A few years ago I moved to Mexico to become a yoga teacher for people who neither speak English, nor have any grounding in yoga. It was a steep learning curve for all of us.
Today I’m thinking a lot about comfort zones and the way we challenge ourselves. I’ve been travelling and coming and going for years, and to me, that is my comfort zone. Staying at home in London and working shifts feels so uncomfortable to me (and not in the good way). For ages I never spent more than 3 months in one place.
Before Mexico I (accidentally) spent 9 months living and working at home. It was ok. I was teaching yoga which made it bearable but knowing there was a whole world out there made me burn up and I never felt settled. Plan one was to go travelling for 6 months and see where I was after that. The universe wasn’t into that one. It seemed like the world was telling me to focus. To get behind what I really want to do and push. That’s what I did and I ended up living and working in Mexico for 6 months. It was fantastic.
Change is scary, definitely, but sometimes, doing nothing is scarier. I haven’t always felt so nourished by change. In fact the first couple of big changes I went through (moving to university and living in Spain), felt like disasters at the time. It has been through my yoga practice that I have come to understand change is inevitable, and learnt to embrace it.
Practising asana has shown me that my body changes. In the long run yes, I am getting stronger and more flexible, but there are still periods when asana feels more challenging and I can’t do the things I expect of myself. My body and my practice change each time I step on the mat and part of it is to accept myself where I am.
Meditation gives me the mental space to process change. Sitting in stillness allows me to notice my thoughts and feelings around specific things and not to be overwhelmed by them. My yoga practice has helped me to accept that things cannot stay the same and to unattach myself from things in my life which are past their sell-by. Not all the time and with every thing is it an easy transition but there is a clarity there which I attribute to practising yoga.
I’ve heard it said so many times that we regret the things we didn’t do rather than the things we did. For me, this certainly feels true. I don’t for one minute regret going to university, or to live in Spain. Despite how much they challenged me at the time I recognise how much better those choices have made my life now. I do regret, however, that time I was invited to an after show party at a TV recording I was in the audience for, but I was too shy to accept.
To carry on the clichés, at the end of the day, what’s the worst that could happen? Usually the worse will not happen and quite often (in my experience) it will be the opposite. One technique that I use when I’m feeling really unsure of myself in a new situation is to give myself an out.
For example, before I went to Mexico I recognised that the first three months could be really hard. I could be lonely, I could feel out of my depth, any number of my fears could be realised. I decided that if I didn’t enjoy myself, and if I still couldn’t see any light at the end of 6 months, I would leave. In the end I had the most amazing time, but just having the option stops me from feeling trapped and takes a lot of the pressure off.
I know this change (lockdown) isn’t one we’ve chosen for ourselves and we can’t exactly give ourselves an out either, but there are other ways to get on board with changes thrust upon us.
Another piece of advice I give myself is to accept all opportunities that come my way surrounding a new situation. The flip side of that is that we have to be honest with ourselves. It’s important to recognise that big changes can be exhausting.
When everything is new your brain is trained not to relax entirely. That is draining and we need to look after ourselves in any way we can, especially when we are going through or facing change. For now those opportunities may be to take your work online, to reconnect with loved ones, to make the most of time outside. Still try to nourish yourself through it.
To really get into myself I keep a journal, to help me get clear on how I truly feel about the places I find myself and the people around me.
Change will happen whether we want it to or not (and it seems a lot less painful when we don’t fight it). Although it is a fear we can learn to overcome, it doesn’t mean it will be easy. I find there is always a lot of nervous anticipation and excitement around change for me but I have learnt, through yoga and through living life, that just because I’m nervous doesn’t mean that something bad is about to happen.
Change can be the catalyst for the greatest growth in our life, as long as we consciously partake and don’t allow our nerves to overwhelm us.