A few days ago I went rock climbing for the first time with Island Yoga Retreats in Thailand. I thought it would be really difficult and I expected to have fear and to struggle balancing and placing my feet, but I just went straight up. I was disappointed that it hadn’t been challenging as I wanted to feel the adrenaline pumping and my heart rate go up, so the yoga instructors let me go along with them for a climb on their day off a few days later. That day without doubt challenged me from the moment we left on the moped, and I couldn’t have done it without the skills I have learnt from practicing yoga.
Marc and I drove our own mopeds along a dirt road with uphill’s and downhill’s, turns and ditches to another hotel for about 30 minutes. I had to maneuver around the big holes and stay on the thin paths that had been created by the previous mopeds and this was only my second time on a moped! I came off the bike quite early on as I was going too fast and had no control. I escaped with minor grazes and bruises. After this I had to slow down and really focus. I couldn’t be distracted for a second incase the terrain changed. I treated it like a balancing posture in yoga such as vrikshasana (tree). I found my drishti (point of focus) and kept my attention on it the whole time, I didn’t let my eyes stray; I focused and concentrated. I couldn’t let the mind wander for a second or I would have lost my balance and fall. When my mind wandered, I would just bring the focus back to my breath. I took long slow breaths the whole time and approached each turn and bump slowly to keep control, just like one would coming in and out of a yoga asana. Breathing slowly really helped to reduce my nerves and anxiety after already falling off the bike; it calmed my mind and integrated my mental and physical balance.
To get to the rock we were climbing we had to wade through chest high water and hike over a hill for 15 minutes. I started to doubt myself whilst hiking and think that maybe it was beginners luck the first time and I was going to find the climbing really hard. Earlier that morning David (one of the yoga teachers), had said in yoga class that we create our own good luck through positive thinking and can also create bad luck with negative thinking. I’ve had so much good luck and many coincidences happen since coming to Island yoga that I knew with a little bit of positive thinking it would all be fine, so I pushed the negativity out of my mind.
I had high expectations climbing the first wall of the day and although it was the same level as the previous time it felt harder. It was probably created in my mind as I pressured myself to be good, but the wall was also higher and had a very tricky part. I approached the climb slowly and thought about each step as I took it. Every movement had control and strength and focus. No distractions. Skills I have learnt from yoga over the years. Patience was very important too. Yoga teaches patience through the slowness of the practice and not pushing yourself. Listening to your body and not getting frustrated if you can’t do the asanas. At one point I thought I couldn’t go further and I was ready to give up. I took a break hanging on the rope, rested and focused on my breathing, calming down my nervous system and stopping my mind from controlling the situation. I overcame the challenging section and made it to the top 20 metres high, looked down and appreciated the view. It was beautiful to look down at the limestone rocks out in the sea and the supportive face of Marc below me. I felt such a sense of freedom, lightness and exhilaration. It’s a similar sensation after a challenging yoga class when I don’t overstretch myself past my limits or compare myself to others, and breathe properly throughout the practice.
I also attempted to climb a very hard wall as the ropes were up already from Akiko and Christies climb. I didn’t get very high as the climb needed technique which I hadn’t yet learnt. I tried to climb over the point I got stuck about 10 times. I got closer each time but I just couldn’t do it. I had to know my limits and when to give up. My arms were shaking as I was using too much upper body strength and I had cuts in my fingers from my hands sliding down the rock. I recognized it was technique that was stopping me, and that was the reason I stopped trying. Having my mind and body in touch with each other, which yoga and meditation brings, allowed me to see the situation as it really was and appreciate how far I had come from my first ever climb, and to know when to let go.
I climbed one more wall and when I got to the top I realized if I unclipped the carabineers to clean the wall there would be a couple of metres where I could fall if I slipped. I was on a small ledge and had to walk across a few metres to the anchor to clip it in correctly and I was 20 metres off the ground. Holding the rock with one hand, I pulled up the rope creating slack and held it between my teeth and slowly and carefully I reached out for the anchor clipping my rope in. Once clipped in I climbed down and unclipped the rope from the mistaken anchor and lowered down from there. I was sweating so much from the fear. I had to stay calm, if I panicked I was more likely to slip and fall. It’s your mind that makes you panic, when you think something bad can happen and then from just one thought a million other thoughts arise. I was meditating up there, I couldn’t let anything come into my mind, I had to focus 100% on the task ahead of me. If anything bad happened it would have been due to my mind and not my physical ability.
The day was extremely challenging and enlightening as it made me appreciate how the skills I have learnt from yoga and meditation can be useful to call upon in other areas of my life, and how it has helped me become a more calm and relaxed person. It also showed me how other activities such as climbing and biking can potentially strengthen yoga and other spiritual practices, through teaching how to focus intently and quiet the chatter of the mind. Through my yoga teaching I hope to help students not only improve their physical and spiritual selves but also to help them understand how yoga can be useful in all areas of ones life.
I was working full time in a high pressured office job and studying for my accountancy qualifications in the evenings and weekends. I loved my job and enjoyed studying, but when my social life had to step aside for me to focus I discovered yoga, which gave me the space, clarity and a sense of inner peace I so clearly needed.
After qualifying, I decided to take some time out from my career and see the world. During my travels I undertook an intensive yoga teacher training course in India. This experience changed my attitude to my career and it accountancy no longer held the same interest to me. Over time I have transitioned from full time accountancy to virtually full time yoga teaching.
Having worked with many organisations from young, fun, media companies to money hungry city firms, I know how yoga can calm and centre you after a long hard day at work.
Through breath and movement yoga can give you space between office life and YOUR LIFE!