Affectionately known as Carley O

I started Bikram yoga in 2006 in search for a stress release during my university exam period. I walked into Sean’s class in his old Miami studio and expected 4 or 5 people quietly waiting for class. It was jam packed and people had to shuffle along to allow enough room for my mat in the back row. I had paid for a casual class because I could not see how I could make this a regular feature of my fitness routine, as I was a single mum, working and studying with little time for myself (and just between you and I – I hated too much sweat and I didn’t know if I could handle this). I walked out after that first class and paid the extra money to start the 10 day introductory pass and vowed to fit this into my life somehow. I was back for the 6am the very next day.

For years I had been sampling different styles of yoga. None had appealed to me the way Bikram’s 26 and 2 did. Perhaps because my body was so tight and inflexible that I felt totally incompetent without the heat. Years of competitive netball, running, pushing my body to it’s limit evolved into a new challenge: balancing my strength with flexibility. I couldn’t touch my toes when I started. Class by class, Sean pushed and guided me to a new found knowledge and awareness of my body. In the end, it was my teacher’s words encouraging me to stop trying so hard that opened up my body the most. Letting go of all the pain and anguish I had put myself through both physically and mentally chasing the perfect body and weight was finally released one class when I cried from awkward on.

After a year of practicing everyday, I competed in the Bishnu Ghosh Cup. I learnt so much in my preparation for this experience that it completely changed my practice. My postures weren’t the only place I saw a change, my mind was at a new place, my breath was calm and steady and my spirit sang joyfully. By this point I had done away with running and crazy home tae-bo workouts. I re-arranged my life to fit my yoga. The little things didn’t seem to bother me anymore, it was no longer so easy for anything or anyone to steal my peace.

It was quite clear to me that becoming a teacher was the next step in my yoga journey. However, my life was so busy that it took a while to make it happen. I signed up for spring training in 2008 but was in the middle of writing my thesis and couldn’t take leave or find the money for teacher training. I made peace with the fact that it wasn’t my time yet and was so grateful for my practice. I would drop the kids at school, head to uni for the day, pick the kids up, make dinner and head to yoga, then back to uni until 3 or 4am and catch an hour or two of sleep and do it all over again. My practice kept me sane and at times was more beneficial than sleep.

After completing my studies, I decided to sign up for spring teacher training in 2009. I didn’t know how I would find the money or how my new husband would cope with two kids on his own for 9 weeks but I made up my mind that I was going and off I went. It was a yoga holiday I will always be grateful for. I missed my kids like crazy and that was my biggest challenge. Yes my body was tight and I was tired but the gift of time by myself and with 320 happy smiling yogis was enough to get me through.

Returning to my home studio at Burleigh to teach my first class was a fantastic feeling. Sharing my passion and witnessing people taking control of their health and life is an extremely rewarding experience. My yoga family understand why I venture to my mat each day and accept me exactly as I am. My daughter often joins me for class and nothing is as special as holding her hand during final savasana. I have been teaching Bikram yoga since July 2009 and thank all the students that have allowed me to guide them through their practice. I still see myself primarily as a student and believe it is through my own practice that I have the most to give.