Tagged Finland

How yoga ruined my life

How could yoga possibly change someone’s life? I know the whole yoga-practicing, green-juice-drinking, positive-attitude yoga hippie is such a stereotype, but somehow this practice, that usually starts as a new hobby, can slowly start affecting your diet, relationships and outlook on life. This is the story of how yoga allowed me to go from just existing to actually living.

A few years back, I was in a relationship where I saw my significant other about once a month. I was living in a city where I didn’t feel welcome. Every morning, on my way to a soul crushing job, I wondered if I should board the train or jump under it. Then I found yoga.

I had previously attended trial classes and weekend courses for beginners, but yoga had never become a part of my life. I decided to try yoga again and was so lucky that the first class I attended was Geoff’s. At a time when nothing in my life made sense, his classes had me going back to the yoga studio every single Wednesday.

The workplace bullying, loneliness and unhappiness had started to deteriorate both my body and my mind. But for that one hour a week, I felt like I was good enough. After a while, I started going to other classes as well and nothing filled me with more excitement than rolling out a mat on the studio floor. Without even realizing it, a shift was slowly happening inside of me.

Instead of feeling like a victim of circumstances, I became the hero of my own life. I was sick of feeling sorry for myself. I realized, I don’t have to live here or work there. I can do whatever the hell I want. While yoga doesn’t remove problems, it helps me deal with any challenges life brings.

But yoga also ruined many things for me.

Yoga ruined my diet, because I’d much rather eat a bowl of lentil soup than a juicy steak.

Yoga ruined my career, because I’d rather practice handstands than learn how to use Excel.

Yoga ruined dinner parties, because sitting in a chair for extended amounts of time feels completely unnatural.

Yoga ruined my social life, because on a Friday night, I’d much rather attend a yoga class than go out to a club.

Yoga ruined my romantic life, because I’d rather do sun salutations than go on a date.

Yoga ruined my fashion sense, because I’d much rather wear yoga tights than skinny jeans.

Yoga ruined awkward moments, because long hugs and direct eye contact has become the norm.

Yoga ruined small talk, because I’d rather talk about feelings than the weather.

Yoga ruined excessive gossiping, because judging people is no fun anymore.

Yoga ruined limited beliefs, because I’ve witnessed that anything is possible.

Yoga ruined staying inside my comfort zone, because the more I step outside of it, the better life gets.

Yoga ruined worrying about the future, because I’ve learnt to focus on the present moment.

Yoga ruined my life. And I’m so happy it did. Because without it, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have one.

Tomorrow I start yoga teacher training.

© Sheri Lennon
© Sheri Lennon

The longest journey in just three days

It’s easy to think that travelling has to be into far away countries. But actually, this entire life is a journey. Just like on any other journey, you never know what life will bring you: surprises, disappointments, ups, downs, hellos and goodbyes. Travel is not a cure for anything (not even wanderlust – it just makes it worse!). I guess travel is my way to learn, to grow and to experience new things. That’s why, at the moment, being based in Helsinki, I try to fill the gaps between trips abroad with travel. How do I do it? I go to events such as World Village Festival, take a different route to work, try new restaurants, host Couchsurfers at my apartment and say yes to new experiences. It’s my way of bringing the world to me. It doesn’t make sense to dream about walking in a national park in a faraway country when I have nature at my door step. This doesn’t mean that I’ll stop travelling further away as well! It just means I’m right where I should be and happy about it.

When I found out that two of my favourite yoga teachers (and dear friends), Jack and Hanna, were organizing a yoga retreat an hour away from Helsinki, I knew I had to be part of it. The beginning of the year had been quite tough for me so I felt that this short holiday came at exactly the right time. Held at a Buddhist Retreat Centre on the shore of a serene lake, the retreat would include three days of yoga, meditation, healthy food and self-inquiry.

The last-mentioned scared me. Since the year had not been the best, it felt scary to plug out of the rest of the world and look within. For a long time I’d felt lost  – to the point of googling the meaning of life (believe it or not, even Google doesn’t have the answer to everything). What if more questions would reemerge at the retreat and I’d feel even more lost? Since it scared me, I knew it would be good for me.

The retreat started on Thursday night with welcome dinner and yoga class. As the retreat centre is located on the shore of a lake, those who wanted could wind down with a swim and sauna. The next day we continued with meditation, yoga, good food, discussion and writing exercises.

All the yoga classes and discussion sessions where held in the meditation hall of the Buddhist Retreat Centre.
All the yoga classes and discussion sessions were held in the meditation hall of the Buddhist Retreat Centre.
The day’s programme was always written on a flip board.
The day’s programme was always written on a flip board.
At the retreat, we had two private chefs, who prepared an abundance of nutritious and delicious food for us several times a day.
At the retreat, we had two private chefs, who prepared an abundance of nutritious and delicious food for us several times a day.
The sun shone almost the entire weekend. Whenever there was free time, you could sit outside with a cup of tea, while enjoying the weather and the company of other yogis.
The sun shone almost the entire weekend. Whenever there was free time, you could sit outside with a cup of tea, while enjoying the weather and the company of other yogis.

On Friday night, after yin yoga class, we had to team up with a partner and share things that haven’t gone right in our life. After that a silence was announced. The loneliness of being left completely alone with dark thoughts felt overwhelming. I think some of us just felt ready to leave the whole retreat.

On Saturday I felt so annoyed, confused and just lonely. Yoga didn’t inspire me at all and the exercises we did writing or discussing felt totally pointless. The weird thing was, no-one was judging me. I was actually acknowledged for having the integrity to not participate in something that didn’t feel right and for having the vulnerability to cry in front of strangers. It felt refreshing to show your real feelings and still be loved for who you are. I have noticed that the truest of friends stay by your side even when you’re going through tough times. But how could every single one of these eighteen people, most of whom I had known for less than 48 hours, completely accept me for who I am?

I am especially grateful to Jack, who instead of defining me as someone who doesn’t participate, kept pushing until I did. Sometimes you need the help of other people to do something. And even though it was so hard to declare out loud what was hard in life, when I was finally able to do it (between uncontrollable sobs), I felt cleansed.

Every day, someone read a chapter from “Journey to the Heart” by Melody Beattie. It was almost scary how poignant a text that was chosen randomly could be. There were even word-for-word sentences about something that had been discussed prior. After physical and mental exercises that completely drained us, the book gave us hope and encouragement.

It was incredible how a bunch of strangers could immediately form such a strong bond.
It was incredible how a bunch of strangers could immediately form such a strong bond.
In the words of fellow yogi Jussi, these really are the superyogis.
In the words of fellow yogi Jussi, these really are the superyogis.
On Sunday it was my 30th birthday. I could never have imagined five years ago, that on my 30th birthday I'd be at a Buddhist Retreat Centre in the middle of the Finnish countryside with people I'd just met! I guess I wasn't exactly where I thought I'd be, but probably right where I was supposed to be.
On Sunday it was my 30th birthday. I could never have imagined five years ago, that on my 30th birthday I’d be at a Buddhist Retreat Centre in the middle of the Finnish countryside with people I’d just met! I guess I wasn’t exactly where I thought I’d be, but probably right where I was supposed to be.
They say you become similar to the people you spend time with. I guess I should hang out with people who accept me as I am, so I can start accepting myself as well (and stop Googling the meaning of life, because really, how boring would it be knowing the answer to that?).
They say you become similar to the people you spend time with. I guess I should hang out with people who accept me as I am, so I can start accepting myself as well (and stop Googling the meaning of life, because really, how boring would it be knowing the answer to that?).

Like I said, you don’t have to travel to far away countries to experience a journey. But I never expected so much to happen in such a short time. I felt more emotions in three days than I usually do in three months. On Sunday night, before passing out after the most intense weekend of my life, my favourite quote sprung to mind: “The longest journey you will ever take are the 18 inches from your head to your heart”.