The thing about drugs is you don’t really realise you have messed up until it’s too late. It starts with a pill on the occasional Saturday night, and before you know it you’re going through half your wages, mixing potentially lethal cocktails in constant pursuit of the perfect high, alienating yourself from virtually everyone you know, and making yourself ill (either physically or mentally or both).
In my case, I actually nearly killed myself; and even after I recovered, I was back out partying again, chasing the dream of feeling safe and happy inside my own skin. It did not cross my mind that there might be a safer, non-chemical route to happiness; and I did not go looking for such a route until things got so messy with the drugs I had no choice but to acknowledge that the drugs were no longer working, that they were actually causing me harm.
In October 2008 I went to Dhanakosa (a Buddhist meditation retreat centre in Scotland) to do a week of yoga and meditation. My yoga teacher on that retreat, *Angelika Grohman, was an inspiration. She made me see the true power of yoga, as a tool of transformation. Previously, I had only thought of it as a method of staying fit and flexible. I did not consider that there might be more to it than that.
Over that week I had my eyes, my mind and my heart opened. Hearing Angelika’s personal story of her journey from misery and isolation to joy and purpose through yoga filled me with the hope that I too might be able to make such a transformative journey.
My journey started quite hesitantly, with me having to force myself to do 20 minutes of yoga every morning, but over the following year – especially during a six month trip to India – my enthusiasm for yoga grew.
In 2010, after having tried many different styles of yoga, I discovered Agama Yoga – a tantric yoga school with branches in India & Thailand. In Dharamsala, India I did Agama’s first month intensive course and was introduced to the theory and philosophy of tantric yoga, as well as to a more meditative approach to asana practice.
I had numerous mini epiphanies during that month, especially regarding yamas and niyamas; realising that if I wanted to change my life I would need to stretch more than just my body. Especially impressed by the lecture on Ahimsa and the showing of the documentary, “Earthlings” I took a vow and became a vegetarian. After being introduced to the Agama version of Uddiyana Banda I became determined that my then current attempt at quitting cigarettes would be my last.
I was so impressed with my introduction to Agama yoga I decided to go to Thailand and continue my studies at their main headquarters on Ko Pha Ngan. I stayed there for four months in 2010, and after a trip home to Scotland, I returned in 2011 and studied for a further six months. During that time I became acquainted with some of the more profound and esoteric tantric yoga teachings and deepened my personal practice.
On the surface, there are observable changes in me – for instance, as well as becoming a vegetarian and non-smoker I no longer take drugs or drink alcohol – but it is, I believe, the less tangible changes that matter most, such as my ongoing efforts to observe all the yamas and niyamas.
When I look back upon my old self, from only three years ago, I cannot believe the extent of the changes in me. I have gone from being a drug-addled mess to being centred, balanced and focussed. It is a transformation my old self could not possibly have imagined.
What I have received through yoga I should like to share with others. This is the reason I want to become a yoga teacher. There are so many people out there looking for an answer, looking for a way to transform their lives. Many of them take the wrong road, just as I did, and are seduced by the initial glitter and glamour of drug-taking. I believe, as an ex-user, I would be able to reach these people and help them as they make the journey to rehabilitation. It is my experience that the yogic teachings, philosophy and practices that Agama Yoga offer are especially helpful on that journey. I believe these techniques would also be beneficial for people suffering from stress, anxiety and depression and could help prevent them from sinking into a spiral of drug or alcohol abuse. It is my intention that once I have qualified as a yoga teacher and earned my stripes I will return to Scotland and dedicate myself to helping people find a holistic approach to solving their problems through yoga.
*I have been taught yoga by very many fine yoga teachers over the last three years and it is all but impossible to choose a favourite, but if I had not had the good fortune to be taught by Angelika Grohman I might never have been inspired to take the journey down this amazing path; and for that reason alone I would choose her.
2012 Yoga Scholarship Essay
By: Dee Sunshine
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