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Yogi of May – Sharon Chang

I was born sporty and I enjoy challenges.? I have done marathons, hiking, spinning, aerobics, Latin dance, weight training etc; for 16 years in a row without a break.? I even did “pregnant” aerobics at home while I was pregnant with my third child. In recent years I have started experiencing discomfort in my lower back, knees, and ankles.? I suspect it is a result of overuse of my body, of too much strain on the joints.? For the first few years after the pain started, I thought it would be only temporary.? I continued jogging and hiking until my doctor warned me that I could continue at the cost of replacing my vertebrae disk.? It wasn’t until that moment that I realized how serious it was, and I started thinking it was time for a change.? But what exercise could keep me sweating without exacerbating my pain?

Two years ago SPACE introduced hot yoga and created a trend in Taipei. This was great news to someone who loves sweating like me. I decided to do hot yoga instead of other hard core exercise. Even though I love sports in general, I was a total stranger to Yoga. I took a few yoga classes a decade ago. My understanding of it was simply making oneself into a human pretzel and putting the legs behind the neck. I came to SPACE with many doubts and fears in my mind. They dissolved immediately at my first sight of Space’s beautiful and bright environment. I bought two classes to give it a shot. Naichin’s flow class was my first. Although I was unfamiliar with chanting Om in the beginning, I became more peaceful after I finished chanting. Under her guidance I accomplished many poses I was unfamiliar with. My body was sore but it wasn’t uncomfortable. Then I had a different take on Yoga – it wasn’t circus performance, nor was it serious, or religious.

My second class was hot yoga, during which I was soaked in the joy of a 40 degree heated room.? I thought to myself if I could sweat like crazy in some milder exercise like this why would I want to risk hurting myself in running.? Then I joined SPACE.? After a period of time I started trying Flow and Ashtanga.? For someone who loves cardio exercise like me, Ashtanga, especially under Sharon’s guidance, was very appealing to me.? She was later based in Tien Mu which is too far for me to travel, and I dropped my Ashtanga practice.

Since I joined SPACE, I’ve taken Felina’s Anusara classes.? At first I thought it couldn’t possibly be hard enough for someone flexible and sporty like me.? After I went deeper into it, I found that it really wasn’t what I expected at all.? In the beginning I actually felt stiff and uncoordinated.? In Vrksasana, I was like a candle in the wind.? While everyone else could easily kick up into handstand, I was doing my “ground work” forever. It was frustrating!? I continued struggling with myself until I heard her say, “our Asana practice is like our life, the more stable our foundation is the more freedom and space we’ll have…”:.? So my wobbling feet and legs were a sign that my life also did not have a good foundation..? After practicing over and over, I gradually understood how to ground myself, so much that I could put backbends and twists even in Vrksasana!? Felina also taught us how to use the breath, the inner and outer spiral of the muscles, and uddiyana bandha to go deeper into the poses.? All of these detailed instructions seem insignificant on the surface, but they are important elements and prevent injuries.

I can let go of myself during the 1.5 hours of practice. While I am on my mat, I forget about concerns of the mundane world. I embrace a practice to heal my body and heart. As I deepen my practice I feel more freedom to love, to tolerate, to offer, and to be grateful. I am really thankful to Felina and Joanna.

Each month we will honor a SPACE student for his or her passion and dedication to the practice of Yoga. May their stories serve as inspiration to us all!
Asana of the Month
We will focus on a different Asana every month and delve deep into and explore all its inherent possibilities!

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