20 May My Modern Yogi Project Journey

By Chantal Negri.

I am a mother of three children aged 23, 21 and 18 and have been married to the most amazing man, my soul mate and best friend for 25 years. I consider myself to be very lucky and content but when my youngest child completed school and turned 18, I was left with a sense of closure. None of my children were children any longer. I have guided them, loved them unconditionally, pushed them and respected them as much as I could and it’s now time for them be their own persons. It was also the time for me to become MY own person, and give time to what I really wanted to do in life, which was one of the main drivers to commit to The Modern Yogi Project.

Finding myself was one probably the main reason of doing The Modern Yogi Project, but I also really enjoy committing to a challenge and a routine – which I knew the project, would give me. I was relishing the prospect of immersing myself in something other than family and work – which my husband and children willing supported – with the additional benefit of being part of the yoga community coming together, making new friends, enjoying their achievements and sharing mine. I was also intrigued with the meditation aspect as it is something I have never done but always wanted to learn, so I thought it a perfect chance to introduce me to it.

Prior to committing to The Modern Yogi Project I was feeling anxious and somewhat lacking in energy, from a summer of fun and indulging, so the project came at a time I needed to get some clarity and routine back in my life, as well as being able to spend time on myself, not worrying so much about my children and husband – just about me.

Week One: Commitment

At the end of week one I had to sit back and take a look at my life. I wanted to commit to giving myself time every day for meditation, to sit be quiet and listen to everything around me, to not scratch the nose, not itch the sole of my foot – (always right foot,) and to learn to breathe and feel the calmness I could create. To let the thoughts and feelings pass on.

I also committed to looking at being accountable for my own actions and how my actions affected others. I like running to schedules, timelines and ensuring that everything is carried out, as I want it, however that is not always possible and I can get a little OCD – which can cause some grief. So I started to stop and to look beyond the immediate incidences and how or why they were really an issue? Did I really need to be concerned or irritated by something not done or completed to my satisfaction? It was amazing to see the difference in body language and reactions from my family when I did not respond as I normally would or I simply just let it go. WOW what a powerful tool!

During this week I set my intention for my Modern Yogi Project journey, which was to “Create my own time and space, to value myself and make myself a priority for health and wellbeing”.

Week Two: Choose

Choose and approach life with a sense of joy and to maintain a positive attitude. What a week!

It all started as planned and I decided it was a chance to make a real commitment to find joy and fun in my practice. It meant that I had to take a different approach to my practice, to not show up to release stress or issues at work but to be more playful and really try to go with the flow – to enjoy yoga and it’s energy! The way the teachers approached the classes and the use of music was a great tool to assist in this transition, especially when Happy by Pharrell Williams was played mid-way through a practice – who wouldn’t smile?! It really enhanced the energy of the practice!

This week was also the start of my decision to delve into the world of Teacher Training. In preparation for this I had to forward plan and organise a lot in order for me to be able to truly embrace it. An important decision this week was to take the time to work on myself and do what was needed to be present in my experiences, this meant taking my “rest day” of The Modern Yogi Project mid-week. What – no practice during the week?! It felt a little surreal and I kept wondering at the time why I wasn’t just getting on the mat, I mean really do I need a rest day mid-week? The answer was YES I did need it, because the teacher training were intense mentally as well as physically and taking day to rest allowed me to be refreshed and eager to learn.

I made another conscious decision this week, to embracing the joy and fun of yoga by practicing next to someone different in every class and in a different part of the room! Forgetting the ownership of our part of the room and to feel the energy and joy from other people’s practices and at the same time meet new people and gain new perspectives!

Lastly I decided that I needed to choose a pose and enjoy learning and practising it, especially over the next 6 weeks to see my transition. I chose Bakasana – Crow Pose. It’s a pose that has always eluded me, but one that I always wished I could do, and have been envious of. So I decided to turn the envy into respect and praise and to start the process of learning and accept what the posture holds for me.

Week Three: Get Real

To ‘get real’ is to be part of something that is bigger than ourselves and to understand humility.

For me to be completely satisfied in life I need to be able to give and receive love, in all its forms. Emotional, touch, reflection, food nourishment and nurturing, this week definitely encapsulated all of that and more!

This week I acknowledged, with thanks, the people that normally praise me for being so committed to my schedules and organisation that allows me to fit everything in and accepted their amazement. I also made sure I thanked them in return for their recognition. In the same breath I also let things go, I let it all happen in cruise mode, which was an unnerving feeling to just go with the flow and let it roll as they say!

My practice this week saw me take a step back and start to honour my body, it was also the week of cleansing which is something I felt comfortable with as I have done many cleanses before and generally my diet is mostly clean, grain, dairy and sugar free, with green juices and smoothies. However the challenge this week was removing my morning coffee for five days and no caffeine equalled a migraine on day 2-3. Despite it, I practiced and allowed myself to take it easy, to rest if the throbbing became too much and to really focus on my breath!

I also launched into my commitment to Bakasana, spending time every day on the pose and finally I took flight for a few controlled seconds on Thursday, then again on Sunday I really felt the difference from working on the pose and understanding the principles of getting it to “work”. I also discovered my appreciation for the shoulder girdle, during a Yin class with Emma Burridge, all I can say is WOW you are a rock star! I left the class feeling so euphoric, energised and a general feeling of complete contentment, amazing.

The week also brought along many emotional triggers for me due to various factors (perhaps due to the cleanse I was more sensitive) but I chose to go with them, accept them and then let them pass. My meditation practice also ventured from the lounge floor and to the beach, meditating on the sand with the waves rolling in and the cool breeze on my face, was very relaxing and invigorating!

Week Four: Dive In

Honour your body and let go of the little things – two very simple yet very powerful statements!

This week I decided to engage in my practice a little more and let go of whether my practice was in the studio or at home. After the past 3-4 weeks of practising almost every day and at the studio, it was time to relax the idea that I was cheating myself by practicing at home and embrace it a little. It was also time to listen to my body, that was displaying a few aches and pains from the deeper practice, so I took some time away with my husband, I didn’t practice for a few days but instead gave rise to my mediation practice instead. These few days taught me that I was able to practice yoga daily even if I didn’t attend the studio and that I was my own teacher and was able to listen to my body and the yoga it needed, as well as maintain some practice around family time.

I also took a good look at myself this week, you know that phrase ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’, well I do, all the time! I’m a control freak, so in order to ‘dive in’ I decided to not sweat the small stuff. Each time I felt the need to attack when things weren’t going my way I took a deep breath and walked away. I learnt that in order for others to do anything I need to let go of the reigns and allow them to do it in their way with their expression, not in my expression.

All of this has allowed me to let go of my Ego (Ahamkara), let go of my ideals and settle the mind (manas) and all of its talking about the how, why, where and when. Also to try to re-establish some patterns (samskaras) I have embedded over time, which arise in our memory (citas). A lot harder than it all seems, but I am trying all the time to stop and breathe and let it all go!

Week Five: Forge Ahead

Develop compassion and live in the present! What a great test of my ability to be present in my life, to what is happening there and then and not being concerned with what’s ‘going’ to happen or what ‘may’ happen…

I relied heavily on my morning meditation practice, which could be anywhere between 5-30 minutes depending on how I am feeling and of course my daily tasks and timeframes. I like to meditate in the morning after I have waved goodbye to all of the family before I start MY day, giving me the tranquillity and sereneness required to ‘forge ahead’! This meditation practice has given me a sense of peacefulness and the ability to calm myself at times when I have been quite flustered or anxious and it has reminded me to bring myself back to a place of calm.

My ability to maintain my focus and be present was tested this week through my work; these challenges made me recall a book I once read that talks about digression and not tackling things head on and clearing them away ‘eating the green frog’. In essence it is about tackling the task you don’t want to do, that’s too hard or requires too much effort, it asks you to tackle the hard stuff head on and get it out of the way. This is what I try to do now, be present in it, get it done and engage in the process from start to finish – it really makes you re-assess what is important and valuable and what is not.

This week I decided to forge ahead with a new approach in life ‘to pay it forward’, which simply explained could be buying a coffee for a friend and instead of taking the repayment, asking them to use the cash to do the same for someone else. The look on peoples faces is quite priceless when they realise I don’t want their money, but instead ask them simply to return the gesture of sharing gratitude with someone else!

Week 6 – Live Free

This week brought the end of the ‘actual’ programme, but is it really the end of what we have learnt and engaged ourselves in during it and to what we may continue with into our lives?

Initially my intention was to create my own time and space, to value me and to make myself a priority for health and wellbeing. I believe I was able to create a path for me to continue to do this. I have certainly learnt a lot about myself, to stress less, to try to control less and in the words of John Lennon… let it be.

Non-attachment to anything that didn’t fulfil my expectations was a resounding awakening for me that allowed me to be calmer and more importantly enjoy my practice and life after the mat. My practice began to flow with a sense of enjoyment of where I was at that time; I started to really understand my breath, the flow and being in the moment.

My Bakasana challenge was a great learning curve as to what can be achieved if you just go with it, regardless of the outcome of the day before, I am happy to say I have been able to get into Bakasana the majority of the time – which is a huge achievement and acknowledgement of depth and success of this journey.

The daily meditation was a welcomed start to my day and in times of anxiety or stress I now find myself closing my eyes for a moment or two and just breathing. A very refreshing change to that elastic band that used to twist, stretch and eventually snap! It has given me clarity and purpose and is something I will definitely be endeavouring to continue with.

What would I say to anyone that has not done The Modern Yogi Project before is to take a leap of faith, trust yourself to just go with the flow and enjoy the process. It certainly brings up plenty of challenges and emotions BUT it also allows you to have fun, meet new people who share the same passion and love of Yoga as you. Pay it forward – with a smile, a greeting, a coffee or whatever – just share it and pass it on!!