Thursday, 24 June 2010

There's no place like...Yoga Place

(thanks to Jen for the revised title - much better than the original one!)

The biggest motivating factor in getting me into a regular practice has been finding the right shala and the right teacher. Although I started practicing ashtanga in March 2009 (when I accidentally booked an ashtanga retreat in Goa, mistakenly thinking I knew what it was...!!) it wasn't until after my second retreat this January that I settled into a regular practice. I tried a couple of teachers in London in the months that followed my baptism of fire at Purple Valley and although I loved the second of them (the first one was nowhere near traditional enough for my liking) I couldn't make it stick and at best was practising two evenings a week. I was convinced that a morning practice was impossible for me due to where I live in London, the cost of classes, the fact we have no showers at my office, you name it and I could come up with an excuse about it.
But then in October November (wow, was it really? I just re-read the post to confirm it...22nd November to be precise!) I rocked up at Yoga Place, having been encouraged by reading Susan and Globie's accounts of the teacher there via their blogs. But what with YP closing for Christmas and all of the madness in the run-up to it I didn't get there very often, just Sundays to begin with. But as I just reminded myself in reading what I wrote that first day, I instantly felt like I had found my teacher. Then for the first two weeks of January this year I was in Goa practising with Noah Williams, and despite being in a world of pain (it had been months and months since I had practised two days back-to-back before then, let alone 6 days - twice!) I came back determined to get to the shala more regularly. In conversation with one of my friends there I made my excuses as to why I couldn't get to the shala regularly before work (the commute, the timing of getting to work, etc etc)  and she matched every one of them with her own situation in Washington D.C. (actually she trumped me -as she has to be at her desk for 8.30am and I start an hour later). There came a point during the retreat that I just thought "Come on then Mel. 2010: the primary series. Let's do this thing." I vowed to throw away my dissatisfaction with where I was up to in my practice and just bloody get on with it.

And so far so good...I started off slowly, getting to the shala two weekdays plus Sundays, and it was hard to begin with. Going to bed really early, having my bag packed the night before with my yoga and work clothes all laid was like a military operation. The first few months really were tough. But then came the turning point where I stopped paying drop-in and and paid for a full month. Cary was so fabulously encouraging (she used to practically applaud every day that I showed up at the start) especially the first time I signed up for the month. Two weekdays became three and I settled into a pattern - practice Sunday Monday, rest Tuesday, practice Wednesday Thursday, rest Friday and Saturday. And then only in the past month or so I broke the pattern and started getting to led classes, and sometimes even *shock horror* practicing on Tuesdays! I broke the exception of "never having done three days in a row" and soon I had done four days in a row. Going to the shala became the rule not the exception (and gone were the clothes laid out and pre-planned...and the early nights!). 
But the thing that inspired me to write this today was this feeling of what has grown over the past few months for me - and that is the energy I get from practising with my shala-mates. Whilst my feeling that Cary was my teacher was immediate, the feeling that this was my sangha has taken months to evolve, but I can honestly say that the first few hours of every day are now my favourites. I am blessed to practise with such wonderful, lovely and supportive people who come from a variety of walks of life, some of whom I know well, some I speak to briefly but know nothing about their lives, others I just exchange smiles with. But all of them make the shala. On a bad day you can always find somebody to speak to in the changing room who will give you a suggestion or just somehow make you feel better. On a good day you can share you triumphs. They sympathise when you talk about your tears, tell you what to eat (or not to eat) when you have a cold, share recipes for the best ever curry, talk about where to get the best coffee - what's not to love? When I first visited Yoga Place I said that I felt what I had been missing before was the feeling of friendliness and community; there's no doubt I found it at YP. Having a wonderful teacher is of course massively important, but you will only get so many adjustments on any given day - and it's being surrounded by the familiar faces day-in day-out that really keeps me motivated. And when I take a day off (Tuesdays usually!) I miss it and feel like I've been away forever which means I will always go back the next day.

Now watch somebody go and spray me in the face when they're doing garba pindasana tomorrow morning and I'll take back all this soppy load of sap  ;)

But enough of the sarcastic ending...instead I'll finish with a picture of my touchstone - this is the sign on the front door, and every day as I open the door I make sure I touch my hand to it... and I leave behind my worries and take a deep, deep breath.


  1. Lovely, Mel. I hope to find some of that here, in my week away, and return to it regularly. It's true: there's an energy of a group that shares the same intentions that's supportive. And delicious.

  2. LOL at the new title! I am so grateful to you for encouraging me to YP :) ..and I'm looking forward to making the transition to paying for a month (when i finally have funds to do so!) xx

  3. And I am grateful to Susan for getting me to YP and Cary's wonderful teaching. But as you rightly say its not just the teaching that makes doing practice at YP a joy, in none of the other Shalas have I experienced such a feeling of community, shared energy, just such a great vibe, I am comfortable in the space. I knew everyone in the room today, it felt like home.