The morning is heavy with impending rain and the absence of sunlight. Across the field a light breeze travels; an open terrain of faded ochre and burgundy under a grey sky. The grass is stubborn, tall and rigid as it grazes bare skin.
In the middle of the field stands three women. They bring colour to this harsh terrain.
Together they smile and laugh with the kind of charm that only exists in the absence of judgement. It felt as though the sky was doing a great disservice to them, who undeterred by this morning, were bright, vivacious and warm.
At the edge of the field, Sarah’s back arches gently as she moves through yoga positions. Her arms rise softly towards the sky, always with a gentle smile. Graceful in each movement, kind in every word, she seems to radiate the kind of ease and clarity that only comes from someone who has experienced the exact opposite, and thrived in despite of it.
In search of coffee and croissants, we wound up at a local cafe. The sun was gently enticed from the clouds as we spoke freely for hours, knowing the kindness and acceptance of those around us.
I could not think of a better way to describe how perhaps our small fears were assuaged in the presence of one another. Amongst us, our deepest vulnerabilities were not only acknowledged, but cherished.
Sarah, fondly known as Sunni Groove Yoga, shared with us a small glimpse into her impassioned life.
What do you do for a living?
“I’m an occupational Therapist. I work at Buderim Private Hospital, specifically rehabilitation. I work with people who have come into the hospital because of falls, strokes, heart conditions, phenomena or orthopaedic surgery. I also work in a pain program with people who experience chronic, persisting pain and I help them manage with and overcome their pain. Basically, empowering them to realise that they can have control of their circumstances and their life in order to make their own decisions and to be their true self.
I think everyone experiences pain and it’s all so different. Our pain is really tied to our emotional experience. I wish I could tell you more about it, the way that pain works is very, very complex within our bodies. I don’t think of emotional and physical pain as separate, they’re much the same thing. Pain is a protective response for our bodies; it’s there to protect us. Our bodies number one job is to keep us alive and pain is a protective response. I think we demonise pain; it’s like this war on pain. Whereas, I think there is a lot to be said about pain – it’s our body protecting us and I think it’s kind of beautiful.
To be able to sit with your pain and understand how it works is pretty cool. But not everyone sees it like that. When you start working with people initially, they are so sceptical. They think you’re going to come in and tell them that their pain is all in their head and it’s not about that – pain is 100% real all of the time.”
What initially drew you to yoga?
“I was just seeking my own self love, self care. My friend’s sister-in-law opened up her own studio and I just started going. I just loved it! I really, really loved it. I felt calm afterwards, like everything was going to be okay and whatever happened was just meant to be. I would always have little moments in there where I thought ‘Universe, you know what’s best for me and I’m just going to put it in your hands’. I love it… connecting with your body and just being present in the moment. All we ever have is this very moment in time. We don’t have anything else.”
What are your thoughts on slow living and slow fashion?
“I love it. You know when you see a brand and think about buying something? I think is it ethical, is it organic, has it been made by women? If it is I have to buy it! I feel I need to support people who are doing what is true to them and I feel it also brings a community together and celebrates diversity of beauty and shapes and sizes. I just love it! I love it when people are being their true authentic self because there is nothing more beautiful than that. When you’re being 100% true to yourself and what you believe, there is nothing more beautiful than that.”
Do you think that embracing, conscious living, slow fashion and environmental care are something that is valued within society?
“There is more awareness of these issues. We live in a world of fast fashion and it’s really hard to find the balance. Often when we buy slow fashion, it comes with a greater price tag, but it’s a true reflection of what that piece of clothing is worth. I would hope a lot of my friends appreciate it and I try really hard not to buy fast fashion because I know where it comes from. It’s one tiny way we can stop some clothes going into landfill. We have this buy-wear-once mentality, even with other things like technology. When we buy fast and cheap it’s for two or three wears and then you throw it away. It’s about quality not quantity.”
How would you describe your own fashion or style?
“I like to create and I think what we wear is how we express our creativity. I think it’s really important that someone enjoys creating and expressing themselves and practicing their vulnerabilities. Recently I bought a caravan and my boyfriend was like ‘you’re only allowed four outfits in the caravan!’ I was like do not limit my creativity!’ He said, ‘oh when you put it like that I guess you can have more…’
It’s a way of creating and expressing myself. I love buying quality, long lasting clothing that I know I will wear more than once. Wearing something that I know I will wear time and time again.”
What are your three favourite brands right now?
“I love Bassike – always! I love that they use all organic cotton. I love their Ts! I love that they’re also a little bit a-symmetrical – a little imperfect – perfectly imperfect! My friend has this label called ‘Of One Kind’ that are beautiful linen numbers. All of her stuff is plant dyed and ethically made. And of course, Terra Dea! I’m so excited that it’s something I can do yoga in!”
Who have been the most influential people in your life so far?
“Everyone! At different moments it changes almost; I get inspired by so many people around me.
I was in a long-term relationship for seven years and it wasn’t a great relationship. I think we were just two very different people. That relationship had a huge influence on my life, but I didn’t realise it at the time. When we broke up, it was kind of like, my world was falling apart but it was also the right thing to do. At the time, it makes you question everything, who you are and what you believe in. So I think being in that relationship had a massive impact on where I am now, who I am now and why I choose to do what I do. I don’t regret the relationship, but I wouldn’t have the things I have now if I was still in that relationship.
I have some really close friends as well who have just always been there and supported me. And you know when you have those people that are with you in your best times and then when stuff goes really bad they still stick by you? And you just think, man, you’re like seeing me at my worst and you’re still supporting me and loving me. They inspire you too, because they’re doing awesome things and uplifting you. Being in relationships, it makes you learn a lot, influences you a lot. The way one person is can impact who you are and your whole life together. I have an amazing job that I love, I bought my own unit and I just did my yoga teacher training. I have all the people around me that I choose to have in my life that love and support and uplift others. You get to choose those people.”
What do you believe is essential to happiness?
“It’s going to sound super cliché, but it is literarily being grateful and practicing gratitude. Because that’s where your own happiness comes from. We were talking about this earlier, but unhappiness stems from comparison and judgement. We already have true abundance, but we are so disconnected that we don’t realise it. We have food, we have clean drinking water. We just need to realise how much we have got – that is when we realise true happiness. We have everything we need. The second you wake up in the morning, we already have everything that we need.”
What are the major issues in society that worry you?
“Disconnection. A lack of listening to ourselves. When we have emotions and relationships and other people influencing our lives, it does distort how we see things; seeing things as they truly are. When it comes to that clarity of thought and decision making, doing what is truly best for you like all of those decisions are muddied by our experiences or trauma or emotions. And then we disconnect from one another and from our bodies.
In yoga, they say the human condition is suffering. It’s like we almost self-sabotage ourselves all the time. You know, drugs and alcohol. But when you look at it, they’re not designed really to make us better ourselves. It’s a way of self-sabotage. Although I completely condone wine! I love having a drink and having a good time. I think it’s just the way in which we use those things. We have to make sure that we’re doing them when we are being true to ourselves.
I think a lot of our decisions that we make are made without clarity. Often with people who suffer from depression, they have the weight of the world on their shoulders. It comes from a deep place of caring and love, but they don’t know how to connect with others.”
What advice would you give to the next generation?
“Breathe! The one thing that we have at all times in life is our breath. Here I am, yogi! But it is the only one thing we have in our life and it has such a major impact on our bodies and how we run. When we do shallow breathing, we’re in stress, our flight or fight mode response is on. While we need both responses, we need our flight or fight and our rest and digest responses. But we need them in balance and in harmony. I think when we connect with our breathing, it has such an impact on our bodily systems and our healing and our recovery – our whole way of thinking. It helps overcome our disconnection; we’re reconnecting and all we have to do is sit there and breathe.
Because it’s the one thing that comes naturally to us, I think it’s a gentle reminder that we should just do what comes naturally to us at all times. You know, we don’t even have to think about breathing. It just comes naturally. So connect with the breath, connect with your body and just do what comes naturally to you – don’t force yourself into doing something that isn’t true to you.”