Angela Cowan: Yoga Journey

My yoga adventure began four years ago at the age of 66. A health incident started me on an unexpected yet very exciting journey. I had a TIA (transient ischemic attack) and as part of my recovery plan my GP recommended positive lifestyle changes, including finding an exercise program and some form of meditation that I would enjoy for the rest of my life. 

An interesting two-week search led me to the yoga studio of Kate O’Donoghue, a wonderful yoga teacher. Kate listened with interest to my list of physical limitations and importantly, to my dream — to try yoga. Kate happily explained that yoga is for everybody and that age and physical restrictions are not barriers to enjoying yoga. I heard how breath and yoga asanas work together connecting and calming mind, body and spirit. This was a revelation to me; I was so excited. 

From day one, I loved yoga with Kate and couldn’t wait to go my next class, I was a convert. Within a month I could co-ordinate my breath with each pose. I was sleeping better, had developed a longer stride and was astonished to realise my hips actually moved. I loved learning to breathe with each movement and the calmness of Shavasana — what bliss. Of course, Kate knew the gifts yoga can bring, however she patiently listened to weekly updates of my yoga journey. Stories of increased flexibility, strength, balance and calm. 

From the start Kate emphasised the importance of movement without injury and the basic anatomy underlying modifications. I was thrilled to master Tree pose and Half Moon using the wall for balance. After a year of doing yoga — great excitement — one day I could flow through Sun Salutations — you guessed it I was doing a modified version of — Suyra Namaskar. Wow — I had mastered plank plus modified Downward Dog and Chaturunga. I thought: How great is yoga? 

Along my four-year yoga journey I shared my yoga adventures and achievements with my GP. He was encouraging but repeatedly asked: “Angela, how many hours of yoga are you doing each week?” He would nod when I answered saying: “Very good; but I think perhaps you can do a little more yoga.” He made the same suggestion for meditation. I followed his advice. 

Every week yoga brought a new gift for my body and mind. For three years I would tell anyone who listened about the wonders of yoga and that I knew a pose that could help them with whatever ailed them. One day Kate asked if I considered studying yoga teacher training. I thought I was too old and arthritic. Kate reminded me that yoga, including teacher training, is inclusive and age is not a barrier. 

So, at the age of 68, with osteoarthritis in my hands and feet, I was on a new yogic adventure searching for an appropriate teacher training course. This journey brought me to Kym McDonald, an amazing yoga teacher who provides a wonderful Yoga Teacher training course. In November 2018, I completed my Hatha Yoga Teacher Training — 350 Hr Diploma at Yogic Wisdom, with Kym McDonald at Yogic Wisdom. I had the added pleasure of studying and graduating with my daughter Christine. 

I was deeply grateful for the opportunity to experience the knowledge and inspirational wisdom shared by Kym, other students and great teachers at Yogic Wisdom. I was also blessed to have the ongoing encouragement and wisdom from Kate, my mentor and teacher. 

Life is amazing, nearly everywhere I go I meet someone who asks how come, at my age, I look younger or can bend, balance or stretch so easily. Yoga is my answer and ongoing mantra that I happily share with others. I hope my story encourages people of all ages and abilities to find a yoga class right for them. My aim in the future is to provide an inclusive, enjoyable yoga practice, either individually or in a class. I love to inspire others to live well by loving themselves and encourage people with injuries or health restrictions to talk with their doctor about their self-care while exercising. I also talk about the great benefits and enjoyment gained from participating in chair yoga. 

I believe yoga can be a tool for transformation, especially the way it nurtures the body and mind. It is my hope that at the end of my class people feel relaxed and nourished. Yoga is an integral part of my everyday life. Personally, yoga inspires me to be resilient by bringing the daily gift of flexibility, strength and mindfulness. 

Dr. Angela Cowan 
Yoga Australia Registered Level 1 Teacher