Discovering yoga was the catalyst for a major life change for IYTA Committee member and lecturer, Alana Smith
My first contact with yoga was when our high school drama teacher instructed us in a yoga nidra practice. I remember having that amazing heavy relaxed feeling permeate my whole body and I thought I was having some sort of unique divine experience! I loved it!
I dabbled in yoga over the years, but I didn’t really commit in a major way until I was having a sort of breakdown. At age 36 I had quit my job as a high school teacher because I was disenchanted by how we were filling kids with too much information and not teaching enough life coping skills. The HSC students were stressed to the eyeballs and anxiety was rife throughout the school, amongst teachers and students alike. I didn’t know what to do next. Meanwhile my love life was in tatters. I’d been engaged to Mr Wrong and then too quickly got involved with another Mr Wrong. I was deeply lost and heartbroken.
Luckily I began to take a few yoga classes at Manly Yoga. I felt instantly welcomed, nurtured and understood by the teachers. They went over and above to explain concepts, to help with technique and to ask how I was coping generally. The relaxation and meditation skills they taught were so systematic and effective. During that tough period, I found that the days I went to yoga were good days. The days I didn’t were not so good…
When I began to feel better, I realised that I had spent a lot of my life feeling anxious, like something was missing, and I was always grasping after external solutions to fill that hole – work, relationships, possessions. But the more yoga I did, especially yoga nidra and meditation, the more secure I began to feel, as if I was finally finding what I had always been seeking – inner peace.
I began to realise that these were the kind of coping skills most of us really need, and I wanted to share them with others. I started yoga teacher training at Mangrove Yogic Studies course in 2014. Funnily enough I met my beautiful husband Dom there and we were married within a year! Yoga was really delivering the goods!!!
I then switched to the IYTA Yoga Teacher Training program because I wanted to train under David Burgess, renowned master of pranayama and meditation, and I liked the integrated program of monthly study weekends and the excellent teaching faculty. That year was a highlight of my life and I eagerly began teaching as soon as I could. To get so many happy relaxed faces smiling at me by the end of the class is always a real buzz.
I must have shown exceptional enthusiasm for teaching because I was soon invited to lecture on Yoga Philosophy for the IYTA. It is such a thrill to share my passion with others who are equally as enthusiastic about the vast and deep wisdom of yoga.
I also went on to manage Manly Yoga centre in its final few years, which was a great honour as it was one of the oldest yoga schools in Sydney! It was also really tough trying to salvage a tiny not-for-profit traditional yoga centre that had been struggling for a long while. Sadly we eventually had to close after 42 years of operation, and the grief of the long-standing, loyal community was hard to bear. I certainly needed to draw on all my yoga techniques to get me through that difficult period but I still feel a great sense of belonging to that robust and caring yoga community that lives on.
Through all the ups and downs of the past ten years, I have seen and experienced how yoga can transform lives and the beauty of it is that everyone has the capacity to heal themselves. It just takes a good teacher and a willingness to stay still and breathe. I am so lucky to have found yoga teachers that strongly emphasise relaxation, pranayama and meditation. They never lose focus of what yoga is truly about: the stilling of the mind so we can be our best selves.