Breathe in love. Breathe out peace.

 
 

Do you know what it feels like to be trapped in your own body? How toxic it can be at times? How hopeless?

This past month has been such an immense challenge for me. The bar has been set higher, mostly in my own mind, which is intense. Choosing not to be a victim to my pain can be a catch-22. Sure it means I go on and challenge self-limiting thoughts, feelings and behaviours. But it can also mean I push too hard too soon. This past month has forced me to take a BIG step back and re-evaluate my boundaries. My personal limits. And more importantly, my ego. I have days when I feel I could run a marathon and my body can fly. The difficulty lies in not taking advantage of those days. Not trying to rush to the finish line just because it is in sight. For it is when I do this that I end up right back near the beginning again.

I have great flexibility in my body but not enough strength, pelvic floor strength especially. This means I am susceptible to injury if I’m not careful. I’ve spent these past two weeks taking it very easy as my back had completely given up. Just the slightest fold forward gave the sensation of a thousand knives stabbing into my lower back and left leg. It’s been confronting, upsetting and to some degree embarrassing. Feeling so trapped in my own body. Like there is a lock that is firmly fastened and holding me back. The moment I try to fold I’m jolted back just as a car seatbelt locks if it’s pulled too quickly.

Yesterday was a wonderful day. I felt amazing. Everything had relaxed, pain still there but a 4/10 compared with the 9/10 it has been this past week. So what does Jessica do? Well, I practice without boundaries, without limitations, only to clearly cross a threshold without realizing and end up virtually crippled again today. Whilst I want to cry – and I did for a brief moment – I always look for the lessons in these experiences. The pain hurts, but it’s the restriction of movement which hurts me more and can be so frustrating. But I need to accept this. I need to accept that these are all lessons, progressions in themselves. That mentally I am becoming stronger, more aware, more accepting. I’m learning limits by pushing them a little. Clearly a little too much in this case. We train for four hours a day six days a week and I’ve not missed a single practice because I will not give up on me. The challenge is not in the hours of practice, but in knowing when to pull back.

But whilst I can lay here typing away and say it’s good to be positive about the challenges in life – whether that be pain, heartbreak, loss, anything at all – the fact of the matter is, it’s still shit. I don’t enjoy pain. I don’t want to be like this, to be limited like this. To be trapped in my body as I am. But the thing is, I don’t have a lot of choice. I need to work with my body as it is. Through this trial and error I will learn how to strengthen my back, how to maintain a normal life regardless of pain and how to help others through my personal experience. If I don’t, then life stands still and that’s not much of a life.

So to those who feel pain – any pain – play with it. Challenge it. Learn to trust it. For it is when we can accept and observe pain in this way that we can work with it, heal from it and keep moving forward.

Sending big hugs,

Jessica xx

P.S. Thank you for all the hugs and supportive messages/emails sent to me last week in response to my blog post. I felt so loved and very comforted hearing from everyone. Certainly much less lonely! I'm so grateful to have such incredible people in my life. Again, thank you.

Through absolute devotion

 
 

I’ve been back in India for over a week now and I would be lying if I said this hasn’t been extremely challenging for me. On every possible level. Physically, emotionally, spiritually.

So many assume the trips to Mysore are holidays. I can assure you, this is far from a holiday. I’m someone who likes to be comfortable. I like my bed, I like my washing machine, my kitchen. I like the familiar. I’ve done a lot of overseas travel alone and it turns out I’m really just a quiet soul who likes the simple things in life. My home, my pooch and my man. Oh and of course, my students. Perfect! So coming to India each year is a real struggle for me. (or character building put in a more positive way!)

Coming to India, which is super uncomfortable for me, is my commitment to myself, to my practice, to the practice. I appreciate and accept that if I want to progress as both student and teacher then I must continue to invest in my learning.  My philosophy is - “who am I to teach if I do not maintain my self-practice and self-study?” So I journey back to India where I can continue this learning under the guidance of Guruji, a man whom I feel so privileged to learn from.

But none of this makes it any easier. My back is in agony as I write this. Nothing to do with my practice. More to do with the rock hard mattress I’m sleeping on. I spent yesterday trying to get rid of nine or more of the biggest cockroaches I’ve ever seen in my life! Other times it’s just a little lonely.. I have a wonderful life back home, with a partner I adore and students who I can’t wait to see every day – so it’s really tough leaving that behind to be in near solitude for a month.

However, as I step into the Shala every morning and afternoon, I am reminded of why I come here. Every moment in the Shala is precious. Looking around the room this morning, listening to the subtle sounds of others as we all practice in silence; I was moved by the intense focus, discipline and commitment of every person in there. Everyone working at their own pace, challenging themselves a little more, pushing on despite how tired we all are.

There is nothing fancy about where we train. A simple room with bars on the windows and nothing to be heard except the breath, groans and snorts of other students. If you ask any Ashtanga practitioner who comes to Mysore to train, they will often say they come here for the same reason – the energy of the room. There is something so beautiful about how we as individuals, on our own unique journeys, unite when in the Shala. By hearing each other, by practicing beside one another, we are One.

It is this collective energy, this absolute devotion to the practice, and more so to ourselves, that draws students back each year. Certainly not the ease or glamour of India. It is having the eye of our teacher to help us see what we cannot that allows us to progress. It makes the difficulties of being away from loved ones or waking with a bad back worth it as there is something bigger going on here.

So, off I go to bed. Concrete slab and all. My back is paying for it but I shall maintain my practice. I will work with my body rather than give into it.

I miss home. I really do. But I know I will be home soon enough. So for now, I’m committing to being present, staying focused and appreciating the opportunity to continue my training.

Missing you all and sending hugs,

Jessica xx

P.S. I would love some hugs sent back. It really can be a little lonely here ;)

If it's easy, is it worth it?

 
 

Everything hurts. From the top of my head down to my little toes, it’s all sore. I forget how challenging it is training here in Mysore, India. But in saying that, my aching body is a fabulous reminder of why I come here each year! No, I’m not a sucker for punishment. Rather, I understand it is through this intense level of practice that I progress. That I am coming to know myself a little more every day.

There is a huge misunderstanding in the west that yoga is easy. That it’s all about relaxation and some gentle stretching. This couldn’t be more wrong. Whilst these classes exist, and I LOVE to attend them occasionally, for me this is not what the practice is about. The challenge of the practice, continuing to attend class even though everything hurts, is all yoga. The discipline is yoga. And what I’ve personally come to experience through this intensity is how quickly my body responds to it. Yes, there are the initial aches. The initial, “I can’t get off the toilet seat,” moments. And it’s going to last a few days. I know this. But this is good pain, and its temporary.

Nothing in life comes easily. Nothing. I believe how we practice is a symbol of how we live our lives. Do we look for the easy path or are we open to the challenge?

Whilst I hate to say it, and accept in some instances, to live a life we are truly proud of, one we are truly connected to and that is meaningful, requires effort. Work. With yoga, we talk about bringing the lessons we learn on our mats into our daily life, a statement I fully support. I’ve found that the more confronting the practice, the deeper the lessons. Conversely, the more detached or ‘going through the motions’ the practice, the less I learn.

Yoga does not discriminate and it will ruthlessly illuminate the bullshit we tell ourselves and the areas we need to work on. How we move our body on the mat is a reflection of how we live our lives. Does the alarm go off in the morning and you think, “I can’t be bothered today, I’m going back to sleep,” or does the alarm go off and you still think, “I’m tired, I can’t be bothered with my practice, but I know it’s important so up I get!” BIG difference between these two mindsets and something to really contemplate as it will set the tone for your day and your life. I too, struggle with this. I am not some yoga machine who does not feel pain, get tired or want to run away and hide sometimes. As I mentioned earlier, my entire body is in pain right now. To sleep, to eat, to shower has all become an effort. If anything, I just want to sleep for the next month because I’m human and I’m bloody tired!

But I won’t give up on my practice as I would consider it an injustice to myself should I give up and allow the temporary aches dictate how I approach each day. Why? Because this would not just be a reflection of my practice, but it would also be a reflection of my life. Of my approach to life.

So with all that said – I figure it is a new year and let’s all take advantage of that. We have new ambitions, desires, goals we want to achieve – all of which can only be achieved through action. Even when you don’t feel like it, or it’s been a shitty day that you want well behind you – act. Don’t give up on You. Try not to allow external forces out there dictate how you live your life. Develop rituals to ensure each and every day is bringing you a little nearer to your goals. Try not to fixate on the goal either. Enjoy the journey. The struggles. The aches and pains. View these challenges as growth. Learning. An opportunity to deepen your connection with yourself. If you practice yoga and a posture is tough that day. Work with it. Don’t give up. Explore it a little more. Challenge yourself a little further. You might be surprised what you uncover in the process.

And remember, it is the moments when you want to run and hide that you need to face head on. Sure, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, it may hurt a little. But at the end of the day, there is nothing more satisfying than achieving something you have worked hard for.

So get back on your mat, be present in the moment, don’t give up and enjoy the bumps along the way :)

Sending hugs from India

Jessica xx

Growth happens when you get uncomfortable

 
 

I’m aware that most of the people in my life think I’m a little crazy. I’ve always been the one who steps outside of ordinary life to experience what I believe is truly living. Unpredictable, new and exciting. More often than not this translates into “bloody uncomfortable!”.

When I reflect upon my life so far, all 30 years of it, I can’t help but look fondly upon some of the weird and wacky things I’ve done. From creating my first roadside stall selling coloured drinking straws, to taking 48 hour train rides on an Indian train - alone! - and now starting my own yoga studio in pursuit of a dream - my life is full of experiences that have always fostered learning, growth and on the odd occasion, sheer terror (and not just on my end.. “It’s ok mum. Keep breathing!”).

As a little girl I use to dream about the big things I was destined to do with my life. I’ve always been aware this life is short and with that in mind, I’ve been absolutely clear I want to make a really good go of it. What I naturally always did, and continue to do, was to place myself in different and always challenging situations. Learning to dance when I really have two left feet for one! Singing in public, signing up for presentation opportunities even though I’m absolutely shit scared terrified getting up there! Quitting a six figure income and leaving my entire life as I knew it behind to follow a dream… Intelligent? Maybe. Maybe not… Regardless, why do I do these things? Because I believe my life is meant to be lived how I choose. Not how someone else chose for me.

Do you  remember those Careers Advising Tests you did in years 10, 11 and 12 at school – you know, the ones which are meant to tell you what your ideal path in life is? Your perfect job. I remember being excited about one of the options which consistently came up for me – drama (despite my terror on stage). The rest offered very little by way of excitement for me personally. Law for one.. But having an academic family (lawyers, teachers and business owners) combined with very little self esteem, I never felt the unique path of something like acting was ever going to happen. I recall electing all the same subjects as my siblings when choosing university preferences. Law. Psychology. Criminology etc. I had no idea what I wanted to be, and couldn’t help but feel like a failure because I was now an adult (surely finishing school makes you an adult???) and had NO idea who I was, what I wanted to be, what I was capable of. As such, the easy option was to do what everyone in my family did. I had no mind of my own. I had no answers yet - and upon reflection, nor should I (and nor do I come to think of it!).

I fell into the classic path of school, university, full-time career. I’ll never forget bursting into tears on my first lunch hour of my first full time job. I called my mother crying and asked, “Is this it?!!!”. I was devastated that the rest of my life was to look like this 9-5 job. Answering to someone else and sacrificing my time, my life in exchange for money. Surely there was more to life. Wasn’t there?

It took almost 10 years for me to finally wake up and realize life didn’t need to be that way. Yes – the money was great  - but was it enough? Of course not. My life was falling apart. The work I did brought little meaning. When I eventually found the courage to let it all go and begin from scratch, I felt so liberated. So in control. And whilst times are tough at the moment (trying to get a new studio off the ground) I’m living my dream. I’m living my life, my way. I answer to myself. Every day I’m growing, evolving, becoming a more powerful human being in my own right. And whilst there are days where I worry (maybe panic is a better word here) everything is about to fall apart, I know there will always be a way to get through it. How do I know this? Because no other option exists.

So if you feel your life is disappearing down a path you’ve not chosen, ask yourself these questions to bring about some clarity. Be sure you take a good 20-30 minutes to really think through your answers. Don’t rip yourself off here. Your time, or more correctly, your life is too precious for that:

  1. “Whose path am I on? Mine or the one I feel has been expected of me by others?”

  2. “If I could do anything in the world and not fail at it, it would be ……………………?”

  3. “What’s holding me back?”

  4. “Am I making excuses to keep myself small when really I have the potential to live a fulfilling and happy life?”

  5. “What steps do I need to take next to make this happen?”

And now, hold on and enjoy the ride!

Sending huge hugs, love and congratulations your way. You can do this.

Jessica xx