Debi Henderson: In Pursuit of the Elusive Calm
By Debi Henderson
I was always very flexible, and as I loved fitness and the gym, I found that a yoga practice after an intense workout did wonders to my body and mind. A little bit of stretching here. A little bit of stretching there. If I’m honest, I loved to show off my bendiness. I had made the judgement that yoga was just something for hippy people to teach, and it was far too ‘slow’ for me to take seriously.
At the time, I was working as a cabin crew for a major airline, and I loved to party. Maybe a bit too much. I started to spiral out of control, and in my forties, I became addicted to alcohol and far too many substances that were affecting my mental state. I spent years in and out of therapy, detox, binge drinking, then abstaining and nothing helped me.
One of my long-suffering friends suggested we try a seated meditation class. I reluctantly went and hated every minute of it, but something about the teacher’s calmness and serenity piqued my interest. Could I find this elusive calm? I decided to try this teacher’s Hatha yoga class – it was more movement with the breath; after all, I would easily be able to do the poses. How wrong I was. In that class, I discovered the strength of yoga teachers – each pose demands focus and a concentration that I had never experienced before. The strength of their body was followed by their mind, and they radiated a sense of peace – it was inspiring.
I went back again and again, and each class reinforced my curiosity about this ancient discipline. I started to eat more healthily. I stopped smoking. I stopped wanting to party. Most importantly, I stopped drinking. I became so immersed in yoga and its benefits, I decided to take the British wheel of the yoga foundation course. A six-week immersion into the Yoga basics. The poses. The philosophy. The history. I had the most wonderful teacher who mesmerised me, and I loved every minute of it. I loved learning.
My passion was well and truly ignited, and with that, I signed up for a two-year teacher training with world-renowned teacher Simon Low at the yoga academy. I worked so hard on my course and knew that I had found the job I wanted to do – to help other people, both mentally and physically. I felt as if I had come home. My love for flying was waning, and my company offered a redundancy package that I took with the intention of maybe teaching yoga to a few friends to get by. I was 54 and was stepping way out of my comfort zone. To say teaching my first class, which a friend asked me to cover for her, was scary is an understatement. I was terrified. As I stood at the front of that class, I honestly wanted to run away. Hide. Drink. Be anywhere else than there at that moment. I didn’t run away. I taught the class, and I loved every minute of it. From that one cover came the offer of many more as teacher’s needed days off. I decided to hire a hall and invited everyone in the area to come for a free class. This set up my weekly class. I made my own website, had business cards made, and worked on my social media presence. I suddenly had my own business. Pushtiyoga was born.
I am now working at a job I adore with a passion. I see people’s bodies change. They find more mobility in joints, fewer aches and pains. There is a freedom that comes with yoga, a slower pace of life. I see people transform from fidgeting bundles of stress to a calmer state right before my eyes.
The reason I practise and teach yoga is because it works. However old, however young. Touching your toes is not important, but the things we learn on the way down are. We learn that complicated poses are not as important as learning to be kind to yourself. Although it’s a wonderful moment when we master a pose, loving your body for what it can do, not what it cannot, is at the core of my teachings. The mind becomes stiller as we attempt to balance on one leg. There is no time to worry about our tax bill or where the car’s parked whilst attempting a headstand.
My teachings come from my heart, and I truly believe anyone can practise yoga and better their life like I did. My knowledge of yoga, movement and meditation has deepened with my studying and practising with top teachers. We are always learning. Always evolving.
We find a space in a yoga practice to just be ourselves, with ourselves. No ego, no competition. My job is done if even one person takes away a little piece of calm from my class. Oh, and if you master a pose, what a bonus.
Never give up on your dreams, whatever your age. I’m 58, and if I can do it, anyone can. Trust in yourself and follow your heart. It will never let you down.
I would like to thank my teachers who without their love, support and belief in me, my Yoga journey would never have started. Clare Gibson, Simon Low, Norman Blair, Isabella Ferreira and Bridget Woods Kramer. I am grateful to have you in my life.