Sol Walkling: Founder BodyMindSol, Mindful Movement & Meditation

Having just announced BodyMindSol’s new venue at Sydney’s iconic Andrew Boy Charlton Pool, Sol recognises the beautiful synchronicity.

During her initial yoga teacher training, she completed a 10km swim in Fiji, she is passionate about sailing, kayaking and anything on water, and now Sol finds herself teaching from a venue attached to a swimming pool with breathtaking views over the harbour.

Sol has completed over 1000 hours of yoga teacher training and is a certified Pilates teacher. When she’s not competing in outback marathons or long distance ocean swims, she is dedicated to the spiritual practices that have transformed her life.

In her gut-wrenchingly honest interview, Sol tells PRAVAYAMA how yoga helped her through a challenging childhood and traumatic events and how having a dedicated spiritual practice is the most powerful thing we can do for ourselves and our loved ones.

Growing up with Yoga

I joined kids yoga at age 10 and instantly fell in love. We’d walk around the room with our eyes closed to feel people’s energy, do dream journeys, feel auras and move through sun salutations.

I was very active as a child and grew up cycling everywhere but I was also a bookworm, dreamer and worrier, so yoga was perfect. I would do sun salutations before exams and when I was stressed out with my first love.

Grounding and Role Models

Despite a tricky relationship with my mum, we went to a hatha yoga class when I was about 14. Everyone else in the class was much older as it was back-care yoga, so I graduated from kids yoga to old people’s yoga! Both practices very gentle and centering. It was a fantastic foundation as I wasn’t interested in what my yoga looked like but really deeply grounded in how it affected me physically, emotionally and mentally.

My second teacher became my first ever role model. She was also much older, always smiling, serene with a warm presence and a voice like honey. What I had lacked in life in positive female modelling, she brought. Her home was the antidote from what I had experienced in my childhood. I still remember doing a weekend immersion in her house. The attic room was ethereal. Wooden floorboards, white curtains and candles. She often wore white – at least in my memory. To this day, I seem to emulate a lot of these aspects in my own life. I often used to think: “If only I could become this calm and content.”

Body Image and Finding Oneness

Looking back, yoga possibly helped keep me together. Around 16, I started modelling and the sudden need to lose weight, with already a very bad self image and bottled up trauma, all I needed was yet another reason to be upset with myself – now appearance – and a spiral into an eating disorder. I checked myself into a clinic at age 18 and tried finding my path back to the feeling of oneness that doing yoga in nature had given me.

Lacking guidance growing up, I also had a bad experience around spiritual practice, that put me off all things that weren’t “manifest”. After leaving the clinic, I focussed on what I could see, hear and touch. I was regaining my sense for the real world. I only went to yoga sporadically. Looking back this feels a bit like the dark ages.

“What’s truly important is committing to practise. As it sinks in deeper your vibration will lift and you become the embodiment of it and that’s when you don’t worry so much about others any more.”

Dysfunction and Meditation

Post school, I got into business and full-on study mode and also got married and divorced. My marriage crumbled under the black cloud of delayed onset PTSD after I had my drink spiked at a party and got raped by several people. With my husband overseas and me struggling to re-establish my reality while suffering flashbacks and deep-seated memories from my childhood, I wasn’t capable of showing my love and actually feeling anything at all on some days.

I threw myself into my journalism degree, work and a little later a dysfunctional relationship that crushed me to the point of needing to make drastic changes. Flashbacks to my childhood, fights on a daily basis and the demands of nightshift work and heavy exercising to compensate for the intensity of feelings I was experiencing led me to meditation. The irony was that my friends had been saying for years that I should try meditation. I’d always scoffed and answered that running was my meditation.

A Return to Yoga and Love

This time around, I gave yoga my all. I needed yoga. I couldn’t stay where I was at. I discovered a strong power yoga based practice and I meditated on a spiky mat to relax. The effects were immediate. The juxtaposition to what was going on in my life as well as inside of me was incredible. I wept my way through yoga class after yoga class. I meditated as many times a day as I could. Slowly, memories, pain and nerves moved through. Little by little, things shifted. On the outside, I started making better choices. I completed one endurance event after the other. I dated several incredible men. But there was still so much to move through.

The physical practice helped me burn through my stuff, burn through my stories and shed them on a physical level, but as I kept going and kept deepening, there was a need for so much more soul work.

The rediscovery of yoga felt like a profoundly moving and drawn out love story. I was already teaching Pilates at this point, I was still doing my running and all those full on exercises, I was building my company. But when I came back to yoga it was a reawakening. It was like encountering a long lost love that you left behind, only to discover that it, you, the love has grown and it’s so much deeper. So after my decade immersed in the wilderness of believing only in the physical and anything that I can touch, feel, smell, that I can buy, that you own is the only things that exist. Suddenly, remembering, coming back to what really matters: your heart.

Connecting Beyond What is Manifest

What followed were years of daily practice of some kind: prayer, meditation, singing, bhakti, devotional, karma yoga, energy work. I studied, I immersed, I challenged myself. I challenged others. I learned to connect in ways I had never known existed. I started seeing beauty that I could have never imagined.

The first year after my teacher training was these highs and lows. I was wondering: “Is this is real? Can I even dare believe that life can be like this (living in the magical) living in our natural state, living in bliss, realising that abundance is all around us that we are essential abundance and when we are not in the state of love then it’s energies that are pulling us down.”

Seeing Beauty Despite It All

What’s followed has been an amazing journey of self-discovery, clearing of old karma and finding my path which I’d really turned away from.

Yoga was there at every step of the way. From vomiting my guts up and being unable to walk up more than ten or so stairs at a time, to being unable to breathe deeply without needing painkillers through to repeated head trauma that had me doubting my own sanity – hard to swallow for someone normally very headstrong and able to control her environment and life. My last few years have taught me many things that I needed to learn: surrender, compassion, non-attachment and being in the moment so deeply, its beauty makes me weep with joy.

I had many, many moments of doubt in the last few years, of feeling beat and defeated. What kept me going was this knowledge of the beauty, the vibrancy and the joy of the spark inside of me. Regardless of what it may look like on the outside, the reward of everything – the good the bad and the in-between – has been immense. I have stopped striving so hard, needing so much. While there are still things that I would like to experience, the true meaning of yoga: union, to yoke, to connect, is what is now at the centre of my life.

Having a head trauma was a surprisingly good teacher to show me all the different stimuli I experienced. It also showed me each thought pattern. Emotions. Reactions. It was truly incredible to witness my mind in slow motion. I am glad I can now work at a faster speed again and absorb more stimuli and input. But inside me, there is this incredible calm point. The memory of what it was like to sit fully somewhere in the centre of my being and observe. To have hallucinations and dreams and see them just as clearly. To not make a distinction between what I can see, touch and feel and what is inside.

The Asana Path to Oneness

Yoga is an incredibly sophisticated and ancient way to come to this realisation of oneness with everything. It meets people on the physical level in the way it is often taught in the West – this is what we understand. We can easily experience a sense of bliss, sense of spirit and the space around us at the end of a class. Yoga is a very relevant and powerful tool for our current time to help people return to a more spiritual way of life. On a basic level it teaches you to relax and centre and unwind your nervous system. And then.. You’re on the path. That doesn’t mean at all that you stop doing what you’re doing, that you become just a yogi sitting in a cave. Quite the opposite. 

Dedicating Ourselves to Practice 

What’s truly important is committing to practise. It doesn’t matter what your practice looks like. When you commit to doing something and step away from having a particular way of doing it, you may actually experience another level of awareness. As you get more experienced you want to play it up and mix it up and discover all these amazing aspects, the eight limbs of yoga. The physical practice is only one. As you start living in a space and state of gratitude and compassion and love, where you might start to deviate from it, you come back to it more and more quickly. And you’ll likely naturally flow to the other aspects like devotion, singing, prayer, being good to others, sharing with others and so on. It’s all part of it – and really it will just help you become a more and more well-rounded human.

As it sinks in deeper and deeper your vibration will lift and you become the embodiment of it and that’s when you don’t worry so much about others any more, or what others will do to you or what happens, or if you’re having a bad day, because you have your practice and it’s so strong it will lift you up and you already have this full cup of something like practice juice … higher vibration and that starts impacting everyone around you, your family, your friends, your co-workers and that is really the most amazing gift you can give yourself and others. And practice simply does that, you can’t go past practicing regularly.

On the upside, it gets easier and easier when you notice something out of alignment comes in and you can almost let go of it the instant it comes in. Perhaps not always, but most of the time! We must really take heart, all of us can shift, almost instantly. We just have to believe it and we have to be committed to it and the moment we do that our hearts just open. It is truly that simple. The ancient yogis place a lotus flower at the seat of our heart. Perhaps the practice of yoga just helps us unfold.

Main Image: Dean Preston
Image Below: Rob Palmer

Why Practice at BodyMindSol?

  • Breathtaking views (like practising on water)
  • Schedule of experienced senior teachers and around 30 weekly yoga and Pilates classes
  • Special community events and workshops on Saturdays
  • Opening offer of $75 for first three months for first 100 clients
  • Expertise in work with athletes, teams and corporates at Sydney Olympic Park