Listen to your body
When I’m working out in the gym, I’m constantly trying to keep up with myself. I listen to loud, fast-paced music to tune out from the world and get my head in the zone. My heart is racing and I’m not thinking about anything else other than counting down the repetitions. (Unless of course, when I’m on the treadmill there’s no stopping the endless train of thoughts that run in my head. No pun intended. “What shall I have for lunch? How did my favorite sock get lost in the dryer? Is that thing alive? Goddamn it, I hate running. RUNNNN!”
On the yoga mat, working out is a completely different experience.
Like many people, I was introduced to yoga as a way to stay in shape and improve my flexibility. Along the way, I realized that yoga is not just a form of exercise. Yoga works on so many levels – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. The first and perhaps most vital thing that yoga teaches is body awareness.
As I became more mindful of my feelings and reactions in my yoga practice during the teacher training, I began to notice that where I was in my practice was a reflection of where I was with myself at the moment.
On good days when I felt mostly positive, finding focus and balance came as easily as bringing my palms together in namaste. I would pull off any yoga asana (posture) with ease. I’d feel powerful and strong while especially in a Warrior 2 pose. These are the days when I’d walk out of class feeling like I could conquer the world.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, any negative thoughts, doubts or judgment would create resistance and tension in my body. When something weighs me down mentally, I felt the weight physically too. Yoga takes me to those places deep inside myself where my true emotions are hidden.
For me, the process of accepting my body was the perfect lesson in learning to deal with my ego in my practice. Finding my strengths and embracing my weaknesses is at the core of my ahimsa (non-violence) practice towards myself.
As soon as I picked myself up, I was ready to do it all over again. I didn’t think I’d overcome my fear of falling that quickly because I was dependent on the wall for months! I was excited about reaching my goal to finally pull off a perfect headstand with confidence, but I was also aware and respectful of my body’s physical limitations.
I took the pressure off by setting a rule to treat my body gently. I learned not to let my ego dictate how deep I would go into a pose or how far I’d push my body. I’m not counting weights or repetitions; I’m not competing; I’m listening to my body.
Open your heart
I do enjoy taking the time to practice by myself at home as it allows me to move at my own pace and understand my body better. Sometimes I think I can get a little too comfortable in my alone-time that I forget how enjoyable it is to practice yoga with friends!
On the first day of teacher training, we were asked to make a short introduction about ourselves and how our hearts found their way to yoga. I sensed that a few of us were quite shy and reserved; I felt the same way about myself in front a big group of strangers. I guess I was a little nervous about meeting so many new people. Little did I know over the next few months how much I would come to appreciate them and how quickly I would learn to let go of my own self-judgment and fears.
A few weeks into the training, our class of 30 students was split into smaller groups so we could take turns to teach and learn directly from each other. Sharing enormous passion for yoga created very strong bonds in my yoga circle.
The sense of community created strong friendships that have been rare in my life; I shall always treasure that time spent bonding with my classmates.
I think the point where we really got to be ourselves and got to know each other more personally happened outside the classroom. Arun and Prakash organized a day out for the class to practice Karma Yoga. No yoga mats required, all we needed was team effort!
Karma Yoga is the path of selfless service which involves supporting and giving back to others without expecting anything in return. The way I understand it, Karma Yoga it is about giving love and loving unconditionally. Caring for the environment is one way we can give love to our planet.
I wish to express my gratitude for the practice of yoga that I have been taught by my extraordinary teachers, Arun and Prakash at Pure Yoga Singapore.
I learned so much from the 200-hour Hatha Yoga teacher training: a deeper understanding of yoga, body and mind awareness and kindness to all living things. I feel inspired to share this knowledge and insight and will make it my mission to pass the benefits of Yoga on to others.