Nadine Watton will be teaching on both our 200hr Intensive Yoga Teaching Training and 100hr Yin & Restorative Training programmes in 2018. Find out more about the 200hr YTT 2018 here. Find out more about the 100hr Yin & Restorative here.
In this blog post she explores the power of a lifetime yoga practice and how it can ground and restore you through even the toughest of times.
I have had the pleasure of practicing yoga for the best part of 20 years…in fact as I approach my 42nd birthday I think I am approaching my yoga birthday and heading into my 3rd decade of yoga practice! I started practicing when I was 21/22 years old. The early days are a bit fuzzy due to the chaos my life was in at the time. I think one of the things that I enjoyed developing in the early days of practicing Ashtanga yoga was the fact that it created stability and a sense of groundedness within me.
When I came to yoga I was an ex dancer who had seriously hurt her back. I wanted the yoga to fix me. I was carrying a big backpack of stuff – injuries, an extreme sense of competitiveness and a big ego to boot. I felt that with a lifetime of dancing under my belt the yoga would be easy. It was not. Everything was so hard. I had to move in a completely different way than I was used to and it hurt. Looking back, I worked with the pain in a not so mindful way, in a big mixed level class with limited assistance from the teacher. But things did feel better over time.
However, as I deepened my practice and was working so hard on jumping in and out of asana in the Ashtanga seated sequence, I injured my rotator cuff in my shoulder.
I was practicing with a fantastic teacher called David Roche at the time and we stripped back my practice to half primary, knees down chaturanga, tiny Cobras, no lifting, no jumping. At the time I was so frustrated, my ego was screaming that I wasn’t “moving on” or “progressing” in the way I “should be”. This time was a gift, however: a time for contemplation, for really looking at where my practice was going and where my life practice was going. David encouraged me to come to the mat every day, to modify and focus not so much on the physical but on the breath, the bandhas and the dristi. This started to evolve into a very internal practice and allowed me to develop on so many levels, developing compassion and a deeper sense of listening to myself, and – to just get over myself! I have carried this lesson with me and encourage my students to do the same when working with or without injury.
Another wonderful teacher, David Swenson, once said to me that we should consider our practice in terms of decades, not just years. I believe we need to strive to have a life practice and a practice for life. In the same way we move through peaks and troughs and tough times during an actual practice on the mat we also move through these peaks and troughs over weeks and months and years…and decades. Life throws incredible challenges our way and we have to face up to these challenges and find support in whatever way we can. As well as physical injuries, mental and emotional challenges are a huge hurdle.
My Mum died when I was 31. It was all quite sudden and I didn’t ever think my Mum would die so young. I really felt my heart had broken. The impact on my physical body was incredible – I hurt all over and I was so tired all the time – I just wanted to sleep. This is often when you may hear from people that, when going through very stressful times, they find solace in their practice. For me, I didn’t – I just wanted to hide. I was too scared to face whatever stuff was going on inside. I was too scared to work on all the intense heart openers of the second Ashtanga series.
I had the great fortune to be studying and practicing with another wonderful Dave! Several weeks on when I felt ready, my teacher David Charlton taught me some amazingly grounding practices from the Viniyoga tradition that was taught by TKV Desikachar – Sri Krishnamacharya’s son. These practices, which were nurturing and grounding, I carry with me, still practice and teach in a lot of my classes. We worked with pranayama, meditation and chanting as well as asana.
It was a very healing time – I learned that every moment is a gift and – no matter how traumatic that moment may be – there is scope for learning in every moment. If someone had said that to me as soon as my Mum had died, I would have been really offended but down the line I have managed to reflect on and see what these tough times have given me. I have come out the other end of various physical and emotional traumas a stronger, more compassionate and open person. There will be other traumas of course, and more learning in the future.
As I have aged I have noticed various changes in my body. I have less energy and I feel less physically flexible than before. After 2 pregnancies and a huge break from the Mysore room, I returned still fumbling through to Karandavasana in the second series – just where I left things seven years ago. I would think: “Hmmm… I wonder where I would be in the practice if I hadn’t taken that long break from Ashtanga?” But, you know, it doesn’t matter – what matters is where I am right now. I feel I am more flexible in my mind, my body actually feels stronger that it did when I was in my 20’s, I feel more stable, more grounded. I am happy to let go of stuff and happy to embrace where I am. My “practice for life” moves through peaks and valleys and canyons… and the lessons I learn along the way I try my best to evolve them into my “life practice” – patience, empathy, compassion and peace. This is a life work!
Thank you so much for reading. I want to give a little thanks to the Davids in my life – big up the Daves!
I shall leave you with one of my favourite readings.
With love and light, Nadine xx
Pain as Teacher
Pain is your best friend. It is infinitely more honest with you than pleasure. Despite what you might think, the painful experiences you have had benefit you far more than the pleasurable ones, even though most of us spend our lives trying to duck and hide from them. But when you look pain dead in the eye, then you have transcended the limits of your ego and this humanity. It is then that you enter into the possibility of becoming a great being.
– Swami Chetanananda