The Many Faces of Yoga: Ciara Connelly

Ciara Connelly is from Newbridge, Kildare and writes a weight loss blog called Worrier to Warrior. I spoke with her about her weight loss journey and how yoga has impacted on that. We are delighted that Ciara will be coming to train with us on our Yoga Teacher Training course next year.

What brought you to yoga? 

My first yoga class was when I was 14 or 15 and I was really strung out doing the Junior Cert, so my mother brought me to yoga to calm me down. I liked it but didn’t stay with it long enough to experience the benefits of it.

What was your idea about yoga before you began to practice regularly?

I always thought that yoga was for a certain type of person- basically hippies- and I thought I wouldn’t have fit into that world. I also thought it was just something you go to for an hour or so and get out of the way to help you de-stress.

And how has that view changed since then?

Firstly, I realise it’s for people from any walk of life. The benefits are way more than just de-stressing for exams. Yoga benefits every part of life-  it helps you to be a better person, helps you to accept people more and not get bogged down in the negative and focusing more on the positive. That’s what has changed for me because I never saw any of that stuff before until I started practicing regularly.

What is your background in yoga – styles? 

I started with Vinyasa, Ashtanga and then I did Hatha yoga for about a year. At the moment, because I have an injury, I have been practising a lot of Yin Yoga which I practice with Paul in An Seomra Yoga in Galway. It can seem quite slow and you can sometimes think you aren’t getting anything out of it but I wake up in the morning with a brand new back – skipping down the stairs. With all of the work and different things I have done for my back, yoga is thing that I have found has helped me the most.

How has your lifestyle changed?

What I have noticed is that it has been lots of really slow changes. The first major changes in my lifestyle were that I stopped drinking alcohol, smoking and eating meat about 5 years ago.

All of the changes in my life happened slowly over a number of years without me really noticing and yoga was becoming more and more prominent for me.

I find I wake up in the morning and I feel positive. I’ve learned to become more aware of the negative in my life and deciding when it is time to let go of something or someone that is having a negative influence in my life. I realize the importance of surrounding myself with positive and like-minded people – cutting out the crap!

Have you found your attitude has changed much – either towards life in general or towards yourself?

I used to be a completely different person a few years ago – I was sad, bogged down with stuff that didn’t matter. I was living a life that made me miserable but yoga makes me happy and it’s that simple.

Sometimes you don’t feel like exercising, but I know that if I just go to a yoga class I will feel like a rock star afterwards – my back won’t be paining me, my knees won’t be hurting and I’ll have all this energy that I didn’t have going into it. With all of these positive things in my body I automatically think clearer and more positively. I’m happier in who I am – yoga helps me like who I am.

Have you found that practicing yoga has benefited other people in your life?

Yes, my mum. She suffers from immense back pain and has had surgery on her knees over the years and has tried lots of different ways to help with the pain.When I brought her down here for the day retreat she was like a new woman the next day, so that has had a serious influence on her.

Even my surgeon told me that if I practised Yoga everyday it would keep me off the operating table in regards to my back problems.

So, tell us about how yoga has affected your weight loss journey?

Well, I run a weight loss blog sharing my journey of losing weight.

I was into running before I hurt my back, I did a lot of weights – which I still do and I still love going to the gym- but I have found that more and more I’m just wanting to practice yoga.

I’m starting to not want to hurt my body, but to look after it and care for it which I find yoga does. I have hurt my body a lot and been so hard on it and talked down to it for years – I’ve never had a positive attitude towards my body. Yoga is helping me to be kind and accept my body and it just happens that weight loss is a side effect to this – obviously along with healthy eating, not eating processed foods and regular exercise.

If you are doing the right things you will find yourself losing weight, but I think it also has a lot to do with your mentality- if you want the best for your body, it will happen that way.

And how about the emotional or mental part of the journey?

I used to get stressed out and punish myself if I didn’t lose a certain amount of weight or if I ate the wrong foods, but now I just think that life is too short and hard enough to be getting bogged down with all that.

I still carry a lot of guilt in so many aspects of my life because of my weight. My mind still tells me I am 6 stone heavier. I used to get panic attacks on public transport from fear about imposing on someone’s space if I sat on the seat. Yoga helps me understand that the process of releasing that thought pattern is slow and it also helps take away, or start to lessen, the guilt and worry.

I no longer stop myself from doing something if I feel I don’t deserve it.

Tell us why you are hoping to do the Teacher Training with us here next year?

Basically I don’t want to ever stop doing yoga. It’s the lifestyle I want for myself, I know I will grow to be a much happier person as the years go by if I have yoga in my life. I love the place here, it’s like a little paradise – perfect for studying yoga. Also the people and the style of yoga here. It’s nice and natural, surrounded by ‘normal’ people who make you feel comfortable.

I just want to do yoga everyday for the rest of my life and be happy.

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