I know, I know, the title appears to be fairly unoriginal. But it really isn’t. Although yoga is over 6,000 years old, every individual who embarks on a yoga adventure has an original experience. This is mine. These days there are so many styles of yoga around, some pretty extreme and some pretty out there. Whatever works. Personally, I like a challenging class taught compassionately, with a focus on breath and listening to your own body and inner voice. Noticing subtleties in energy and curiosity of the internal process, for me, started quite young, primary school in fact. I was 7 years old and fascinated with the world, how did the birds fly and how did that feel? How do trees grow from seeds, that little seed into this big strong tree? It sounds clichéd I know but cliché’s become cliché’s for a reason. And yes, lets get it out of the way I am making more vegan choices, I just feel like it (more about that later).
I’m a natural observer and loved observing from a young age, how animals behaved. It wasn’t altogether different from watching how my peers interacted with each other at school and how everyone formed their groups.
As a slightly darker Turkish Cypriot boy who was a little different looking with a double foreign name, Hassan Hassan, I wasn’t a natural fit for any of the groups or even sub-groups. I was still learning to navigate my body and understand the world. I became the subject of ridicule by my peers because of my funny name and being foreign. These experiences shaped me and allowed me to find the positive later in life and taught me equanimity, even though I hadn’t intellectualized the topic yet.
Cut to secondary school, new groups, new start with a tub of gel to straighten out my curls and all the clothes everyone else was wearing like reebok classics to the school gate then loafers with the slammin vinyl record bag, I did everything to look like everyone else. I didn’t want to stand out, quite literally. I walked with my shoulders hunched for years and wore platform shoes and dug out the inside so I could attribute my height to the shoes. I was too afraid to stand tall. I managed to stay under the radar for a year but then I was asked to take some pictures by a model scout for a magazine and then bam! Back on the radar and the teasing and ridicule started again. This time it wasn’t my name or being foreign, my peers shouted “pretty boy”, “ gay” boy and worse. I couldn’t walk into a corridor or have my double name called out in assembly without some sort of derogatory comment or laugh. Getting up for school was a huge challenge and every morning I would have an internal dialogue with myself to get up and face whatever I had to face that day. So yeah that was hurtful and upsetting to be excluded but really it was a hard lesson and a blessing. From a young age I found my inner voice, my centre, a place to retreat to. I quickly developed a sense of self, albeit a sense of self that was dictated by a group of my peers that didn’t quite know how to interact with someone a little different, bless them! I can’t say at the time I was sending out love but now I send nothing but.
Fast forward a few years and I find my self in a yoga class. I don’t have to worry about being singled out or picked on because no one can talk, YES! Finally, some freedom to move around without judgement and without fear that someone is going to say something horrible to me. Actually the teacher said I was pretty good (I didn’t mind a bit of nice judgement and I probably needed to hear that for my confidence)! It didn’t matter how much of the poses I did, it was just great that I showed up and let the breath move me, all while listening to my inner voice and becoming more aware of my breath.
I’d found yoga while at the gym trying to buff up to cover my insecurities. I was pretty buff to be honest, training 5 times a week and protein shaking it everyday. Yoga was a good stretch and a place of retreat, then I decided to not take so much protein and the bulk just dropped off! Two freaking years necking protein shakes and chicken and oats, chicken and eggs, chicken with more chicken, then it all falls off in a couple weeks! I couldn’t even downdog without getting tired yet the older ladies in the room were doing it with ease. I invested a lot of time working on strength but I didn’t have the core to headstand. Or keep my arms over my head for more than 30 seconds without getting tired. I’m not saying the gym is bad for you I still train in the gym but my balance was off for me and my body. I respect anyone who has a discipline and sticks to it, mine just happened to not be so great for me at the time.
I started to practice more yoga and 6 months in I felt some profound changes in myself both physically and mentally. With Yoga, I knew it was going to be a long adventure and one I am grateful I can share with anyone in my private sessions, public classes and retreats. Yoga is one of my main passions in life and every day I count my blessings that I get to call myself a Yoga teacher!
‘Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self” ~ The Bhagavad Gita
Yoga has help me to build confidence to be me, without fear of judgement. It has helped me to build the strength to sometimes step out of certain situations or relationships that are not in alignment with who I am, and where I see myself in the world. Situations that weren’t helping me to grow or evolve and that’s ok, it’s not bad it’s not good it’s just what it is.
Yoga has helped me to accept that.
Sometimes I’ll practice a pose and if I fall, it’s ok I’ll try again, maybe now, maybe tomorrow. Or maybe it will never happen but at least I tried and I’m going to have fun doing it. Yoga has helped me to help my self and help others to help themselves and I am privileged to teach it.
London can be a hard city to live in we are fortunate to have so much opportunity and so much diversity. But sometimes the pace of the city takes over and before you know it you are tired and you have made a cup of tea and either forgotten to drink it or forgotten you made one. It is more important now in the modern world, with so much to do and so much external stimulation, just to slow down and spend a bit of time on yourself, be it through stopping to smell the flowers, a walk in the park, meditation sessions or yoga (get in touch with me for the last 2 if you like).
Just take a bit of time to slow down and appreciate before you jump back on the rollercoaster.
And above all, whatever you’re doing, remember to stand tall, as I do now!