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.

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

Thank you Guruji. Thank you.

 
 

Dear Sir,

I’m writing to you as I wanted to share my thoughts about the most challenging, intimidating yet also rewarding months of my life. As I sit on my living room floor (where else would I be!) writing to you, reflecting about the month just gone, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and peace for having taught alongside you,Guruji, for the past month. Words cannot describe how important this was for me.

But before sharing these thoughts and feelings about the month just gone, I firstly wanted to recap about how we met.

At a time in my life when work was extraordinarily stressful and life had become mundane and dull, I came across a yoga teacher whose approach (to yoga) so inspired me that I knew if I was ever going to become a teacher myself, I would seek out the person she trained with. I knew they must be brilliant. That person was of course you. When the moment was right to begin this journey as a teacher, I sought you out and committed to three months in India. Leaving my entire life as I knew it behind me was extraordinarily challenging, but nonetheless exciting. Getting to know you during my first visit to Mysore was one of the most memorable and meaningful times of my life. Despite the intense physical and mental challenges faced through your training, life was becoming so exciting with the possibilities I knew lay ahead. Returning to Australia after spending so much time together in the Shala was the next challenge. I was nervous about no longer having your ongoing support and guidance (in person). I knew there so much more to learn from you and that a certification to teach would not suffice. My journey as a your student needed to continue. This was why I made the decision to approach you regarding the possibility of assisting with the upcoming TTC scheduled for March 2016. Whilst this would mean sacrificing being trained by you (as a practitioner), to teach alongside you would be the most incredible experience as I would be granted the opportunity to observe how you interact with your students; how you correct them; how you sequence your classes and more. With a commitment to being the best teacher I can possibly be, I knew this would be an invaluable experience - for whilst there are many brilliant yoga practitioners in the world, there are few equally as brilliant teachers.

Asking to assist was quite possibly one of my most vulnerable moments as to be rejected would have been so disappointing. However, whilst there were natural moments of doubt and fears of rejection, I knew it was important to take the risk and enquire. To have been accepted for this opportunity was quite possibly one of my greatest honours and your kind and welcoming support made this experience even more special.

The months leading up to the TTC were a rollercoaster of emotions. Worry, nervousness, excitement, gratitude… Observing my emotional state during these months was an interesting process. Ups, downs, round and rounds! Fluctuations as you would say.  I feared not having the stamina, mentally, to get through the month. I knew what was in store for the students (after having gone through it myself) and I questioned if I could go through it again - and more!  But worries aside, I knew I needed to be there and that I would find the courage to keep going when the time came. And of course, this time certainly came - over and over… and over again.

In March I flew to Mysore and I came to visit you the moment I arrived. I remember crying last year as I hugged you goodbye, feeling so saddened by the knowledge I would not see you again for sometime. But there I was, back again and now preparing to teach alongside you. How humbled and honoured I was to sitting and talking with you that afternoon. I shall never forget that conversation.

The following day, our month long journey together would begin. During that month I was challenged in every possible way. Physically, as an advanced teacher and practitioner, I was pushed to limits I once never thought possible. Pratima, who trained with me in between the TTC classes, certainly doesn’t settle for mediocrity with her practitioners! But physical challenges aside, this past month has been more a challenge of the mind. There were days when I felt totally drained, inadequate and lacked confidence. Whilst I’m too stubborn to quit anything I commit to (sometimes to my own detriment) there were days when I questioned my silly decisions to put myself through such an intense experience. But of course, the sane and logical part of me always pulled through and reminded me of what a life changing experience this would be. Of the honour it was to assist you, Guruji. So I kept going and gave 2000% to everything - my time, my personal practice and of course my support of yourself and the students…. There was absolutely no way I was going to let you, the students or myself down. This was far too important.

 
 

So as I sit here and reflect upon the month just gone, there are many special moments I shall hold dear for the rest of my life. It could have been just a simple nod of approval, a smile or sitting alongside you at the front of the Shala. Whilst to you or others these moments may have seemed insignificant, to me they were powerful and hugely meaningful.

So as a final word, I want to sincerely thank you for your ongoing guidance and support of my journey with yoga. For believing in me as a teacher and practitioner. I have learned more than I could have possibly ever imagined, and this experience has made me not only a better teacher, but a better student, practitioner and person overall. I cannot wait to return next year to continue this journey with you and step it up to the next level. Thank you Guruji. Thank you.

Much love,

Your student, Jessica.

 

Yogacharya Bharath Shetty