Everybody can practice yoga

 
Jessica Dewar Yoga_Urdhva Dhanurasana_Drop Back Preparation.jpg
 

So today I wanted to share with you all a bit around my thoughts on what it means to be a yoga student. So often I have people come to me and tell me that they are not flexible enough to practice yoga. That they are not strong enough to practice yoga. The reality is you don't need strength or flexibility to practice yoga. This comes as a result of the practice.

I totally get that feeling of being new at something. At not knowing what to expect and feeling that other people might be looking, judging, and all the other crap that goes on in our mind. But let me just get a couple of things clear here.

-       Firstly, it is very elitist of you to assume that everybody is looking at you. Whilst you are a very important person, I can assure the other person is also thinking the same thing about themselves. That everybody is looking at them. The reality is nobody is looking at anybody. We're all just focused on our own practice.

-       Secondly, I believe we need to practice the mindset of being more open, and accepting of being a newbie to things. That it's ok to be in suck mode if you will. I find it so satisfying to start new things. And I don't know if I should care more about what other people think, but the honest truth is I don't. So long as I'm enjoying myself, doing something positive for me and only me then I really couldn't care less what other people are thinking, believing, or judging about. This way of thinking has given me a lot of freedom to challenge myself in ways that I otherwise would never have done. Because when I learn to let go of the fear and worry about others opinions, and that's all they are is an opinion, then I felt free.

So whilst I appreciate it can be quite an intimidating process walking into a brand new studio, to do something that you've never done before, and not knowing whether you have the right things with you, if you can keep up, if you understand the cues, if you will be strong and flexible enough, I feel that if we can step into these experiences with a more open mind, then those fears will disappear. The anxiety is no longer there because there is absolutely no need for it to be there. There is nothing more debilitating and there is no bigger crusher of dreams then fear. And I know it is this, fear, that is a big reason why people do not begin something new, for example yoga.

So if you're reading this, and you're yet to start a Yoga practice but have been wanting to start Yoga for quite some time, let the s*** go in your head that is telling you that you are not good enough or cannot do this. It is not helping you. Trust that you are safe, learn to laugh at yourself, and just start..

How to improve flexibilty

 
Jessica Dewar Yoga_Yoga For Flexibility
 

In a private class yesterday, my student and I had a conversation about flexibility. An ex-dancer, she moves her body with grace and elegance, with a level of freedom and fluidity that is beautiful to witness. Admiring how she moved, my guess would have been that she continues to dance daily. I was shocked when she said she had not danced for over 20 years. I asked how she has maintained her flexibility over the years and she answered with this simple, yet powerful response: “I believe flexibility is a state of mind. I’m spontaneous and try not to get caught in mundane daily routines. When my mind is free, my body is free also.”

I found this to be such profound insight and something that I shall keep with me always. Whilst the concept is simple, if we actually take a moment to stop and contemplate this, there is so much depth behind it.

I personally can get very stuck in my ways. I like routine, to the point of being a little OCD in many areas of my life, I can easily get caught up on the little things (which really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things), and I lack creativity (hence my inability to cook edible meals. I’m no longer allowed in the kitchen at home). There are many areas of my life that are very rigid that I’ve needed to consciously work on – I’m talking body, mind and spirit.

Reflecting on my journey with yoga, I will never forget how stiff my body was in the beginning. I began yoga at one of the most stressful times of my life and I felt so restricted in my body (and upon reflection, more so in my mind). As my practice has developed and as I’ve matured and changed over the years, my body has begun to unlock in ways I once never thought possible. Whilst I still have many neurotic issues that will forever be a part of who I am, I’ve become far better at witnessing and understanding these. And as I’ve come to understand myself a little better, I’ve become more aware of my responses to neurotic thoughts, which I believe is crucial to finding freedom and flexibility, in body and mind.

With that in mind, in May I will be hosting a Yoga For Flexibility workshop where you will learn techniques to release tension and tightness in the body, and techniques to control the mind that will manifest into an even deeper release in the physical body.

Spaces are still available if you would like to join us. Click here for more details and to register.

Until then, remember to take time out to slow down, breathe and let the mind be free.

Sending hugs,

Jessica xx

Do I need to be flexible to do yoga?

 
 

To those people who think they’re not flexible enough for yoga. All I can say to you is… Bollocks. This is more of an excuse not to try than anything.

To be super clear - yoga is not about flexibility. Nor is it about physical strength. I began yoga because at the age of 21, I needed help from my partner to get dressed. My back was in so much pain (all the time) that I was verging on crippled. This can be in part attributed to Scoliosis and sitting at a desk for most of my life (school, uni, work, dinner…). Touching my toes would have been a miracle for me.

Whilst it’s a common misunderstanding to have (that you must be flexible and strong for yoga), I am a perfect example that this is not the case. Yes – when I began my practice many years ago, I struggled. I was exhausted with each and every asana. Never before had a practice pushed me to the limits the way yoga did. But with sheer commitment to myself and to healing my body, I too can now touch my toes and beyond. I can do strong backbends, balancing asanas and standing asanas. Of course there are MANY areas I need to work on, but this is all part of the journey. To keep exploring. To keep challenging myself. To find new areas of weakness that I can seek to understand a little more and in turn come to know myself a little better. This is the power of the practice.

Something to also remember is that commonly, the more advanced practitioners have lost their flexibility or strength to do some of the more basic (not simple) asanas. Their joints have become stiff or their muscles too tight. When I ask a person who can do strong handstands to sit straight for 2 minutes, it near kills them (figuratively speaking). Physical strength is not a sign of whole body awareness and control. So never be intimidated by those practitioners. It’s highly likely you’re much stronger and more flexible in many areas they now struggle with.

Remember – this is about your journey, not someone elses. Don’t compare yourself to others. Just accept your body as it is, embrace that you need to start somewhere and just begin. With consistent practice, from here, you’ll fly.

I would love to hear what’s stopping you from beginning your practice? And if you’ve started yoga, what made you finally take the plunge and get going?

Sending huge hugs and love to you all.

Jessica xo

I am not my pain

I am not a gymnast. I am not a ballerina. Calisthenics? No. Martial arts? Nup! Growing up, I never did the sort of activities which helped children to gain amazing balance, flexibility or strength in their body. I tried ballet once (for about 8 weeks), when I was about 6, but the teacher told me I was fat and too old to start. You can imagine I left pretty quickly after that! (Hello life long self-esteem issues!). At school the Tri Skool came a couple of times over the years, letting us play on some temporary gymnastics equipment, but this was usually just for a lunch time. That was the extend of my gymnastics training!

Long story short - I played all the usual sports like netball, softball and basketball. I did sprint and cross country running at one point and even tried my hand at tennis (total fail here).  I was also a horse rider, which certainly didn’t help in the flexibility arena. Scoliosis also meant chronic pain in my lower back and limited flexibility in my spine… or so i thought.

You see - for much of my life I have defined myself by my past experiences.

I never did ballet or gymnastics so I can never do the splits.. or

I have a bad back so I will never be able to do a backbend..

On and on it went. I was my own worst enemy when it came to trying new things, or believing (which is more accurate) that I could try new things. I was extremely good at pigeonholing myself, labelling myself - making sure I did nothing outside of that label.

Turns out - these labels are not only extraordinarily unhelpful, but they are damaging too. Turns out, just like ballerinas and gymnasts learn early on, I too have the potential to move my body in amazing ways. Whilst this is a much slower progression as I’m about to hit 30 and my body is not as supple as a child or teen, turns out there is possibility to train my body to reach these new, seemingly impossible heights.

I never needed to be defined by my perceived weaknesses, because they are only that - perceived. It’s taken a little while, but I’ve come to understand (through experience) that I am the creator of my own reality. Should I want to be weak, then I can make it so. Should I want to be strong and flexible, then this too can be achieved.

At a time in my life when I felt like everything was falling apart, I traveled to India where I met a man, Guruji, who saw potential in me. Correction - he sees potential in all. One day, I went to this wise man privately, in tears, to speak about my back pain. How I felt so limited by it. He said something to me that day that I have never forgotten and that I will hold close for the rest of my life.

I am not my pain. My pain will only exist if I allow it to be so. Should I choose to be strong, then I will be strong. But if I choose weakness, then this is all I will ever know. Physically, mentally…. It will touch every aspect of my life.

An interesting thing happened after that conversation - not only did I begin telling myself positive messages about my back, about who I am in the world - but I began to notice changes. My body felt stronger, my mind calmer. I felt at ease with my body and mind, more confident.

This is not to say the back pain has disappeared. Absolutely not. It’s still there. But I am not defined by it and it does not haunt me the way it once did, for so much of my life. The pain fluctuates; but rather than give into it, I challenge it. I give it the most minimal attention.

So today I finally did Pincha Mayurasana on my own. The most difficult part of this asana, this posture, has been the bend in my spine. I’ve fallen more times than I can count and the pain in my back was intense at times. But finally, with a little self belief and determination, here I am. Every day my spine is becoming stronger and more flexible - because I believe it can be so.

 
 
 
 

This asana has been possible only because of three key things:

  1. Having the courage to face fears

  2. Finding the will to keep trying

  3. Being inspired by a man who could see beyond the surface. At the time, he could see what I couldn’t, and I will be forever grateful for his belief in me.

As a final note - we do not need to be our pain. We do not need to let it hold us back. If we do, then we lose the possibility of achieving amazing things in this lifetime. Ask yourself - “Why do you keep yourself small? Why do you play the safe card? What’s the payoff for this?” Whilst these questions are confronting, they could be key to unlocking parts of yourself you never realised existed.

Namaste xx