Yoga champion’s path to peace
There's more to yoga than spandex tights and bendy poses.
Jackie “Jaya” Butler has made it her mission to introduce more locals to the Indian mental, physical and spiritual practice.
“My dream is to have everyone doing yoga because everyone can do it and you just feel better when you do it,” said the 48-year-old who is helping organise next year's Bermuda Yoga Festival. “It's not about being able to get into a fancy position or asana. It's just about getting that balance of mind and body and learning how to connect inward more.
“I think we are put off sometimes by some of the spandex-looking outfits, but it's not about what you wear.”
Mrs Butler claims to have more energy in the nine years since she started practising yoga seriously. She also sleeps better and wakes up feeling more refreshed.
She took her first class in 1999.
Running was her main sport at the time; yoga helped loosen her tight muscles.
Once she discovered its meditative side, she got hooked.
“I was a new mom and had a one-year-old. I was also working part-time as a nurse. Whenever I saw people meditating they always looked so peaceful, so I wanted some of that.”
It calmed her as a parent, Mrs Butler said. Reading Autobiography of a Yogi, the story of how Paramahansa Yogananda helped introduce yoga to the western world, also helped tremendously. “I started off slow, doing maybe 10 minutes, two or three times a week. After a few weeks, I started to notice a difference in myself. And then my husband started reminding me to do it [because] he definitely noticed the difference in me.”
She added: “What struck me about the book was how peaceful and happy Paramahansa was. I felt a connection to him and it was inspiring all that he had done. Reading it was one thing that really helped me to be a better mom.
“I would focus in on my breathing more when I felt a little stressed and just learnt to let go. Things also didn't seem to matter so much because the book inspired me to see there's a bigger picture. I became more accepting of my daughter as she was.”
Mrs Butler said she was brought up in a household where everything had to be in place. Yoga helped her to relax instead of getting upset when her daughter made a mess.
“There is this balance of teaching them guidelines and then there is this other part where you want to have fun and join in a little bit,” she said. “If you're eating outside and the food ends up on the floor, does it really matter? That book definitely taught me to lighten up.
“The majority of people are stressed out and don't make time for themselves, myself included. I see the yoga and meditation as a constant reminder for me to do that.”
The book also taught her not to rely on material things to make her happy.
“Once I made that shift, it pleased my husband because I wasn't going out to buy another new top or going on a shopping spree to fulfil me. It reduced the need for retail therapy,” she said.
Her husband Michael and her daughter Simone, who is now ten, have also caught the yoga bug.
“My husband has been doing it for the past five years,” Mrs Butler said. “I think he saw the benefit in me and gave it a try, not thinking it would work.
“Now we lovingly toss a coin over who will get to go to the Saturday morning yoga class as one of us needs to stay home to look after [Simone].
“We've had to change his wardrobe twice as he gradually tones up. I've also seen changes in my body. When I was pregnant I put on a lot of weight. Losing it didn't have much to do with a diet, but as you do more yoga you learn to listen to your body more and you start to think [about why you're eating].”
Awake, a film based on Autobiography of a Yogi, will screen at noon on October 4 at Speciality Cinema.
Tickets are $30 on Ptix.bm. All proceeds will go towards next year's festival, which runs April 29-May 1.