Mark is a regular at our Progressively Yogaful class. Here he tells his yoga story and how he came to practice with us. From Japan to Clapham Junction!
Location: Clapham Junction
Profession: Marketing Manager
I took up yoga when I was living in Japan in around 2011. I’d had problems with my lower back dating back to when I was a teenager. My girlfriend at the time, sick of hearing me complain about it when I got out of bed in the morning, practically dragged me to her yoga studio one day!
“Although I had some initial misgivings – that the classes would be full of women, involve a lot of chanting and so on – these proved mostly unfounded.”
My first teacher was a Canadian guy who was a former triathlete who had ruined his own body by pushing himself too far and then discovered yoga as a way to rehabilitate, he ultimately made it his career. He taught an Iyengar based style of yoga and tailored suggestions based on my body type.
“After just a month or two of practising yoga on a weekly basis, I found that I not only had no more back pain, but there were a lot of unexpected physical and mental benefits as well.”
It made me understand my body better – I recognised which parts are stronger, which weaker, and how they connect. I’ve developed some good habits like considering my posture during daily life, when I’m sitting at a desk, walking or even just waiting for a bus!
From a mental aspect, I’ve found that yoga has a couple of distinct benefits. Firstly, as somebody who is naturally quite competitive, it’s taught me to reign in this instinct when it serves no positive purpose. There is no point in trying really hard to perform a back bend or balance on one leg better than the person next to you, especially when, as was often the case for me in the early days, the person next to you happens to be a slender Asian lady!
Linked to that, I found that rather than concentrating on what others around you are doing during the class, practising yoga requires you to concentrate on yourself – your own body, your own breath and your own mentality in that moment – to become more proficient. Therefore, in many ways I find that it provides an escape from everyday life; whatever else is going on or whatever challenges you’re facing outside of the studio, attending a yoga class is time for you and allows you to forget about everything else and recharge your batteries.
If that all sounds too evangelical, let me temper it by telling you what happened when I moved back to London. In a city with hundreds if not thousands of yoga studios, I initially struggled to find a studio and class which I liked and which fitted in with my schedule. I tried a few different classes and styles with mixed results,and yes, I did go to one or two classes where group chanting seemed compulsory (each to their own, but it’s still not something which I think is for me!).
“There are dozens of variations of yoga, so I think it’s important to find a class which suits you. Claire’s classes cater for all levels. She is also an open person who is happy to talk about her own experiences and takes an interest in her students.”
Having found a class that I liked, I then managed to injure myself – away from the mat – which ultimately resulted in me rolling up my yoga mat for over a year. I made a new year’s resolution this year to take up yoga again and found Claire’s class almost by accident. I wandered in on a whim and have been attending most weeks for over six months now. Claire’s classes cater for all levels, meaning that some end up covering more physically demanding positions than others depending on who attends in any given week. What does permeate, though is her knowledge and passion for explaining both the physical practices of yoga and some of the classic texts and philosophical threads behind it.
“I would really encourage anybody who has never done yoga before to give it a try; no matter your age, gender or level of physical fitness, I think you can gain some benefit from it.“
The next chapter of my yoga story will hopefully involve me increasing the frequency and deepening my own understanding of myself and the practices which suit me best. I have just ordered a mat and some other equipment to enable myself to practise at home more easily. I’m also thinking of going on a yoga retreat in Southeast Asia later this year.
Namaste – Mark.