Expect nothing, appreciate everything...
As I said goodbye to my husband and Dad at the airport, I walked through security and into the departure lounge with tears streaming down my face. I didn't care what people thought of me because I was so consumed with emotion that it felt too painful to try and swallow back the tears.
A cocktail of feelings that left me wondering... what on earth am I doing?
But I knew that it was a voyage that I needed to make. There was no doubt in my mind that I was where I was supposed to be - I just had no idea how terrified I was going to be.
This was the day that I left to spend a month in Costa Rica with Yoga Academy International to embark on one of the greatest adventures of my life. My 200 hour yoga teacher training.
The day before one of my best friends had given me a card, which had written on the outside... 'Expect nothing, appreciate everything'. And that is exactly what I did on that trip away.
It was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. Yes... I know some people think that a month on a beach, meditating at sunrise and spending the days doing yoga sounds like bliss... but let me tell you. It was emotionally, energetically and physically exhausting.
However, it was also one of the most powerful, incredible, beautiful and wonderful experiences of my life - and it has triggered a catalyst of shifts for me.
Two years on and I still feel like a beginner. I still feel like I have only just scratched the surface of this transformational practice. I don't think that feeling will ever end if I am honest - each time I show up to the mat - whether it is for my own personal practice or to teach a class - I wonder what yoga has in store for me and what lessons it will be teaching me in that moment.
There are some surprising and unexpected things that I have learned on the yoga mat over the past 5 years of my practice... In fact the practice continues to kick my butt in a compassionate but powerful way, highlighting the things that I need to focus on and areas I need to grow. Which is often why many people are not ready to embark on a relationship with yoga. It really does come to you when you need it - whether you realise it at the time or not!
I can't even begin to explain all that this past two years has taught me, but here are five things that come to mind straight away and might surprise you...
Yoga is not all about stretching - despite what people think. There is a harmonious dance between suppleness and strength, resilience and the ability to show up and face yourself and your imperfections. It is both humbling and empowering in equal measures.
For me personally, true Yoga is nothing to do with the shapes our body makes. It is about feeling and sensation and self acceptance. It is the way we handle our challenges, the way we treat ourselves when things get uncomfortable - it is far beyond a physical posture and in truth it doesn't matter what it looks like on the surface.
The real yoga starts when you step off the mat. Being able to bring awareness of breath, of your body and of the space and impact you have on the world around you. We come to a class to teach us the tools and to give ourselves the chance to connect back to ourselves, but it is when you leave the studio that the work really begins.
There is no end point in yoga. You never get to the point where your training is finished and complete. It is an open ended adventure and you will never stop learning. You will forever be a student no matter how many certificates you have. This means as a teacher - it can be really challenging to face your own demons around feeling good enough to share with practice with others. That is something I have constantly battled with over this past two years, and at times it has meant I wanted to bail and stop teaching all together rather than have to face that prospect of not being the perfect polished package.
We can trust that we have all that we need within us. Yes, this sounds like a cliche, but it is true. We can self heal and transform through our own practice and for me that has been pivotal in my growth. To realise finally that I have the ability to take care of myself, to listen to my body and work with it accordingly, to trust the guidance I am given by my own body - not just by a teacher... this self trust muscle I have been developing has transferred into many other areas of my life and is one of the biggest benefits to yoga that I have experienced.
I don't know where this practice will take me. I have no idea what it has in store for me... and I actually finally don't really even need to know.
One thing I do know for certain is this...