I began my journey into Yoga 30 years ago. What I didn’t know back then was that I was actually practicing Yoga. I had become fascinated by a book called You Can Heal Your Life, in which Louse L. Hay describes how physical ‘dis-ease’ begins with a negative mind set. Her remedy was to say positive affirmations out loud, to switch the negative behaviour of the thoughts to more positive ones. After trying this method, I found that it worked for many things, but not all.
This, in Yoga I discovered, is called Pratipaksha Bhavanam. Which, in simple terms means: when disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite positive ones should be thought of. – Yoga Sutra 2:33.
However, some things I didn’t seem to have the will to change. Much later, I had heard that Yoga asana, (the physical aspect of Yoga), could help balance the body and mind. So I thought I would give it a go. This was the mid 90s, we didn’t have social media back then and the fitness industry had not yet hijacked this ancient practice and turned it into a fitness regime focused solely on attaining a better body.
Over subsequent years, I tried several teachers and methods. Some environments felt negative and served only to exacerbate my busy creative mind and then I discovered the Ashtanga Vinyasa method of Yoga, focusing on the breath seemed to have a profound effect my levels of stress and ability to be more focused and creative. The sequence also meant I could practice at home in the mornings, which was helpful as I had long days , and it seemed to help to sustain my energy and concentration throughout my day.
Despite having a successful career and enough money to travel, sustained happiness still eluded me. I decided to take a trip to Thailand in Christmas, 2003. I was recently single, struggling to come to terms with the loss of my father and my mother had almost died form meningitis. Escaping Christmas sounded like a good plan. I have always been attracted to the East and, as serendipity would have it, the teacher running the retreat was an experienced teacher of Ashtanga and Pranayama, I never imagined how that trip would change my life forever.
When I stepped into Paul Dallaghan’s teaching space back in 2003 it had such a profound affect on my life. I had a successful career as a designer and university lecturer, with award-winning students, but deep inside I was lost – something was missing. I had become addicted to my work, as I thought it was the one thing that made me feel like a whole person.
On the outside, my body looked healthy and flexible. I even perfected some of those challenging asanas, you know, the fancy ones you see on Instagram today. What I was out of alignment with was the inner part of me, the bit you can’t see. The part of me I could hide behind my successful career, my possessions, my house, my car, and even my yoga gear!
After two weeks of being guided into a more embodied version of Yoga that I had experienced before: sea, sky, a loving and nurturing environment, I was feeling so happy I didn’t want to leave! I will never forget, I cried all the way back to Samui airport in a cab.
I returned the following year, and the next. And the next! What kept drawing me back was this perfect environment where I felt nurtured to let go. Not just in my body, but let go of the stories that were holding me back, chaining me to the past. For the first time, I felt some major shift was happening, I just didn’t know what it was.
I followed the practices that Paul gave which was very unusual for me, because I had never committed to very much in my life. This, of course, was also very telling behaviour due to my fear of commitment and my fear of letting anyone get too close. I was the typical flighty creative, rule breaker, still traumatised by many childhood experiences.
I slowly began to move past the conditioning of my mind, especially when Paul introduced me to Pranayama. It worked better than any of the funky substances I had tried as a mood enhancer! I committed to a daily practice, checking in with Paul regularly on my progress. But it takes dedication to want to change, as well as someone to guide you – this erudite and funny Irish man was throwing me a line.
I took the Pauls’ Teacher training in 2006. Like I said, I never intended become a Yoga teacher. It was more of an excuse to spend a further five weeks immersing myself and going deeper. When you are embarking on becoming a yoga teacher it is important that you have a teacher, and that they have a teacher. Someone you look up to, someone who has traversed the terrain and overcome the obstacles we are all bound to face along the path. Someone who guides you back to yourself and reminds you who you truly are when you are faced with doubt and fall prey to the self sabotaging stories of the ego. Someone who helps you to stand up on the same ground you have fallen down on and guides you back to the light of presence that exists within us all.
I had grown to trust and know that studying with Paul would lead me in the right direction. Inwards. The breath, and the practice of pranayama, has been the most transformative experience of my life. As the mind slows down and the breath deepens, it changes the pattern of the nervous system so it is less reactive and more creative – stepping back from the thoughts, instead of the thoughts defining you.
After doing the Training with Paul, which was extremely challenging but in a good way, I had come to realize it was merely the tip of the iceberg and even though I had been practicing Yoga Asana for 10 years when I took the training, I still felt I knew so little of the what Yoga is really about, knowing your “self” . Knowing what make you happy , what drives your enthusiasm for life, it’s about being honest and true to yourself, about making decisions that nurture your soul not just satisfy some short lived desire. This all helped to deepen my understanding and trust that we are all interconnected, we are all one, divided only by a veil that we have the power to see through if we chose to. When we understand that Yoga is about how can we feel more at peace with ourselves and in out relationship with others, then Yoga has a greater message for the whole of humanity.
I feel very fortunate to have had the journey I have had with Paul and also Tiwariji, (who is Paul’s teacher and one of the few remaining Yogic masters of Pranayama and the science and philosophy of Hatha Yoga) , I feel very fortunate that I have had the opportunity to be exposed to life changing experience studying both at Samahita and with Tiwariji in India
After 16 years of study with both Paul and Tiwariji, I was motivated and encouraged by my teachers to share this experience with others. I am now founder and Course Director of Evolve Yoga Training, helping others to transform and reach their full potential with both foundation and advanced courses in teaching Yoga to others with a particular focus on the science of the breath, Pranayama and Asana and how these elements need to connect and integrate to shift our behavior and negative mental patterns.
My aim is to guide others to follow that ‘force’ within us all that can take us towards our true self. Beyond the self-sabotaging and egoic mind that would have us believe we are not worthy, not good enough and unloved. So, every day we tune in to illuminate that divine self, let go and step over that ‘dying’ self on the battlefield of our minds, to walk forward with courage and a victorious heart.
I never intended to become a Yoga teacher.