Before I joined SPACE, I had tried yoga at a local community center. There were students with varying levels and physical abilities all in one class. It made finding my own practice at a suitable level very difficult. I felt very disappointed and lost my interested in wanting to practice yoga. It wasn’t until 2008 when my colleague, Debbie, whose strong encouragement made me decide to give it another try that I again stepped onto a yoga mat. This time, however; I had a completely different experience. It was an unforgettable day. Exhausted from working all day, I dragged myself into class, thought that I’d be even more fatigued after the class. It never occurred to me that I could felt this good afterwards; my body felt light and my mood was lifted. All the agitations from work disappeared! My whole being was so buoyant it was as if I could just float right off the ground. When I was leaving the building all I could think about was when I can go to my next class.
After that first class, I kept going back. At first it was because I wanted find time in my busy life to be physically active, little did I know that it would completely change my way of life. The practice allowed me to quiet my mind and I was able to hear my body’s needs. As a result, my eating habits naturally tended toward the lighter side, as I increasingly had less desire for fried food and meat. My usual late sleeping habit improved. As stress and tension melted away, I was able to mindfully release my tight shoulders as well. And I felt true emotional release. These were all wonderfully unexpected gifts.
Yin yoga is one of my favorite types of practice. The beginning chants settled and focused my mind. The practice itself taught me how to find mind/body balance through stretching. The most useful tool I took away from the practice and into my life was how to handle pressure. I used to deal with stress by just turning the other cheek and try painfully enduring it, not knowing how long I could actually bear it. Now, I would try to observe my own reaction when there is stress and understanding that the best way to release stress is to face the problem head on.
Recently, I read “Hey, why don’t you just be yourself?” by the popular Professor Jia-Ruei Chiu. In the book, she described how she used drawing to find herself. It was after I read the book I realized that I had found myself through my yoga practice. Yoga allowed me to discover my innate goodness, as well as my flaws. The difference from before was that I now can accept all parts of myself, completely. I can now be at ease with myself, not mind or care if others can also see my weakness.
Professor Chiu had this great line in her book: “Is it difficult to be yourself?” Actually, the difficulty lies in not “the inability to find oneself. Once found, it is easy to lose oneself again” that is difficult. With our busy modern lives, we often unknowingly accumulate many pressure and negative energy. As time passes, it is very easy to forget that sense of innocence, wonder and power that we had when we were a child. Practicing yoga to me is a bit like periodically clearing out the dirt that’s covering the heart, allowing that inner child, that little hero to shine through, and remembering always that best self within.
There were many teachers along this spiritual path who have shown me the way. I’m grateful to Takei for opening the door of yoga and Shirlyn for her humorous and clear instructions, which made it cheerful for me. I’m especially thankful to Lee, who often used examples in class that allowed me to understand exactly where in the body I needed to engage and what the correct alignment should felt like. With Lee’s warm and attentive guidance, I have regained the self confidence and the sense of passion for life that I have not had since my college days. Through his teaching, I was able to see my own special qualities. And I like the person that I am today.
Many friends have asked why I like yoga so much. I have thought about it for some time and it is hard to come up with a conclusion. I do know that my yoga practice had brought me many gifts: a glow to my face, a softer body that led to a softer attitude towards people and things, and a life that’s naturally more peaceful and easeful. People experience yoga differently. Only you can personally experience it for yourself. If you have an opportunity to try it with an open heart, perhaps you will come to have a similar sentiment as I have - yoga is one of life’s most wonderful gifts.
Let’s start your own practice.