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How Yoga Changed My Life: “After Four Years Of Daily Practice, I’m Calmer, More Focused And Open To People”

We speak to mountain yoga instructor Susan Greenwood about how yoga altered her life for the better…

Photo: Total Women’s Cycling/Susan Greenwood
Susan Greenwood is a journalist, travel writer, yoga teacher and former editor of Cooler. She’s an avid cyclist, climber and skier, and currently splits her time between London and the French Alps.

“I started yoga after a horrendous rotator cuff injury I sustained while downhill mountain biking in the French Alps. Within two days, I couldn’t lift my arm to shoulder height or move it from left or right

I was a feature writer and production editor for a national newspaper – a job that involved loads of travelling – it was ace! I moved around a lot, got to do amazing things. I’ve always been an outdoors type of person – I love rock climbing, cycling, all sorts really.

After my injury, I lost a lot of strength… I couldn’t lift my arm to shoulder height

After my injury, my arm was pretty immobile and stayed like that for around six months. I lost a lot of strength and the muscle pattern in my back and arm became really weird. This meant a lot of my favourite sports were out of the question.

A friend suggested yoga and I lucked out on finding a great teacher who was also a sports massage therapist (Steph Lightfoot, you are a legend!). So my introduction into yoga was purely for rehabilitation purposes.

I had taken my physical strength for granted for decades. It was only through yoga I realised that I wasn’t necessarily strong where I needed to be, or that I was mistaking short muscles for strong ones.

Photo: Susan Greenwood

The physical change from yoga asana has been slow, because of the sports I do. If I could sling my legs behind my head easily, perhaps I wouldn’t have the strength required to climb like I do.

However, after four years of daily practice – and I mean daily – I find my muscles are longer and stronger.

For me, the biggest changes have been mentally and spiritually. I find I am calmer, more focussed and open to life and people. I  feel a lot more positive and energised by challenges as opposed to seeing them as obstacles.

Yoga gives us the realisation that we have the power, that we are the stars of our story..

The amazing thing about yoga is that it hands you the reins to your life. A lot of the time we can feel quite disassociated from our bodies and our lives, as if we don’t have control over them. Yoga gives us the realisation that we have the power, that we are the stars of our story.

It’s definitely given me a sense of belonging within the world. Yoga philosophy is very grounding and it offers direction. It’s not easy or simple to break away from these tropes of behaviour that we build up over the years in order to survive, but I’ve found it to be a very rewarding journey.

I started my teacher training with no desire to teach – I just wanted to deepen my practice as I felt I was merely scratching the surface going to asana classes.

I wouldn’t say that now I have any of the answers to life’s questions, but my age and life experience coupled with yoga, I hope, means people can walk away from one of my classes feeling better about life.

I teach a rather powerful vinyasa flow which links breath to movement. It’s very alignment based as I come from a ski/ climbing background. I’m aware of the injuries bodies sustain in that environment.

I also come from a very bhakti (devotional) yoga background. We like to use music as a way into the mind, so pretty much all of my classes have a soundtrack that matches the theme of the class. Yes, that includes everything from the Rolling Stones to Public Enemy.

You have to find a yoga teacher that you connect with in order to really click with yoga…

Overall, yoga is so much more than a physical practice. You miss out on so much if you think it’s only about toned, young, white girls doing handstands on the beach. It’s not the only side of yoga so don’t let it threaten you.

The mistake a lot of people make is to go to a class, hate it and then assume that’s what all yoga is like. You have to find a yoga teacher that you connect with in order to really click with yoga.

My advice is go to a lot of different classes before deciding yoga isn’t for you.”

Check out more from Susan on Morzine Yoga Space

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