I first discovered yoga as a teenager at college in Edinburgh. I saw it as a means for keeping slim, having struggled with being overweight due to my Scottish diet(fried and sugary foods). My experience of exercise until then was negative. At school, PE meant running around a freezing field in winter and a tarmac court in summer. I only liked swimming that I could do in my own time without the pressures of competition and coaching for perfection which I did not respond well to. The Western attitude to sport and exercise was alien to me as it still is for many Scottish girls. I was ‘dumped’ by a boyfriend because I couldn’t identify with the Scottish National obsession with our football team. I discovered that yoga was different, and it seemed to fit with my moral decision to exclude meat from my diet. I found a yoga cassette tape that I listened and practiced to in the evenings and this helped me to relax and sleep especially after I had begun teaching full time in a primary school in a deprived area.
When my engineer husband had a nervous breakdown, he too came to use the tape as a means of relaxation. My daughter was treated for Leukaemia with chemotherapy from the age of 6 to 11 and yoga was part of her recovery from chronic fatigue that lingered for 4 years. Many therapists tried to help her with no effect but when we started a private yoga class, her recovery began. She progressed and I continued with yoga, one to one with the teacher (Andrea St.Clair). We visited the Buddhist monastery at Samyeling in the Scottish borders several times and benefitted from meditation and the lifestyle there.
I found yoga practice helpful in containing the stress I experienced from a teaching position working with pupils absent from school due to ill health in their own homes. Yoga enabled me to cope with several deaths and with the stress of isolation in my work. I practice Pranayama while driving long distances.
I drifted away from Yoga practice again as life took different twists and turns through pressure of work, relationships, illness and ageing parents. I spent months reading, writing and studying to improve job prospects. I spent time in artistic pursuits and in fruitless friendships. I’ve stood by and watched family and friends succumb to the Scottish drinking habit and I’ve worked with many young people suffering from mental ill health.
Six months ago, in the spring after a winter of illness, and introspection I felt dissatisfied and lacking in confidence. I found a yoga class, led by a teacher who cares about each student and explains the anatomy and physiology of the moves (Janet, at Greens, Edinburgh). I felt renewed and realised that it is the only thing that helps me feel balanced and complete.
My role as a teacher has changed and I am now ‘upskilling’ to teach whole classes of 5 year olds. In wanting to combine my love of children with my belief in yoga, I enrolled on a three day training in teaching yoga to children (Rainbow Kids Yoga) and experienced a euphoric feeling of “This is so right…this is me…this is what I need to spend the rest of my life doing.”
The 3-day training sowed the seeds in my mind of me spreading the benefits of yoga to other people. I will be teaching part time next year in a primary school in a deprived area. Only today I learned of a 26 year old mum’s death due to a drugs overdose, leaving 2 young children. I understand how yoga with children can develop many essential early skills in a gentle non-competitive way. I feel as if I have discovered an effective way for local people to experience positive feelings and balance in their lives. I feel passionate in my desire to bring this knowledge and practice to as many people as I can. I now feel that the community I work in can benefit from this gentle way to heal itself.
I am 57 years old. It has taken all my life to reach this stage where I am ready and willing to share my yoga with other people. Previously I have never felt fit enough but now practicing every day, my inhibitions have gone. It is the only way, to enrich head, heart, hand and soul in a holistic and natural way and if I can spend 200 hours in concentrated dedication to yoga I would be in a position to offer classes to deprived families.
2012 Yoga Scholarship Essay
By: Joan MacRae
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