From Baby Giraffe To Graceful Gazelle

One morning late last year I was walking to work thinking about the day that lay ahead, the lifeless office that I would spend the next 8.5 hours in, and I thought “is this it?”. I was bored, stressed and slowly losing my passion and zest for life.

I worked too hard for a company I was losing faith in and felt as though I was being treated like a cog in a machine rather than a human being. I had lost that vital sense of community and I was feeling the pressure to “settle down” which I was nowhere near ready for. It felt like I was watching my life run away from me.

On that walk I decided to take back control and the following week I handed in my notice at work. I had known for ages that it wasn’t the place for me but it took a while to find the confidence and self belief to know I deserved better.

Handing in my notice was the most liberating thing I have ever done (90% joy mixed with 10% of “oh god I just quit my job with no new job or income”) but I quickly came to the realisation that simply finding another similar job in London wouldn’t make me happy. I needed a drastic lifestyle and career change, and a large dose of adventure, so I spent my notice period planning and researching before eventually deciding that I would travel to India to do a yoga teacher training course (TTC); my Mum also signed up for the ride.

A yogi for five or so years, it was my Mum who first encouraged me to go to a yoga class with her just over a year ago. I came out the class floating and instantly knew I was hooked. Since that class, yoga has helped me through a lot of bumps in the road; to reconnect and understand myself, and to find the confidence to quit my job and change my life.

It all happened so quickly. One day I was in London sitting at my desk frustrated. The next (well three months and three weeks later to be exact!) I had moved all my things to the loft in my parent’s house and Mum and I boarded a flight to India.

It was an incredible month. We laughed, we cried, we broke and we pulled ourselves together; pealing back layers and learning so much about ourselves, each other and the gorgeous people we met on the course… and we qualified!

Admittedly I thought I would leave the course with an advanced practise, as well as feeling ready and raring to teach. But in reality I am still a baby in yoga years and three and a half weeks is not long enough to lengthen, strengthen and open all your muscles. Nor is it long enough to grasp yoga anatomy, all the correct alignment of asanas or to find your teaching style. It is a journey. And I can’t wait to discover what mine has in store.

Throughout my TTC I learnt just how stiff parts of my body really were and I learnt to let go of asanas I couldn’t master. I lost the feeling that taking a modification to help when my body needed assistance was not a weakness but in fact a strength. Because even though I am now a qualified teacher I still have very tight hips (stored emotions?!), I can’t do a handstand, crow feels horrid and gives me awful bruises, and my body is currently not ready to enter into more advanced poses. My yoga journey is one I will be on for the rest of my life but even with my personal challenges, I want to teach because I want to inspire others and make yoga accessible to them, not to show off my own practise.

Since qualifying I have been asked if I can do the splits, do a headstand, a handstand… Generally it is “ah what cool poses can you do?” At first I felt embarrassed that some were poses I was still working towards but then it just made me wonder, what would Patanjali think if he could see us all now?

Because yoga has become “trendy” we tend to forget that it is so SO much more than a physical practice – that it is not all about standing on your head. We are saturated with images of yogis in Instagram worthy poses that feel so unreachable to the non advanced student and the true nature of yoga has been left behind (have we not heard of the 8 limbs?) Yes these poses look cool, and yes, I totally admit that one day I’d like to be able to flip over into a Scorpion, but this scene of yoga – in my experience – leads students to do anything to get into these cool looking asanas causing them to forget about their safety, alignment and why they really came to the class.

Reaching an asana you have worked hard to get to is an unreal feeling but understanding the fundamentals of that asana, and all the ones before it, is  something I’ve become passionate about. We should enjoy our yoga journey, not race to the finishing line.

I am calling my journey “from giraffe to gazelle” because I’ve often feel like a lanky baby giraffe in classes – struggling to get into poses my body is not ready for – but now that I take time to understand each asana and work at my own pace to reach them, I am starting to feel more like a graceful gazelle.

I hope that I am able to teach and inspire others to take up yoga, without a worry to how flexible they are or silly they may feel if at first they have no idea what a Downward Dog should look or feel like. And, if along the way, I can help my students to take charge of their life and do something that makes them happy then I will be a very lucky giraffe (… soon to be gazelle). Life, just like yoga, is a journey- we’ve got to enjoy it.


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Laura Wilkes

Laura, 29, had been living and working in London for 5 years before starting her yoga journey. Feeling frustrated at work, and unhappy in her hectic routine, she decided she wanted more out of life. After finding the courage to quit her job she travelled to India to follow a passion to become a yoga teacher. After an intense but rewarding course, and what was only a small chapter in her journey, Laura is now travelling and looking for opportunities to work / volunteer as yoga teacher.

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