For a while now I’ve heard more people talk about the benefits of yoga and meditation. In the beginning I was very skeptical mainly because it is often portrayed as a feminine activity. Growing up in West Belfast you would often get teased for doing something out of the ordinary so I perhaps carried that mentality up until my early twenties. I practiced martial arts when I was a young teenager but if it wasn’t GAA it was often accepted. So could you imagine if I was telling my friends I was practicing yoga!!!

Anyway moving away from home to university and surrounding myself with different people has perhaps changed my mentality about a lot of things. My confidence was my biggest enemy when I was younger and that stemmed from being overweight and insecure. Upon turning 18 I changed a lot. I began exercising regularly, started making an effort to go out and get involved and have a better social life and this is when I began to bloom.

Fast forward a couple of years and I find myself in Leeds where I was the happiest I’d been and my self-confidence was booming! I felt in this environment people weren’t embarrassed and people were more accepting at an older age.

I began following a martial artist and MMA commentator by the name of Joe Rogan and he spoke very highly of yoga and meditating and how the two go hand in hand. I always had an interest in martial arts so I followed him closely through social media and began looking into it a little further.

Time went by and I hadn’t made a change, I never took it upon myself to give yoga a go until I returned home from a years travelling in Australia. I was back in Belfast and I finally had the courage to try a local yoga class. At the time I was unemployed and just enjoying not having any studies or work to do hence why I ultimately decided it was time.

I couldn’t have been any further from what I imagined yoga to be like. Yes I was the only male there a lot of the time which was expected but I can gladly say I didn’t care. I was over my initial fear and I was reaping the benefits of learning to switch off from the world and getting in touch with my body and mind.

I practiced yoga once a week and for those 90 minutes on a Sunday morning it was often a very surreal experience. I would go as far to say the experiences I had were euphoric being in the most relaxed and calm environment you could only imagine. I feel when trying something new you have to go in with open arms or you are just wasting your time. I’m still no master at yoga and it is extremely physically demanding but the gentle calmness after is worth it! A heavy focus is your breathing, learning to breath properly is surprisingly difficult but again this all adds to the feeling.

I found yoga helped with my personal and work life. If ever I was stressed and practiced yoga I felt miles better and when I was working in the busy nightclub I was able to keep my composure and not get so agitated. Along with the weekly classes I would mediate 10 minutes at the beginning of every day as soon as I wake up. This was my small fix for the day which over a prolonged length of time the benefits were outstanding!

Brian Donnelly