I hesitantly stepped into my first yoga class at a time where I really felt like I had hit rock bottom. I was around 17 years old, I had an eating disorder and suffered with anorexia and depression. I had lost a sense of my basic human needs – I did not eat or drink well, I did not sleep, I isolated myself from friends and family that I loved. I was very weak, tired, confused, anxious, and lonely. I had lost a sense of who I was, what I wanted, what made me tick, and what I valued as my whole world was consumed by these self-destructive eating disorder thought patterns and behaviours. I was lost.

My doctor recommended I tried yoga as a ‘low intensity form of exercise’ (having now been to Laura Butchers 90 minute power vinyasa at Soul Sanctuary, I can say from experience that he definitely made an incorrect assumption that yoga was low intensity… p.s give that class a go – it’s amazing!).

So I tried my first yoga class, and I struggled, big time. Both physically, I was not strong or energised enough which I found very upsetting and frustrating as I was always sporty and active my whole life up until this point, and emotionally, I could not be present and the chatter in my head was too much to deal with. I refused to listen to what my body and mind was trying to tell me. Despite all of this, I can only describe it as something so deep and hidden inside me, perhaps I could call it intuition or gut feel, which ignited a belief that I needed to carry on. I felt a sense of instinctual knowing that this could help me. In hindsight, ‘help’ was a huge understatement.

I can now say yoga has enabled me to find my true passion, meet the most incredible people, and has led me to my dream job. I qualified as a yoga teacher during my first year at University (I just couldn’t wait to do it any later! Typical me, always impatient – it’s a work on of mine..). When I graduated, I began visiting Soul Sanctuary Studios. I fell in love with the empowering psychology and physical challenge and fun that was intertwined within the classes. I was completely OBSESSED and just wanted to learn and practice as much as possible. I can honestly say that it was through being immersed in these classes, taught by the most incredible teachers, that I was able to make some life changing breakthroughs for my mental and physical health.

One of my biggest learnings from yoga was when Laura Butcher, founder of Soul Sanctuary and teacher, spoke about authenticity and true self in her class. These words landed on me like a heavy weight had just been dropped down straight on my chest. They had stirred something inside me and provoked a self-conscious, fearful but also curious reaction which I was not expecting. With a lot of self-reflection, journaling and kind conversations with friends, I had worked out that I had spent a lot of my life so far pleasing others, showing up in a polite, happy way as a child when really deep down, I was suffering. Putting on that brave face. Working extremely hard to achieve, which really was a way to validate my self-worth and to impress others. Essentially, I was the opposite of authentic. I started to question, “Well, who really am I? What do I actually think and feel and value? What do I really want..?”. As overwhelming as this felt, I was determined and committed to finding answers.

Laura and all the teachers at Soul Sanctuary have showed me how to regain personal empowerment that I have craved for so long. They have made me feel that it is ok to not be or feel a certain way all the time. They have taught me that to live a truly meaningful life, I need to embrace all the shades of my personality and I can now see challenges in the past as gifts that have made me a much stronger and more confident person, rather than events to be ashamed of. I’m still learning, still journalling, still finding my feet and making mistakes along the way too but I know I am on the right path to grow and align with my true self. I have yoga and Soul Sanctuary to thank for all of this.

In the book ‘Perfectly Imperfect’ by Baron Baptiste, he summarises this wonderfully, “I see a real yogi as someone who is committed to growth and to being the best version of themselves, and, at the same time, is courageous enough to be fully present and authentic in each moment. Someone who is not afraid to get real about the whole mess of who they are – the good, the bad, and the ugly”.

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