What yoga means to me… By Catherine Gallagher

Lifestyle Soul Healing Yoga

What does yoga mean to me? In 500 words… Tricky. Even if I had infinity words this would be hard. Yoga quite literally means everything to me. It’s the way I wake up. It’s the way I live my life. It’s the way I understand and make sense of the world. It’s also my career.

I have always been a deeply spiritual person. I was raised in a spiritual family – Christian by culture but open to all the world religions and most meal time conversations would veer onto that topic. Birthday and Christmas presents included books like Autobiography of a Yogi, Commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita and The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions (yup!) My favourite subject at school was RS, I’m sure due to the fact I had an incredible teacher with tales of smuggling himself and his wife through Tibet whilst under occupation. Our GCSE lessons included writing letters to Amnesty International to help free religious prisoners. I was hooked! I went on to study Theology and Religious Studies at Bristol University earning a First Class Honours leading me into law school, a short lived career as a Barrister, then turned Marketing + Events Executive for a Global Financial Services Firm. It was at this point Yoga found me.

Buddha’s saying “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” has been so true for me. Yoga found me at the time I needed it most. Yoga began to mean the place I could truly breath again, feel safe, deal with my anxiety and emotional overwhelm. It meant a way I could enjoy a sense of freedom in my body and connection to every layer of myself leaving each class feeling confident, embodied and empowered. Yoga meant building strength and I don’t just mean on the mat.

My teacher recognised my love for the practice and offered me a place on her first ever teacher training. I said YES thinking (like many teachers) that I would never teach with the qualification, I’d just love to do the course for me. The thing is, Yoga is a practice of service, of devotion. Our service as Yogis appears in many different ways off the mat – it’s in how we spend our £, our politics, our use of language, how we treat each other, how we treat ourselves. We take the magic cultivated on the mat, off the mat to show up beautifully and as best we can as a result of filling our cup first by our dedicated and heart felt practice.

Upon qualifying, I couldn’t not teach and share this incredible practice. The sacred practice stems far beyond asana. It’s our ethics, our daily rituals and observances, our advanced breathing practices, our focussed concentration, our meditative ability to become the witness and observer of our thoughts and emotions and our devotion to the Self (God, Higher power, Source, Spirit – insert your word of choice). I follow Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga as taught to me by my teachers.

Since taking the leap of faith to become a Yoga Teacher full time, I haven’t look back since. This life doesn’t come without it’s difficulties but it’s given me an overall far richer life seasoned with travel, adventure, abundance, friendship, love and the most rewarding career. I assist yoga teacher trainings and mentor newly qualified yoga teachers in business on my signature Empower Programme.

For anyone interested in getting into yoga, my advice is to seek out teachers that move your heart, not just your body. Give it a go, show up (trust me, I know getting to the mat is the hardest part of the practice) and witness how you show up in your life off the mat. If it’s anything like it’s been for me – expect a magnitude of beneficial and transformational outcomes like feeling more alive, strong and compassionate in body, mind and soul.

May the practice serve you well. x

Join Catherine at 7pm on Sunday 21st June on our Instagram Live for a Summer Solstice Cooling Yoga Nidra. Visit here for the full agenda for International Yoga Day.

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