Holly Treacy discovers practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes progress
Imagine a world where whatever you tried your hand at the first time round, you were great at – it would be amazing, right? But, also, very easy and you’d miss that warm fuzzy feeling of satisfaction when your hard work has paid off. Yoga is one of those activities that I wish I were better at – the rise of the Insta yogi and my innate competitiveness has me dreaming of perfecting headstands and arm balances, but as I’ve journeyed into a more regular practice, I’ve come to realise that this ancient discipline isn’t about how well I can touch my toes, it’s about showing up for myself, regardless of my abilities, and giving it my best shot.
Unlike some health and wellness trends, yoga has been around for thousands of years, but the wondrous benefits still feel very new to me. I have always been quite an active person, but dance, swimming and aerobic classes have been my workout of choice. As a teen and in my twenties, I just couldn’t see the benefits of exercise that moved much slower than other forms of fitness, so it has only been very recently that I’ve discovered how much more there is to yoga than simply lying in savasana.
Seven months ago I committed to a regular weekly practice and I look forward to stepping onto my mat and making time for me in those 90 minutes. When the world feels frenetic and your head full of thoughts, yoga can help to still your mind and add a little calm within. But I wondered what difference it would make if I upped that practice from once a week, to every day. So, on day one, I rolled out my mat and went back to basics. One of the benefits of spending more time at home this year, has meant the plethora of classes available online which can fit in with your schedule, and you don’t have to factor in a commute time – bonus! I did a foundation flow with my yoga teacher Claire Boyle (@mandala.wellbeing), which I had thought would be an easy way to start the week. But it turned out that returning to the core poses and moving with control made more of a difference than I was anticipating. As I flowed down from mountain to forward fold, I placed my hands on the mat and instead of my usual “step back” into plank, I mastered a spring. One simple move had progressed my practice and I was elated. I couldn’t have been prouder and felt so strong for the rest of the class.
Onto day two and I was attending a virtual yoga retreat with Kirsty Gallagher (@kirsty_gallagher_). The rise and shine flow was an earlier start than I’d like on a Saturday morning, but nevertheless, I was showing up. Kirsty guided us to open up our inner power and to make more space for ourselves in the world. With every inhale and exhale, I could feel my confidence rising – had I been playing small in life? As we finished with a meditation, I found myself smiling with tears rolling down my cheeks, and as I headed off for a shower I put on a song by India Arie – 10 minutes later, I checked my Instagram, and Kirsty had posted about the same song – coincidence, or were we attuned to the same energy?
Day three was another early start, but this time, the practice focused on stepping forward into the second half of the year. Kirsty once more guided us to breathe into our power, but bring some of that energy back for ourselves and trust what feels good. I was starting to see that this week was more than just mastering a “spring back”.
On day four, I felt slower and less energetic than the rest of the week, yet more aligned with my body than before. Several times I considered doing a vinyasa flow, but my body was saying no. So I stayed quiet, put on a meditation and was gentle with myself – progress was manifesting in more ways than just perfecting the physical poses.
By day five, the sun was shining and I took my mat outside for a let it go flow with Adriene Mishler. It was a quick 30-minute practice after a long day at work, which focused on releasing tension from the day – perfect. I reminded myself that exercise didn’t always have to be intense to feel worthwhile; there might only have been two chaturangas, but they were strong and intentional.
Finally, on the last day, I finished with a fire flow. I started strong and full of confidence; I perfected my spring back, and smiled when I did so, flowing through my first chaturanga. But, as the class continued, I became fatigued and my confidence waned as I wobbled through the warrior poses. ‘I could quit’, I thought, we were only on Zoom, I could slip out and blame my internet connection. But as I regained my energy, the poses started to feel easier once more. I took note of how I’d stuck with it, even when it felt hard, when I had to dig deep and when I didn’t feel good enough. I know now I can breathe through the tough moments and shine bright once again.
Physically, a regular yoga practice will help you increase flexibility, build muscle strength and perfect your posture. Yoga has also been shown to help with muscle imbalances in the body, boost immunity, lower blood pressure and take care of the health of your bones and joints.
Yoga helps to calm the mind, bringing more clarity to the thoughts and beliefs that run through the mind all day, everyday. As we take time on the mat to consciously slow down and breathe, we give ourselves space from the barrage of thoughts allowing time to process and find stillness.
A regular yoga practice builds discipline. It would be so easy not to return back to class after you feel like everyone else in the room has executed the perfect handstand except you. Showing up for yourself day after day on the mat is a practice of patience, self-care, dedication, discipline and brings rewards like nothing else.
I used an eco-friendly yoga mat from willow-yoga.com. The stunning floral designs will inspire your practice and the mats are made from a 100 percent natural rubber base and an absorbent natural microfibre topping that feels super-soft and provides a non-slip surface (£69).
6 issues for £19.99*
when you subscribe today
Exclusive prizes from our Heaven Skincare, Senspa, Green People and more...