What a year it has been. A year no one predicted or can say they were ready for. A year where our struggles rose to the surface and learning patience would be the only way to get through each week. I have never been patient about anything. Commented on by family, school teachers, friends, employers and even honours supervisors, I’m still a work in progress with COVID-19 bringing this lesson to the forefront. But it is through my yoga practice that I am learning patience best, learning patience with myself and others.
“I fell in love with yoga and what it could do for you physically, mentally and emotionally,” says yoga instructor Shelley Townsend, who began teaching mind-body style classes 16 years ago and soon launched into specific training in 2012. And where Shelley teaches predominantly in gyms – I am grateful for her Tuesday morning class – her style of yoga centres on physical poses.
“At every level this builds strength and mobility that improves physical well being and the performance of life activities,” explains Shelley. “But it is in the understanding of alignment that I believe there are the biggest initial gains for those who take up yoga”
“Just knowing what good posture is and how to achieve it as we move through life has a huge impact on the prevention of injury and the reduction of pain”
In addition to asana and pranayama there are six other limbs in traditional yoga teaching that aim to transform and benefit every aspect of life. And while not a yogi herself, Shelley can appreciate the consistencies with her own Christian philosophy. One such area is around patience.
“The Bible teaches that patience is a spiritual fruit, a virtue to be sought after. We usually think of this as patience towards others. It is a quality to be worked at and one which would make our world a better place to live.
“Within the yoga limb of yama, which deals with restraints and moral disciplines, is ahimsa or non-violence and this is towards others and ourselves. Being patient with ourselves means not doing things which can hurt ourselves,” says Shelley.
Adopting An Attitude of ahimsa
Shelley explains that when we come into our practice of yoga poses and postures with an attitude of ahimsa, it means we need to learn to be patient with ourselves.
This can translate to accepting things such as:
- Taking time and perseverance to achieve desired results;
- Understanding our bodies are unique and individually structured and what is possible for one may not be for another;
- Options within poses cater to the uniqueness of our bodies and not the level of ability;
- Comparing ourselves with others is not usually helpful;
- “Challenging” ourselves while maintaining correct alignment leads to improvement but “struggling” in a posture while out of alignment leads to injury;
- Some days we just need to rest.
Shelley’s Favourite Quotes on Patience
One of my favourite parts of Shelley’s Tuesday morning practice are the quotes she shares before shavasana:
We could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world
– Helen Keller
How poor are they that have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees – William Shakespeare (Othello)
There is something good in all seeming failures. You are not to see that now. Time will reveal it. Be patient – Swami Sivananda
And with COVID forcing gym closures, yoga proved an exception in Shelley’s routine. “I found real joy in doing my own practice, alone, and was drawn to it much more than any other form of exercise. Feeling my body move and the total focus, without distraction, was a delight. I set myself just a few challenges, that kept me motivated but not bound or obligated, and this was really helpful. These challenges were all arm balances, poses that I find most difficult, which requires my patience”.
Shelley Townsend is a registered yoga instructor, trainer and presenter with Les Mills Asia Pacific.