The accidental yogi
A yogi abroad
I recently went on a two-week holiday to Mexico. Conveniently for me, it was right after I’d completed the 30-day Hot Yoga challenge – firstly, hurrah for a better bikini body and secondly, I could finally take a break from the constant laundering of yoga pants, towels and mats!
But as I boarded the plane, with 14 days of rest, relaxation and exploration to look forward to, I started to wonder what would become of my newfound yoga practice, after finally committing the time and energy to a dedicated daily routine after all these months of excuses, procrastinating and complaining. I was j-u-s-t starting to really, genuinely, actually LIKE yoga and I felt like it was sinking in, and now I was going to abandon it for two weeks? What kind of a yogi was I?
Note: In hindsight, what I should have been also a little worried about was what two weeks of tacos and tequila would do to my waistline, but that’s another story.
So before the plane took off, and while I was still connected to the WiFi on dry land, I quickly downloaded the bestselling book Yoga Girl by Instagram’s number one yogi, Rachel Brathen. OK, so our practices don’t come from the same lineage, but I love the vibe she gives off, the honesty and integrity with which she posts online and the good energy she puts out into the world (plus it was full of pretty pictures) so it was a start.
I devoured that book much faster than the terrible airline cuisine we were served up over the course of the 12-hour flight. I soaked up all that yogic wisdom, and vowed to apply it to my own life and practice. I pored over the photos and tips on how to achieve certain poses (hello CROW!) and couldn’t wait to try it out once we got off the plane. I was even tempted to try some of them in the aisle. They do say you should keep your blood circulating while mid-flight after all!
I was determined that when we arrived in Mexico, I was going to be Yoga Girl Mark II. But then… life happened. Travel happened. Mexico happened. Jet lag, tacos, tequila, hangovers… and all of a sudden, we’d been away for four days and I hadn’t so much as saluted the sun!
Then I visited the ancient city and pyramids of Teotihuacan, just outside of Mexico City, and as I was wandering around this incredible site, thinking about just how much these ancient civilisations knew about the sun and the moon, life cycles and more, I looked over to the smaller ‘palaces’ (most people choose to climb either the Pyramid of the Sun or the Pyramid of the Moon but there are a host of smaller structures you can ascend too), I saw a lone figure atop a middle palace, and wouldn’t you know it – she was practicing yoga!
I was fascinated! I didn’t know who she was or where she was from, but I admired her dedication to her practice, her inspiration to set up a mat somewhere so magical, powerful and energetic. And yes, of course I vowed once again that I too would become a travelling yogi… starting from the minute we arrived in Tulum. Mexico City was just too hectic. Our hotel room was too small for a mat. There was too much to do. And I was also drinking Mezcal every night, which wasn’t conducive to a morning practice.
And so we arrived at the beautiful beach of Tulum, where Sebastien had really encouraged me to find a class and try something new. Of course, on the first day I was sampling the local sights and delights, which mean the second day I wasn’t feeling my most yogic self. On the third day, I walked up and down the entire length of the beach, investigating the different types of classes on offer in each beachside hut. Then on the fourth day, I checked out the studios in the tiny town. On the fifth day it rained torrentially so we couldn’t leave our hotel. On the sixth day, I could feel the old accidental yogi creeping back in – thinking of more reasons not to try a class while in Tulum (I’m on holiday, why should I exercise? I don’t like the style of classes offered. Classes are too early in the morning for me. I don’t have a yoga mat with me. I want to make the most of the sunshine.)
And then, on the seventh day, I was punished! I am certain this was some level of karmic retribution, trying to show me exactly what could and would happen if I started to neglect my practice. I got sick. Not just a little sick. Full on, couldn’t leave my hotel room sick. They call it ‘la tourista’, a condition that strikes holidaymakers when their bodies aren’t used to the bacteria in the food prepared in Mexico. But I am certain, 100% certain, had I been practicing yoga (and not over-consuming Mexican treats) more, my immune system would have been stronger and I could have beaten the bacteria. I know this from experience. I had seen and felt the benefits of the practice in the flesh (and mind and spirit!) the previous month.
As it was, I was out of action for three days. Then afterwards I was so weak, that for the remainder of the holiday, I could barely muster up the energy to lie on the beach, grumbling about how I wished I had practiced more and that my body had let me down. But it wasn’t my body that let me down now, was it? It was my mind that let my body down. By not controlling my mind, and letting it make excuses not to practice, my immune system suffered, my energy levels suffered and in the end, even my poor boyfriend had to suffer as he was the one who had to take care of me while we were on holiday!
So here I am. Back in Ibiza. Back in the studio. Back at practice. Back on the mat. But once again, I am finding it hard. After two weeks away, an intense illness and 12 hours squashed on a plane, I feel like I am back to square one. My muscles ache constantly. I can’t focus. I forget how to get into some of the poses. I can’t straighten my legs to touch my toes. The heat in the room is too stifling. I’m so busy catching up on work I can’t find the time. But this time, I know it’s going to get better. I have the benefit of experience to get me inspired to go back to class every night.
Oh – and did I mention the visible results of all those tacos and tequila? Not even three days of ‘la tourista’ could hide the evidence! If that’s not motivation…