One of my first experiences of Yoga was a Vinyasa class that I joined while backpacking through Thailand. I remember floating out of the space, my stiff joints eased, head clear, and feeling like I could finally catch my breath. I felt completely revitalised and grounded. And from that moment onward, my curiosity was sparked!
I graduated from Stranmillis University with a degree in Early Years education, but in 2017 I decided to take my first year long Yoga teacher training. I laugh to myself now remembering some of my first words when I nervously left Coalisland and began the course in Belfast: “I definitely don’t want to teach Yoga, I’m just here to deepen my own practice and learn about the philosophy.” Life has a funny way of unfolding… and a few years, and countries later, I now offer classes and facilitate workshops, women’s circles and retreats.
Yoga seemed to come into my life at a time when I really needed it, whilst navigating through my 20’s, my practice became a daily retreat onto my mat. With chaos buzzing around me, it was the only safe space at the time that allowed me to breathe in solitude, bring a sense of curiosity to myself, and often process emotions and thoughts. Yoga was, and still is my therapy.
For me, and many others, Yoga is SO much more than just a physical movement practice. In fact, there are 8 limbs, or sub-sections including breathwork (pranayama) and meditation. By combining all of the elements, Yoga, meaning “union” aims to create balance and wholeness through the union of mind, body and breath.
On a scientific level, we work with regulating the nervous-system through our practice, using embodied movement and breath exercises to access the para-sympathetic state, which science shows is a powerful method of releasing stress and anxiety that is stored in our bodies.
The power of a breather never ceases to amaze me. The most common things I hear from women and men who attend my classes is, “I find it so hard to slow down”, “I can’t switch off” or “I feel guilty when I rest.” I can tell you as a Yoga teacher, I still struggle with these sometimes myself! It’s no surprise that many of us feel this way, our fast-paced modern lives are constantly over-stimulated, we’ve been taught to work harder, we’re under pressure to ‘keep up’, breathe quicker, think faster…
We live in a society that has devalued rest and reflection, often striving for the Yang, while forgetting the importance of the Yin. How liberating it can feel to step back, say no, drop the to-do list, and take the deeper breath. Reclaiming rest for both mind & body is a revolutionary act of self-care. Queue the magic hour of joining a Yoga class!
And remember, don’t be scared off by the ‘movement’ end of practicing, known as Asanas. Our Western image of Yoga paints a picture of bendy shapes and daunting poses. While some people enjoy this challenging aspect, there are many different styles and teachers to suit your needs. I am passionate about advocating that Yoga & mindful living is beneficial for everyone, from all walks of life. If you can breathe, you already have the skills to start practicing.
Breathwork, meditation and mindfulness are all powerful tools that encourage self-awareness, and the ability to live more fully in the present moment. These practices can help to slow overthinking, regulate our nervous-systems, reduce anxiety, and ultimately lead us towards feeling more balanced. As the chatter of our minds begin to quiet, we can befriend stillness and silence again, and begin to trust the emerging voice of our own deepest intuition.
I believe the full spectrum of Yoga is an empowering self-care tool, and can be our greatest ally and supportive practice as we journey through life.
“Behind your image, below your words, above your thoughts, the silence of another world awaits.” John Odonoghue
Laura is a 29year old Yoga teacher, with a love of the outdoors, poetry, ocean dipping and women’s wellness. On a mission to continue learning, she has studied with teachers in Australia, Mallorca, Bali, India and most recently some inspiring Irish mentors. She is trained in the foundations of Hatha, Yin yoga, Pregnancy yoga, Pranayama (breathwork), Meditation, Ayurvedic nutrition, MCA (menstrual cycle awareness), and most recently Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and Kinesiology. Laura teaches from a gentle, trauma-informed and inclusive approach. Having experienced the benefits for herself, she offers a modern approach to her classes and likes to weave in cyclical wisdom from The Celtic Wheel, Ayurveda and Chinese medicine. With a strong scientific understanding of the nervous-system to support the practices, she is passionate about giving everyone a doorway into the benefits of Yoga.
Check out Laura’s beginners guide to Meditation: