Christmas Day, I’ve woken up hungover, not badly hungover but enough for my Mother to question my tone of voice on Viber, asking if i was ok? This year I’m spending Christmas solo in Varkala, India. I resigned from my job in Australia end of November, deciding to spend 9 weeks traveling India to regain some clarity around the direction of my life, as I felt it needed to change.
The first 4 weeks of my trip was spent in Madurai at the Sivananda Meenakshi Ashram completing a 1 month intensive yoga teaching training course, which I graduated from last Saturday! Yes, I can now officially teach hatha yoga classes, well my certificate looks nice anyway. Completing the teacher training was one of the most challenging experiences of my life, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally, it pushed all the right buttons and the sense of accomplishment at the end for me was indescribable, especially as I never thought I was capable in the first place. I highly recommend doing this course if you want to upgrade your internal and external software and of course, walk away a certified yoga teacher and help people also feel good about themselves!
So now I’m spending week 5 relaxing in Varkala, enjoying freedom, hot showers and muslie for breakfast again! Varkala is located in the south of Kerela, down by the beach, a cliff side paradise of cheap restaurants, shopping, massages, beach swims and of course plenty of delicious food and booze! I did have this plan of staying sober and eating healthy after completing the teacher course but my mind convinced me to let go and enjoy myself, have some beer and cocktails, eat a veggie burger and chips, undoing all the wholesome ‘yogi’ work I’d clocked up at the ashram the past 30 days. I leave Varkala on Sunday, to spend another 4 weeks in Tiruvannamalai before I fly back home to the unknown, and as I type this, feeling somewhat average, I now realise the importance of every decision I make.
When I completed the teacher training I was glowing, the physical affects of doing yoga for 30 days changes your body, you lose weight, tone up, gain strength and flexibility, but also mentally and emotionally you gain this sense of love for yourself which then radiates to all those around you. You actually wake up wanting to do yoga in the morning, you feel at peace with the world, life just flows along effortlessly, anxiety and stress melt away and happiness becomes your true nature. So of course you want to continue to celebrate this new feeling of bliss, especially on holidays when making new friends, you order booze, have some greasy food and then before you know it, you don’t feel like doing yoga in the morning, you feel tired, run down and just want to sleep, drink and eat instead. But it’s Christmas, the time of indulging the senses, so you allow yourself another cocktail and piece of chocolate cake thinking that it will bring you a sense of joy and fulfillment, but instead all you want to do is pass out from a sugar coma in bed.
When it comes to my relationship with alcohol, I clearly see now that there are two paths in life I can take. There is the path whereby I drink alcohol, which always seems to lead to bad decision making ( indulging or desiring things that aren’t good for me ) and then I feel lazy and my health gets neglected for a few days. Or there is the path where I don’t drink alcohol, I wake up feeling vibrant, choose to do loving things for my body, make the right decisions and my state of consciousness expands. In 2013 I quit booze for an entire year and even though there were moments where I swear I was dreaming about wine, overall I was much better off without it. Everyone is different, but for me, I honestly think it comes down to just one question. What holds you back from being the best version of yourself? My answer, what I choose to put in my body each and every day. Alcohol is no longer working for me anymore, I realise this today. The short term pleasure I receive from a drink comes at a cost to my spiritual growth which is why, as of today, I am choosing to no longer drink alcohol again.
Instead I am choosing to love myself, not in a vain, arrogant, I am awesome, look at me being all healthy and sober sort of way. When you choose to love something you cherish it, you give it attention, you invest time in it, when it’s happy, you are happy, love makes love expand. Choosing love when it comes to the Self means putting awareness on it, wanting nothing but the best for it which means being more aware of what you put in it, exercising, meditating, thinking positive thoughts, becoming a better human being which hopefully inspires others to do the same. This the core essence of what yoga is, having a system in place that allows you to operate at your best, each and every day.
Today I loved in the past has been a blog about picking specific challenges like being grateful and quitting alcohol and running them for an entire year. I wouldn’t have been able to complete those challenges without this blog as writing makes you accountable, it creates self discipline which is so fundamental when implementing new routines when wanting to change. From my own personal experience, if you want to change something in your life, first step is set a goal, followed by some ground rules and then the rest is a mix of will power, dedication and support. Document your journey and be proud of even the small changes along the way.
Everything first comes from a thought ( the mind ), that thought then becomes an action, which then, if repeated, becomes a habit, habits become a personality, a personality becomes a destiny. So, if you want to change your destiny, you first must change your thoughts, makes sense. But is not as easy as just saying, hey, cool, I’m going to now change my thoughts, the mind has been running the show for a very long time, you have no idea what it will think next and most of the time, through this thing called desire, it’s very good at getting what it wants. So to help change the mind you need a really good support system in place, this is Yoga. I’m not talking new age yoga of trying to look sexy doing some crazy backward bend on one hand yoga, I’m talking proper old school yoga, which has 5 basic principles, proper exercise ( asanas ), proper breathing ( pranayama ), proper relaxation ( savasana ), proper diet ( vegetarian, no alcohol ) and meditation and positive thinking.
As I want to continue implementing all that I learnt on the yoga teacher training, I’ve decided that the next Today I Loved challenge will start today. It didn’t take long to come up with this idea, Today I Loved Yoga, loving union with the body and mind, union with the Self. The next 365 days I will work on calming my mind, nurturing my body and reconnecting with my true nature.
The ground rules for Today I loved Yoga are:
- Exercise the body daily with asanas or walking.
- Meditate and connect with Self daily for at least 20 mins
- Eat a wholesome vegetarian diet and cut out alcohol.
Breathing, relaxation and positive thinking automatically jumps on board once the first 3 are implemented, I know this from my experience in the ashram for 30 days. When you are meditating you are working on your breathing. When you exercise you counteract this with relaxation afterwards. When you are eating well you feel great so positive thoughts become your nature.
So this is the new challenge that I accept and will document over the next 365 days.
Today I loved Yoga, choosing to love and connect with the Self wholeheartedly, creating new healthy conscious habits to support this, letting go and allowing life to flow, being awareness to all the changes and documenting the interesting stuff that takes place!