How I found serenity in the spare room
Her plan was to train as a yoga teacher in the heat of Goa. She ended up in the spare bedroom in Leyton. Yet Felicity discovers that a virtual course can still offer treasures, from improved patience to a way to silence her inner critic.
When the last Lockdown loomed and an increasing sense of despair and boredom descended on me, I decided to sign up for my online Yoga Teacher Training. I have wanted to do it for over a year but I had a slightly different vision of my training. I intended to be surrounded by the serene views of Goa, India, rather than stuck in Leyton - in my spare bedroom.
It took me some time to commit to the course. I was concerned that training over zoom would not be as good, and that I could not justify the course fee for if we were in another lockdown, meaning sporadic work and income. In the end, though, as relentless boredom beckoned, I signed on the line.
The course I joined was a flexible 200-hour teacher training, originally based in that longed-for Goa, with live zoom sessions each day. There was also a huge amount of online resources to get through. If I were to have done it in real time, it would have taken one month but I did in just less than three months.
I learned the deep, seismic impact that a truly regular practice can have on mental health Felicity Peel
When I first enrolled, I could not wait to start learning something new, and I was also very excited about improving my physical yoga practice. Now, I realise that the aesthetic of each physical yoga posture (or ‘asana’) is one of the least important parts of my yoga journey. I have been practising yoga for nearly 10 years, but in the last three months of teacher training I have learned the deep, seismic impact that a truly regular practice can have on mental health.
I am not a very patient person, and I also struggle with staying present. Whether these two are connected is something I am yet to figure out. Through my teacher training I came to understand the immense value of both these qualities.
My patience improved, on and off the mat. I started to understand that the frustration in willing my body to bend a certain way was not a catalyst for change. Only through patience and kindness to myself have I seen small but incremental changes. And the same can be said for the rest of my life. As a fashion model, the lockdowns have been difficult since work can be sporadic and slow. But a little bit of self-kindness and a cultivation of patience has helped me become more grounded and content with where I am right now.
I struggled to make it through a two-hour live session without looking at my phone or going off to make a cup of tea Felicity Peel
When I started my training, I honestly struggled to make it all the way through a two-hour live session without looking at my phone, or going off to make a cup of tea halfway through. In yoga, as with in meditation, the crucial part of remaining present is awareness. If I notice that my mind has wandered during practice then this, in itself, is enough. This simple skill of awareness is something that I can use off the mat. If my mind wanders or becomes hectic and loud, I notice and focus on my breathing. This gentle noticing is simple but extremely effective in helping me remain present.
I thought that it was important to carry out my teacher training in beautiful, far-off lands, surrounded by greenery and exotic wildlife. What I now realise is that I have created a small but sacred space in my London flat. All I needed was a quiet place for my mat, somewhere I can retreat to when things feel overwhelming, somewhere that feels productive and creative. In turn, the physical space of my yoga mat seems to extend to a sort of mental space in my mind, which I now realise I really needed. My inner dialogue can be cruel and noisy, so a bit of extra headspace brings clarity.
I rarely stayed for Savasana – I always had something to rush off to do Felicity Peel
Just before I started training, I realised that I was barely ever staying for Savasana (corpse pose) at the end of a zoom class. I always had something to rush off to do. These few moments of stillness after a flow, are such an important part of the whole class. Savasana is the great balancer, and in these extremely uncertain times we need balance more than ever. Allowing the practice to integrate, allowing the breath to return to normal, allowing some headspace after 45 minutes or an hour of deep concentration is crucial. Allowing your mind to drop into a state of calm can be challenging, but it is deeply healing.
The skills that I’m learning on the mat are beginning to reflect in my life Felicity Peel
What I have come to understand is that a committed yoga practice can change your life. Not in a huge, singing and dancing, fireworks exploding kind of way, but in a way that is subtle, calming and balancing. The skills that I am learning on the mat are beginning to reflect in my life, and I can honestly say despite the turmoil around me, the uncertainty of the future, and the ongoing pandemic, I have never felt calmer or more grounded.
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