Author: Ann Grandchamp, Mental Health Editor
I’m super excited to have Theresa Jauregui with us today to share her experience of how yoga can truly transform the way you see and feel your body. As someone who has practiced yin yoga, I can only testify to how amazing I felt after each session. Grab yourself a cuppa if you can, settle in and enjoy.
Do you want a greater sense of body positivity? How about practising yoga?
I realized recently that I’ve been practising yoga for 40 years now, basically all of my adult life. My initial thoughts were how can I possibly be old enough to have done anything for that long?! Shock over, my thoughts then turned to how my yoga has evolved over that time. Over the years I’ve been to many different classes taken by many different teachers but with not totally dissimilar styles. For a long time, I didn’t really question what I was being taught. All I knew was that attending yoga classes benefited me physically and psychologically. The yoga helped to keep my body flexible and moving well and I could see that others in the classes who were much older than me had remained so as they aged. I could feel the impact on the way yoga practice maintained good posture and eased physical ailments. The mindful movements, in addition to the breathwork and relaxation, reduced my stress levels and increased the flow of feel good hormones.
I would feel like I was floating out of the class with a body that was moving with ease and a sense of psychological wellbeing. It set me up for the week ahead. I never regretted going to a yoga class.
Deep Diving into the world of Yoga
Thankfully, the yoga world moved on from leotards & tights – not flattering to anyone, let alone after 4 children!! Eventually, I decided I wanted to take my knowledge and understanding of yoga further, not necessarily to teach, but for myself. Then I started to ask many questions and realised what a minefield yoga world can be. The Yoga Health Foundation, based in California, estimates that there are 250 million yoga practitioners in the world. Yoga has evolved from its origins in India 5000 years ago into an omnipresent, multifaceted multimillion pound industry, with many styles: some focused on the spiritual, others on the physical. The idea of doing aerial yoga and SUP yoga (yoga on a paddleboard) amused me, hot yoga horrified me (why put yourself through that?!). It was far from an easy path, as many elements of the courses I embarked upon just didn’t feel right. But I got there in the end! First, by discovering a book called ‘Intelligent Yoga’, then training with a teacher whose approach made sense, then connecting with like-minded teachers.
Finally, I felt I was ‘home’, exploring a kind of yoga that felt to me what yoga should really be about.
I was eventually drawn to teaching, I couldn’t help myself!! I needed to pass on what I had learned, to verbalise what I was feeling, to help others to harness the power of their bodies & to feel good about themselves. I’m often asked what kind of yoga I teach and I struggle to define it. It’s a synthesis of all I’ve learnt over the last 4 decades, a mishmash of influences from the yoga world with a spattering of positive psychology. And it’s still evolving, but I guess I can say it’s ‘my’ yoga & it’s authentic to me. For me, authenticity is key.
So, what is the approach to yoga and, just as importantly, what isn’t it?
The essence of ‘my’ yoga is about:
- Being mindful of our body’s needs in the here & now, letting go of any sense of competition with anyone else or with ourselves.
- Taking a holistic approach isn’t about isolating individual parts of the body. It’s about whole-body movements as the body is a series of relationships integrated to move as one.
- Harnessing the power of the breath to release tension & free up the body to move with ease.
- Creating an environment that allows individuals to explore what works for them & their bodies. There is no such thing as a ‘perfect pose’ or a ‘perfect body.
- Being all-inclusive – all shapes, sizes, ages, abilities, ….. There is generally no need for classes for specific groups, such as yoga for runners. Yoga is for all.
- Encouraging what we can do & letting go of what we can’t do….. yet!
- Moving towards bottom-up processing, rather than top-down processing meaning allowing our body to inform our movements, rather than our head. This involves learning to really listen to the body, notice how it feels, and respond accordingly.
- Having fun, including allowing for creativity & having a good laugh. (Belly laughs are SO good for releasing tension).
How Theresa’s approach towards Yoga affects others
I wondered what my students’ thoughts were about how my take on yoga affects them. So, I asked them! Here are some of their responses:
‘It makes me feel good about my body.’
‘I feel at ease, both in mind and body.’
‘It comes across strongly that doing it right is doing it right for you.’
‘It allows you to grow into the pose and believe in your body.’
‘…..helps greatly with building on a more self-love approach to how I feel about my body in terms of acknowledging and appreciating it for what it is capable of doing and feeling, rather than what it’s not able to or times when it poses challenges to work through.’
‘Yoga and breathing enables a greater sense of gratitude and more positive body confidence with improved flexibility and strength.’
‘Post class always feels good, always feeling more at one and connected with my body, relaxed and any previous stress being held, completely released!’
‘It definitely makes me feel more in tune with my body and gives me more of an appreciation / respect for it. Also seeing how I’ve improved makes me feel more positive about what I’ve achieved and what my body can do now that it couldn’t do at the start.’
‘I feel fitter than I did ten years ago and I feel pretty confident about my body – it’s not so much how it looks but what it does for me and I fully intend to keep yoga going for the rest of my life as I think it keeps my body and mind flexible, strong and balanced.’
I wish I’d asked sooner. Not that the comments were a surprise, but they were so gratifying to read. One of the themes that comes through quite clearly is body positivity. Yoga practice allows us to get in touch with our bodies, to gain confidence in our own uniqueness and to celebrate what it can do for us, not what it can’t, or indeed how it looks. And if we believe in our bodies and start to feel strong and empowered physically, we start to feel stronger psychologically and emotionally too.
‘Yoga is a way of living and being that makes real happiness possible.’
– Donna Farhi
A big thank you for your contribution Theresa!
Theresa Jauregui is a yoga teacher, positive psychology coach & all-around enthusiast for living well. She works with individuals and groups to optimise health & wellbeing and has a special interest in helping people to age well. Her latest venture is organising yoga & wellbeing retreats in natural surroundings. You can learn more about her here.
Take care! Stay safe!
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