Updated: Jan 5, 2021
For my 300 hours Yoga Teacher Training at Yogacourse.com, I had to write an essay on self-transformation. The very term itself invokes a variety of questions and feelings from me, namely its very definition. How do we define self-transformation? Do I look at the breadth of my life, the journey not the destination type cliche, to find transformation? Is transformation really found in the fabric of the personal journey or only when we come upon our destination, do we see the change? Does the word equate to self-development, self-awareness, mental or physical change? Is it a feeling or a wisdom derived from the experiences that comes with age and time? Is it positive or is it negative, a revelation that who you thought you were, may not be a true reflection of who you really are now?
For me, self-transformation boils down to those moments in your life, where you (for better or worse) experience a shift in the status quo, a shift in how you see and experience life.
During my 40 years, there have been a variety of shifts that gave me the tenacity and grit to approach life with no fear, to try and find a particular calling or maybe an anchor to be still. These shifts can encompass both physical and mental change.
For instance, when I started teaching in an inner city London state school, it was my pupils who taught me to laugh at the curve balls that live throws you. Their enthusiasm and fresh outlook on life, showed me that despite the odds good does exist and life goes on despite the tears.
With the birth of my children and the ravage and alienation that c-sections can inflict upon a women's body, I strangely experienced a liberation from my body, from the attachment to my idea of bodily perfection that had been created from years in a ballet classroom. These examples are but a ripple in the flow of self-change but show that the very nature of transformation is continuous like the ebb of a wave.
My most recent self-transformational experience ties into my rediscovery of yoga and consequent enrolment into a yoga teacher training course. I remember the date well, 3rd of July 2017; my daughter had won her first silver in a gymnastics competition. As I was watching her, my lower back began to feel uncomfortable. I was used to the muscular aches of ballet as I was in the middle of a degree at the Royal Academy of Dance, so thought nothing of it. However, by the evening I was reeling from the pain. Then I started to scream. The screaming lasted most of the night until I managed to see a doctor in the ER the next morning. To put this into context, I have experienced three child births, I’m no stranger to physical pain but this went to a different level. The ambulance refused to come as I was able to breathe, but I could not sit or lay dawn long enough for the journey to the hospital. it was as if I was stuck in the middle of a nightmare except that I was fully awake. The reason I focus on this, is so that you understand that since then, whenever I move, there is a part of me that always takes an inhale and waits to see what feeling follows - good or bad.
The long and short of this is that my L3 and L4 spinal discs had exploded and left my left leg temporarily paralysed. I underwent two rounds of steroid injections, internal epidurals and anti-inflammatories and was on hardcore pain killers. My life as I knew it, I had been taking ballet classes 5 times a week came to a grounding halt. From being a strong, fit, flexible woman, who defined themselves as such, I suddenly could not walk. I could not find my flight anymore as my body, my leg had given up on me. It felt as if my wings had been clipped.
However, the self-transformation as you can guess, came in my healing. Every day would be filled with positivity, as my children would rush in from school to my bedroom to tell me of their day. Every day I would try to move my leg a cm, then an inch, then a foot, to standing, to learning how to walk, first with support and then by myself. It was not a question of 'if' I could jog again but when. And yes, this is where yoga came in. My physio told me that I had to find a way to relax and stop moving so much. Whilst many people with back problems need to increase their core strength, he said the opposite for me was true, I needed to relax my core. The years of ballet, spinning, leaping and running had meant that I was always upright, tightly coiled never giving myself time to relax. With three children, working as a teacher, I was always rushing around. I needed to stop and find a way to breathe.
So slowly I started with YouTube chair yoga, to practising beginner’s yoga DVDs, slowly trying to build the strength in my leg but also in a way that was mindful and focused on my breath. I slowly got stronger, started jogging, joined an in-person yoga class. The transformation for me was in the acknowledgement that I would never be the same person I was before, both mentally and physically, and knowing that this was ok. My left leg was and is damaged and will never be as strong as it was before but that's ok, I still have my right. My attachment to who I was, how I defined myself melted away. When I started Rachel’s yoga teacher training, a new lease of life was offered to me. I got to learn and explore movement, all from a new perspective and one that did not have to rely on perfection and beauty. Rachel once said “today is a new day, move with no judgement or attachment, it is the intention not the shape that matters.” And with this thought I felt liberated. I can’t find the right words to explain this feeling, it just felt like I had come home. It had taken three years but I looked around and realised I was happy with where I was at. Whilst before I found flight in my ballet slippers, leaping into a grande jete across the studio, now I find flight sitting crossed legged with hands in prayer at my heart centre, in stillness.