In this interview with a valued member of our community, Ben Getley tells us how he first came to yoga as a means to deal with a stressful life event and how it has become a far more important part of his life than he could have ever imagined.
He shares with us his early journey with yoga, how his preferred style of yoga sits well with his engineering mind and martial arts background, and the many benefits he’s experienced in both his personal and professional life.
Read on to be inspired, particularly if you’ve ever thought that yoga is not for you.
I started yoga because…
We were in the process of immigrating to Australia and going through a bit of a busy, stressful period. My wife had practiced Iyengar Yoga about 10 years earlier and she recommended giving it a go. It was also something that we could do together as a couple.
This was back in London, about 14 years ago now.
I started yoga for the physical, the mental, the balance, but also to expand my resilience. My background is martial arts and I love the patience that you have to put into it, the perseverance, the time it takes.
It’s not a quick a reward. When I was first introduced to yoga, that side appealed to me straight away.
And that’s why I’ve always sort of carried on doing it.
The type of yoga I practise is…
We lost the thread a little bit when we came over here to Australia.
I tried various different styles – Hatha, Vinyasa, Yin – but never really stuck to them. I tried different options for monetary reasons, where you try and combine it with a gym membership, but it just didn’t give me any value. I think it’s called gym yoga around the place. And there’s no disrespect to that, but it just didn’t fit with what I was looking for.
Then I discovered Iyengar again and loved it.
And the reason I really like it so much is because it’s not one of those quick style types of yoga where you get rewarded straight away. You have got to keep chipping away, persevering, and it links back into martial arts.
I was looking for long-term value but also something that gave me the constant feedback. I’ve always liked the sort of military style of martial arts and the reason behind it, the history behind it, the perseverance and the resilience that it teaches you, which transfers back into everyday life.
With Iyengar Yoga don’t just get from A to B in two years. It’s a journey. It’s like a 20 year journey. And I love the feedback that you get from it and how you’re never finished with it.
You don’t just turn up on day one and you understand it by week two. I think I’ve been going to my current place for around about five years now and I still feel like I’m a beginner. And that’s humbling and I really enjoy that side of it.
It’s a life’s journey.
Understanding the why
I’m an engineer by background, so I think I like detail. But I also like to understand the reason why we’re doing a certain pose or a posture.
To just go to a class where someone’s standing up at the front and they’re just going through the motions with everyone in the room, there’s no attention to detail, the feedback that you get from that is – it’s there – but it stops at a certain level.
With Iyengar, they teach you the poses, they teach you the reasons, but there’s always more to it.
Like in Trikonasana, you can feel the release in the side of your body, but there’s always a bit further you can go. There’s a lot of reasoning behind it and every single part of your body contributes to that pose.
I like the understanding and the depth that you can go into to understanding that. That’s really important. That’s where I get the value from Iyengar.
I just haven’t experienced that in any other type of yoga and I’ve always drifted away from different types of yoga for that reason.
That is what keeps me coming back.
The benefits I’ve experienced from yoga include…
With Iyengar, I experienced the benefits immediately because it’s a bit more unpacked. There are clear reasons and explanations for everything you do and you can feel it the day after, which to me is great.
You feel better, your posture feels better.
Developing habits for a fit, healthy future
I think what Iyengar does is brings a massive awareness to every part of your body from a physical point of view.
It’s taught me a lot about posture, which wasn’t really important to me before. You’d go out lifting weights and tearing it up at the gym, stuff like that, without really taking into account what it’s doing to your body in the long term.
As I’ve got older, I’ve developed an interest in looking after myself. I’d like to be fit and healthy at 80 plus years old and I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from people who are still doing karate or yoga at that age.
And to me, that’s really important.
Yoga, martial arts and the benefits of both
In both karate and yoga, there are historic threads and veins, and different styles. That interests me from a historical point of view.
From a physical point of view, it’s really the time and effort that you have to put in yourself to actually get the benefits. No one is ever going to give you the rule book or the secret or the keys to unlock the door. You’ve got to develop that yourself. That’s just a never-ending journey.
I find that doing both karate and yoga is harder than my day job, which is quite stressful.
And that makes my day job seem easy.
An escape from the stresses of life
Both the yoga studio and a dojo are like my third places to be. It’s where I go to be happy, be away from the stress of everyday life and work. That’s very important to me. You’ve got to have those means of escape.
I don’t think you can be doing Iyengar Yoga and be stressed out at the same time about something external. You can be stressed out about trying to get your poses right and beating yourself up about that, but you can’t be stressed about external stuff while you’re doing that.
The biggest misconception of yoga is…
I’ve had a lot of conversations over the years with people who reluctantly say ‘I went to a yoga class the other day’. Not everyone, just certain people, seem to first go to a yoga class under duress, but when they get there, they actually love it.
It’s not the footie, it’s not lifting weights. It’s not running, it’s not pushing your body on a bike or anything like that. I think some people may get turned off by the fact that it’s just going into a room and working with yourself.
Masculinity and men in yoga classes
I work in the construction industry and I’m quite happy to hear how many people out and about on the construction sites are actually taking it up and not seeing it as demasculating.
As it gains popularity, I see a lot more men doing yoga, which is a great thing.
I openly talk about it in the office. There’s a bit of fun taken out of me, but I think deep down people who have got back injuries and stuff like that, they’re turning to it.
It’s always good to say, ‘Yeah, I told you so’.
If you’re thinking of starting yoga, I suggest…
Just jump in and go for it. I would recommend the style of yoga that I do, which is Iyengar, and hope youcould get exactly what I get out of it.
But I appreciate that everyone’s on a different journey and different styles of yoga will be more suited todifferent people.
So I would say just go and give it a go, and just get on the journey and see what works for you.
What’s important to you will determine which style of yoga is right for you
If I was talking with an old friend who was keen to try yoga, I think I would explore what’s important to them.
Is it about maintaining flexibility, improving mental state, or posture?
And depending on whether they were wanting to know about the historical or the spiritual side of things, I think that would open up a conversation as to what style I’d recommend or what path I’d try and help them go down.
Any closing thoughts?
When I look back to when I first went to a yoga class, I thought it was all about going in there, going as hard as you can. Pushing yourself physically, coming out sweating, trying to be – not the best in the class – but just being very conscious about what you’re trying to do, and ‘am I doing this right?’
If I look at that now, I’ve learned that it’s not about the ego. It’s about listening to your own body and just working with your own capabilities.
Yoga as a practical skill
When I go overseas now on a long flight, I’ll pack some yoga blocks and a belt. I think it’s helpful to be aware that, hey, you’re putting your body in the situation where you’re sitting on a plane for 24 hours.
You’ve got to look after it, nurture it – both physically and also mentally – I think.
Yoga is guiding me on a path looking at mindfulness and meditation, which has definitely changed my response and reaction to stressful situations over the years.
It’s given me space to think before I react to a stressful situation whereas probably 12 or 15 years ago, I would have reacted in a very different manner.
So to me, that’s another benefit that I didn’t foresee.
How does your yoga journey differ from this one? What benefits have you experienced? We’d love to hear more! Comment below or get in contact if you’d like to share your story as a featured post like this one.
Ben Getley has over the last 25 years enjoyed a varied career in engineering and construction management, working in both the UK and Australia. Through his side project, Mindset Money Coaching, he is inspired to help people improve their relationships with money. Ben works to empower others to design a better future for themselves and their families by working to align their values with their spending, and provides coaching to individuals and groups. Reach out to him at mindsetmoneycoaching.weebly.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ben currently lives in Brisbane with his wife and enjoys travel and time with friends and family. He values health and fitness and has an immense love of learning.