Don’t flip the lily pad

Annually I am gifted the opportunity to join with yoga teachers from around the country – internationally even – in a pleasingly flexible ‘huddle’. We up-skill, support and just generally enjoy a weekend of good yogic banter.

Two years ago we would have all descended on the Somerset workshop where we initially trained, but since our text messages to Boris have been left unanswered again this year, we instead flex to #StayHome – adapting our intention into a Zoom-friendly yoga bubble. We reshape yoga off the mat seamlessly so that yoga on the mat can continue without too many ripples;. this is how we yogis flow.

Don’t get me wrong, this weekend has been lovely – although it is not the same as admiring other teachers’ Sweaty Betty and Lululemon lycra in the flesh and trading vegan snacks between workshops -the upside is that numbers for the huddle are high as travel from kitchen/bedroom to yoga mat is much quicker and cheaper than a flight from Inverness to Bristol. What I have missed in getting to chat to other teachers outside a breakout room, I have gained in getting to know their taste for interior design, garden and family choice in pets.

Last time we yoga teachers all got together in person, you may remember that the overriding background banter revolved around the accusation from a grumpy site landlord that someone was stealing her toilet rolls from the communal toilets. We responded by pairing up for visits to the ”lav’ so that we could implement random bag searches and offer witness protection. I vaguely remember that the culprit turned out to be one of the other tenants who used the yoga weekend as a decoy for their smuggling exploits; I might check in to see how this landlord fared through Lockdown I when toilet tissue was at a premium and black market sales must have been rife. It must be karma that Zoom has proved to be the friend of yoga teachers regarding toilet roll accusations this year.

Anyway, this is not why I am writing about the yoga weekend; I want to talk about landing lightly so that you do not flip your lily pad. Let me explain.

This yoga weekend has been positioned perfectly in the school term i.e. we have been back for five whole days after a two week holiday. On this basis you may think that the weekend could have been more beneficial if it fell later in the term, but in all probability, you are unlikely to care and will realise that not many yoga teachers deliver lessons on ‘Macbeth’ as a side hustle.

In addition, while we teaching folk had to endure this Easter break you are more likely to have been WFH and/or self-employed/furloughed through the last 12 months. However, as I zoom in for the first yoga workshop, I have to acknowledge that personally I am already feeling overwhelmed with school, worried about how anxious students and teachers remain about this unprecedented ‘non-exam’ grading season and how full my head is of stories I am still processing after spending my Easter break maxing out on some lovely catch ups with my mates. I give you this as my context, knowing that every other yoga teacher will have arrived on their mat this weekend with a very different – and probably more rational – map of the world.

So, the specific context for my yoga weekend blog ‘take away’ (stick with me and send thanks later) is that after the most blissful deep meditation session on the first morning led by one of our yoga ambassadors and the subsequent opportunity for an alfresco sunshine picnic in a ‘yoga-stoned’ state, we then glided back to our mats to compare what we had each eaten for lunch. This time, led by our mentor, trainer and general yoga strategist #Ann-See Yeoh, we were reminded of our potential through a yoga-on-steroids master class. My Sweaty Betty was set to implode.

As ever, Ann-See lured us in seamlessly – in the previous workshop I had warmed to her explanation of the Laws of Nature – I was specifically drawn to the Law of Least Effort and the Law of Detachment, feeling that for me, these could affiliate perfectly into my Law of Pure Potential. I was ready to float slowly back down to my mat and gently flex my afternoon muscles before a cheeky evening gin tasting social beaconed at sun down (courtesy of the brainchild of yet another ridiculously talented yoga ambassador #ShetlandReel).

Our global yoga anarchist had other ideas.

Usually in a yoga class there is an option to ‘step or jump’ into a position. For this class, jumping was the intention and very much encouraged. I found myself regretting the large baguette I had eaten for lunch and repeatedly face planting on my mat . As I tried to navigate these strong poses I heard Ann-See whisper, ‘remember to land like a butterfly,’ yet I seemed to be flopping into position like a fat, hungry caterpillar who had yet to find her wings.

‘Don’t flip your lily pad,’ Ann-See then advised. My lily pad had capsized and was now submerged, I needed to refocus, and this is my point.

I think I have been treading too heavily since Lockdown III started easing and I saw the prospect of blue sky ahead. I am now in need of a lighter touch. My tendency to overthink and over-commit will submerge my lily pad if I fail to master some buoyancy and poise in a timely fashion. The class was certainly strong, but it reminded me that you can show drive and potential without moving like a caterpillar in Doc Martins. You can have sessions of high intensity and then you can perhaps stop to sunbathe on your lily pad and dip your toes gently in to the water while you contemplate your next move.

As soon as I acknowledge these things, my lily pad appears to rebalance and I find I can actually manage some of the yoga sequences again – and more importantly – laugh at myself when I crash into the water. If I have learnt one thing through various lockdowns, it is the ability to right myself.

Day II provides more opportunity to maximise my capacity to flex – this time in a two hour work shop of yogic animal movement. This is another brilliant session, and I am in awe of the ambassador who leads it. The class is less butterfly and more gorilla, scorpion and – in my case- Pushme-Pulliyou. I manage 90 minutes and then reflect that I need to lie back on my mat and glow radiantly. I breathe in deeply and imagine I am floating on my lily pad after a valiant swim across the pond.

In terms of both yogic and work-life balance I may still be at caterpillar stage but it would be careless to eat the lily leaf that holds me while I wait for my wings to emerge (besides, chocolate is more tempting). After a weekend of huddling, my new intention is to navigate through my ungainly chrysalis stage without having to resort to another lockdown. I intend to approach the next few weeks lightly, so do not worry if I am unusually quiet. Feel free to join me even – I have a large and buoyant lily pad available.

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