from those two retreats I’d lost my yoga, my ‘union’, and really, the connection to myself – though I didn’t know it yet. As soon as I would step back on the mat, my whole outlook on life, on myself, would change. It was as if an electric current had been shot through me, sparking me alive again. What was I doing? I asked myself. Why wasn’t I making my practice – myself, my wellness – a priority? I got so (SO!) much from yoga, why couldn’t I sustain it in my day to day nomadic life; didn’t I have all the time in the world? But again, I was making excuses.
Something had to change.
Later, when we were travelling in Europe, I decided I had to start practicing again. It was time to reignite my passion and reconnect with who I was and what I wanted. The next year would involve more travelling (we were already in Europe and had planned out the next 6 months and a skeleton plan for the 6 after that) so I couldn’t put it off any longer. I had to find a way to make yoga and travelling work. I couldn’t’ feel ‘meh’ like I did in Asia, I’d procrastinated for 8 months too long and enough was enough. And yes, it was worth schlepping my mat, another item of hand luggage, around for the foreseeable future, without a doubt. Why hadn’t I done that in the first place? (The beauty of hindsight…)
I remember the day I first rolled out my travel mat in our Airbnb in Amsterdam. We were cat-sitting, too, and I was watched with curiosity from my suspicious feline companion. It was a rusty practice, but oh it was so good to be back. The next time I managed to roll my mat out was between our two single beds in Slovenia (FYI, a country keen on separate sleeping arrangements) so you can see I was still working up to a regular routine! Regardless, whenever I managed to find time, and space, it gave me wonderful moments for self-expression, self-reflection and just time to myself, which is precious when you’re travelling with someone 24/7. Those moments are like gold dust.
Not used to practicing without instruction, usually having followed the lead of a teacher, I was getting to know how to move by myself, for myself. I was nervous to practice in front of Lucas so would have to banish him from the room or make him turn around. I was also easing back into my body after so long, it was like working with a long-lost friend. My back was still a niggle from the disastrous cliff jumping experience, so I was also learning how to move more cautiously, with modifications, but it was ok; bodies change and I was learning accept that. Now I have a whole list of clicks and cricks that come with getting older!
As we were travelling over the summer I was able to practice outside, too, in the dewy meadows after sunrise in the long grass, or out on a balcony overlooking the sea. I tried to make it a routine, to practice daily (which realistically worked out at 3-4 times a week) and Lucas would often join me, after I got over my shyness, as I tried to teach him the basics of a vinyasa flow. It was then that the lightbulb moment happened. I had already (re)realised the joy I got from yoga was not worth giving up again, changing my travel routine to include yoga, but now I wanted to make something more of it. I realised I wanted to learn to teach. I wanted to help people experience the joy that I felt in my practice with theirs.
I remember the moment I committed to this idea, in Bosnia & Herzigovina, and placing the deposit for the teacher training with a beating heart. I’d done it. The money was spent. I’d committed. This was back in August last year. The training was in March this year. In Costa Rica. So, there was a leap of faith to be made; a) that I’d still want to do it in 6 months, and b) that we’d make it to Costa Rica! Or at least I had to!
Within just a few months of reigniting my passion, and stepping back onto the path of becoming more ‘myself’, I had decided to turn yoga into more than just a lifestyle and a practice; deep down I knew it was what I’d been waiting for. Yoga was now more than just something to wake up for and ‘do,’ now I was trying to align it with my dharma.
From that day I dove into preparing for my training: watching videos, lectures, reading books on Eastern Philosophy, the Bhagavad Gita, the Sutras, e-books on the chakras, teaching myself the Sanskrit words for the poses. Everything. I felt alive again. I had a purpose. Whenever I could in the morning I’d roll out my mat first thing and flow. Feel into my body and create sequences inspired by previous mornings, other classes, Instagram videos, or muscle memory. I’d move differently every morning and give myself compassion for the ebbs and flows. Yes, some days I did more than others, some days nothing at all. I also had to be lenient about the days I would have to miss a practice by being stuck on a bus, or staying in rooms that were, literally, too small to swing a metaphorical cat let alone roll out a yoga mat. I’d often feel bad about it, like I was cheating myself of something, almost like I wasn’t feeding myself by missing a meal, but I would try to let it go and read instead, or mediate on-the-go. I didn’t want it to become an obsession. Non-attachment, one of the key practices in yoga!
My new routine stuck throughout our travels around Europe and Northern Africa – Lucas and I even went on a retreat in Croatia and Morocco together – and I only became more and more dedicated to my practice and to living with integrity in the run up to my training. And now, fast forwarding to May, I’ve done it. I’ve completed my 200-hour training to become a yoga teacher. The 6 months of preparation all paid off. It was worth every penny, every drop of sweat, every tear shed, every wound opened, picked at and healed.
But then what? Trying to align travelling with living a yogic lifestyle had its challenges. I knew that before, but it got to a point that I decided I really had to start putting myself and my yoga first. It was time to start becoming the person that I wanted to be; the best version of myself. It was time for a change. While travelling was/is SO nourishing, so educational, so inspiring, and so challenging, I needed to challenge myself, nourish myself, educate myself and inspire myself in different ways.
After a conversation over dinner one night in Nicaragua, Lucas and I – mutually and excitedely – decided that it was time to hang up our backpacks for a while and focus on how we want to live; sustainably, environmentally-conscious, healthily, and spiritually. More inline with our core values, which had taken a back seat in the many months we were on the road. We chose a spot to call home and have settled down for the foreseeable future in a small town on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, where I completed my training, to try and live a (relatively) ‘normal’ life and live the way we believe will nourish us.
It was time; I missed community. I missed sangha. I missed having options to eat well. I missed treating my body well. I missed self-care not being a priority. These things seem so ‘duh’ but when you’re on the road, seriously, it’s hard to prioritize yourself and your wellbeing when things like brown bread and fresh fruit are hard to come by, or beer is cheaper than water! And you can probably guess which option we would go for.
We’ve only been here a week or so but I’ve already managed to find jobs teaching, we’ve shopped at the organic food shops and the farmer’s market, there are volunteering opportunities in permaculture farms Lucas is considering, women’s circles that I want to join and, of course, yoga, yoga yoga! Everything we had wanted to find in one place seems to be here. I’m excited to take my yoga journey to the next level, both in personal practice and living a yogic lifestyle, and also to have a job that I want to wake up for every day. Basically, having the option to do the things that will align me with who I want to be.
It’s time to adult again and put myself (and my wellbeing) first. After all, whose cup can I fill if I’m not filling up my own?
Stay tuned for most posts on my yoga journey, yoga on the road, and other yoga-related tid-bits and tales.