Yoga Self Practice Share: Big Career and Big Yoga Practice
Rebecca --- @Somewhat_RAD --- And her cats, Noodle & Zeppelin
Big corporate career + growing family + two cats + lots of yoga and community building?
This Self Practice share is from Yoga Self-Practice founder Rebecca, aka @somewhat_rad. While Rebecca is deeply passionate about her own yoga practice, and helping as many people as she can create and sustain a self-practice, yoga is very much just one part of her very full life.
Rebecca came to yoga in her late twenties to recover after being hit by a van. Some four years later she still can't quite believe she practices regularly and that is a qualified teacher. Forget about all the Instagram malarkey!
These days you will find Rebecca juggling being a mum, progressing in her career in the City of London, self-practicing in her kitchen with her two lilac Burmese cats (Noodle and Zeppelin), oh, and running Yoga Self Practice!
Can you share the when/where/what/why’s of how you started your yoga practice?
I started yoga in January 2015, 6 months after I was hit by a van cycling to work in central London. At that point, while my broken collarbone had healed, I still could not lift my right arm above my shoulder, so after some failed physiotherapy (failed because I never did any of my homework!), I went to try and heal myself through yoga.
I was in my late twenties and had zero background in sports or gymnastics or dance, so my start was long and slow and deeply frustrating! I started going to one or two Iyengar yoga classes a week in the gym at my work. Honestly, it was so brutal for both my body – I had zero flexibility or strength, and my mind – I had zero patience or faith in myself or the process, that was all I could manage. [Side note: I couldn't recommend Iyengar yoga more highly for beginners who want a super solid and super efficient grounding to get them started.]
But with time, about 6-9 months, I started to really enjoy it. And then I was ready for vinyasa yoga, which is where I fell in love.
You can read all about my yoga journey on this series on my blog and see some of my favourite posts describing my entire yoga journey on the Instagram hashtag “somewhatradsgreatesthits”.
What were the big milestones in your yoga journey?
Setting my private Instagram account to public in October 2015 was a big one as I don’t think I ever would have continued through all the ups and downs without the community and inspiration I have received from IG.
Next would be breaking my collarbone (yep, again!) in February 2016: this time from falling out of a yoga pose I had absolutely zero business even attempting. It was so humbling for me to injure myself so severely practicing yoga. But I am super grateful it happened so early in my journey as I learned a VERY important lesson about ego right at the start!
After that came doing my yoga teacher training in the summer of 2017. I did it with the one and only Dylan Werner and went in with absolutely zero ambitions to teach. But after 3.5 totally transformative weeks, by the autumn of 2017 I was teaching a regular class, and by winter was teaching workshops (including my Yoga Self-Practice workshop which was the foundation for this entire community).
Lastly, I should probably mention being pregnant and having a baby. That was basically all of 2018 for me and holy moly I learned a lot about myself and my practice. I had a physical asana practice right up to the day before my son was born, and was back on my mat very gently 2 weeks after. My full-ish practice started again at around 6 weeks but the emphasis here should be on the ish. It took me a good 3 months still I felt even vaguely like myself on my mat, and over 6 before I felt some of my old strength returning. A year on, I have a lot less flexibility and stamina as I am practicing so much less than I was before. But I am always trying to remind myself that I am just practicing a different kind of yoga these days.
What does your current yoga practice look like?
Currently, I am juggling (in no particular order) a full-time career in finance, a young baby, a husband, and two online communities. And my yoga practice. So honestly, my asana practice has greatly reduced since its peak in the months before and after my YTT.
Back then, I was going to 2-4 yoga classes a week, plus self-practicing most days for between 5 minutes and 2 hours.
Now, I’m lucky if I can get to one class a week. On top of that, in a good week, I can manage 3 or 4 self-practice sessions (though for a maximum of an hour) as well. In a bad week maybe it’s just one of 5 or 15 minutes.
My goal with my yoga practice is to keep at it for my entire life, so I am trying to be incredibly kind to and patient with myself in this period of my life where it’s hard to make it onto my mat. I don’t want yoga to ever become a chore or a stick with which I beat myself up. So I do what I can, when I can. Knowing that the time will come back one day.
How do you stay motivated when the going gets tough in your yoga journey?
There are a few things which have helped me massively with my motivation over the years: posting my real practice on Instagram, not just pictures of pretty poses, writing my “My Week in Yoga” blog posts (though I am yet to get back to this post having the baby), and truly believing that 5 minutes is enough.
For the first two, the public accountability, support and tracking is hugely valuable to me. Which says more than I would like to acknowledge about what kind of person I am!!
For the latter, this removed a massive hurdle when it came to my yoga self-practice. It can be so hard to step onto your mat without a teacher or a video or a book telling you what to do. And it’s so easy to have this expectation that it should look like what you would do in a class. By telling myself, on repeat until I started believing it, that 5 minutes was enough, I got on my mat countless more times that I would have. Over time those 5 minutes add up, and more often than not, those 5 turn into 10, 15 or longer.
How do you practice non-asana yoga?
This is where the real work in the next leg of my yoga journey lies. I try to keep the values of the Yamas and Niyamas close to heart both on and off the mat. I think that Tapas shines through in my asana practice, and that I get lots of opportunities to work on my Svadhyaya (self-study) in my corporate career, and Ishvara Pranidhana (surrender) through parenting!!
There is as ever, much more I need to learn and work on. The physical side of the practice is for sure the piece I am most comfortable with, and the piece I most consciously focus on. But I am working towards this not always being the case, mainly by always coming back reading books on yoga, it’s heritage and philosophy. Even if it takes me a lifetime.
Who or what inspires you when it comes to yoga?
Oh my goodness, so many. Instagram is obviously amazing for inspiration on the asana side (and if your Insta feed brings you anything apart from joy and inspiration I would unfollow, unfollow, unfollow until that changes). I like to go on podcast binges occasionally too (my favourite being Yoga Revealed). But really, I love to read anything I can get my hands on about yoga.
I share a bunch of my favourite yoga reads in my book: The Book of Yoga Self Practice.
How you juggle your yoga life and practice, with work, family and friends?
The truth is that I don’t. It’s a rare day where I have managed to be my best self at work, at home, on my mat and with my friends. I think I do a pretty good job of juggling the work/family/yoga equation, but the piece that regularly gets dropped right now is friends. I am a pretty rubbish day to day friend at the moment. I hope I make up for it when the going gets tough (I pride myself on being great in a crisis) but still, I don’t have nearly as much time or capacity for my friends as I would like.
When it comes to fitting yoga in when life is so full of everything else, there were two things that changed the game for me. Firstly, surprise surprise, yoga self-practice. Not having to schelp to a yoga studio meant I started practicing so much more regularly. And believing that any practice of any length is a real practice. Learning to practice myself and lowering the bar to do that practice has made the juggle infinitely more manageable. Which is ultimately why I decided to write all my self-practice secret sauce into a book.
What impact has had a regular yoga practice had on your life?
HUGE, HUGE, HUGE. There are many days now where I just feel I am a profoundly different person because of my practice. I am so calm and steady and just deep down content. My practice has enabled me to get really comfortable with making mistakes and not knowing what I am doing. It has shown me that all that matters is that I keep coming back, again and again. Because consistency and commitment is everything. My emotions aren’t in control of me: I can choose how I feel just as much as I can choose to get on to my mat. And those revelations are so freeing. My asana practice, the reading I do around it, and the constant effort to incorporate all the limbs into my life has been a total gamechanger in short!
Last but not least, can you share some words of wisdom with us before you go?
Best advice I have ever been given regarding yoga?
You don’t practice asana to get good at asana, you practice asana to get good at living
Advice on yoga I love to share?
The first several months of a yoga practice for many people (especially those who are injured, older, and/or who have no background in movement) are going to be so much harder than you imagine, but the rewards are a million times better too. All you have to do is stick with it, promise!
One thing I wish I’d known earlier in my yoga journey:
That it is ok for your practice to change radically as your life and needs change. Different styles, different teachers, different times and different tempos. Just keep showing up, no matter what it looks like.