Updated: Aug 8, 2019

Before the sun was swallowed by the sea - The Cliffs of Moher, June 2019

My first encounter with yoga was when I was twelve years old.

As a classically trained ballet dancer from the age of two I had always enjoyed moving my body. As I got older and started dancing competitively and entering into other dance styles, I was keen to become stronger and more flexible.

So - I attended my first yoga class with Viv Freeman.

In a candlelit room within our teacher’s home, the class began.

For the very first time I was learning to feel my breath in my body, using it to guide my movement. Inhaling to create space, exhaling to move deeper.

I remember being utterly mesmerised by Viv’s ability to flow with such grace and strength.

I was unused to moving in this way, allowing my body to move how it wanted to. I adored my dancing, but it had given me a mindset that if I hadn’t physically reached my edge of either pain or simply exhaustion, then I should probably be pushing harder.

Yoga was beginning to unravel this mindset.

After savasana I felt a sense of deep calm, but also a distinct alertness and clarity. I began attending classes when and where I could, loving how they left me feeling energised but simultaneously relaxed and balanced, in contrast to my natural disposition of feeling extreme highs and extreme lows.

I was starting to get a feel for the mental and emotional benefits of yoga, but at that age I was still very much practising in a bid to ‘create the shapes’.

Roll on a few years and I had decided to pursue a future in art and design, taking a few twists and turns before entering the world of lingerie design.

It was during this time I moved away from home for the first time.

Something snapped.

I realise now that I have spent my entire life experiencing varying degrees of anxiety, but my naivety of not understanding ‘those funny feelings’, coupled with a busy and distracting lifestyle had kept me focussed enough not to be drowned by it.

However, experiencing many external changes and suddenly having so much time alone with my thoughts and my anxiety peaked. Everything felt overwhelming, in both my internal and external worlds.

I slipped very rapidly into a highly anxious state of constant panic attacks and deeply low moments. In a few weeks I felt I had become a totally unrecognisable version of myself. Too afraid to get up, too afraid to sleep, too afraid to eat, too afraid to be on my own, too afraid to be around people, constantly breaking down to tears though never really knowing why. I felt like I was literally going crazy and honestly at that point never thought I would feel okay again.

Eventually it reached the point that I needed to reach out for external help, and after various doctors, anti-depressants and appointments I found Laura. The main focus of Laura’s teaching was mindfulness, becoming present and grounded. Laura taught me particular breathing techniques and encouraged me to just allow myself to feel how I did, without judging or trying to change it. It all sounded very familiar to the words Viv had threaded throughout her classes, when I told Laura I had practised yoga, she eagerly encouraged me to return to it.

For some time prior to this I had become very aware I needed to slow down, do less, be still. But the idea of that terrified me because that’s when these feelings had nothing to hide behind. But yoga now seemed the perfect path for slowing down whilst still having something to focus on - a moving meditation.

I started developing a home practise, reading books, watching videos, following inspirational teachers such as Rachel Brathen, and attending classes when I felt up for it.

It has been my medicine ever since.

I have always felt that one day I would like to teach yoga but had always imagined it would be at a later stage in life. However, a sudden alignment of timings and fate and I had booked an intensive teacher training at the Cliffs of Moher, on the idyllically rugged west coast of Ireland...

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