I always hated gym classes ever since I was little. Instead of hate, let’s just say that I simply don’t have any fitness talent. So I always had this just-get-it-over-with attitude in class. I would consoled myself that it was fine since I wasn’t going to get tested on physical education in the college entrance exam. However, at the start of the summer in 2007, I found out that I had an uterine fibroid. On top of that, I had been a dentist with a poor posture for two years, back pains and stiff neck and all kinds of signs of aging started to appear. And I started to get worried. I thought if I didn’t begin to exercise regularly, was my body going to age too fast and was that going to cut short my professional career? After contemplating for a long time, I decided to try yoga, thinking that it should be a relaxing and easy exercise. With this wrong assumption, I stumbled into my first yoga class.
It was a Saturday afternoon. I attended to my first class filled with expectation. And not even ten minutes into the class, I was already breathless. After the class, I thought God! that was really tiring and completely different from what I had expected. But, wanting to improve my health, I forced myself to begin attending class once a week. Slowly I discovered that my shoulders seemed to be a little looser, my legs and arms seemed to be stronger, and my back doesn’t seem so stiff during forward bends. And all of a sudden one day, I was able to touch my toes! That was really amazing to me. Aside from the physical improvements, I was even more surprised by the other unexpected benefits. At that time in my life, I felt I was racing against time. Every day I was inundated by patients and reports. However, when I got on to the mat, I was able to be in the moment, listening to my own breath, finding balance between the quiet peace when I was alone and the chaos of a busy life. There was no attachment, no judgment, just simple pleasure of enjoying a sense of stillness that belonged to me, a connection with the ground beneath my feet. People might say that this joy was just a result of the post workout endorphin released by the brain. Whatever it may be, I just know that I liked it. I was also able to bring this peaceful attitude and joy to my everyday life, being more mindful and self aware, and not just always rushing forward in life.
I was very lucky to have met Lynn when I first started practicing yoga. At the beginning of each of her classes, Lynn would enthusiastically share her passion of yoga with everyone. During the poses, she would also remind everyone what details to watch out for as not to get hurt. I’m very thankful that through Lynn I was introduced to the Jivamukti style of yoga. It emphasizes non-harming and allowing every being be happy and free. Often time in class, Lynn would ask us to dedicate our practice to friends and family who were suffering, hoping that our practice would help free them from their suffering. But, since my friends and family all seemed to be fine, not really troubled by any suffering, so I would sometimes dedicate my practice to the birds and the butterflies I had passed by on the street, wishing them the ability to fly freely. I feel this kind of practice is very special. Prior to practicing yoga, I only felt the connection of my own individual self. I never thought about connecting to my surroundings or even the whole earth. Through practicing yoga, I started thinking about what I can do for our planet earth or how not to harm it. Lynn would probably say, let’s start by being a vegetarian. However, I feel at this stage that is simply too difficult for me. It seems that I still have a long way to go.
I’m also very thankful to Ethan, who had discovered that my right and left shoulders were really off balance. That knowledge helped me be more aware of my shoulder blades during the practice. Also, Ethan’s easy going attitude also made me not afraid of Ashtanga anymore. I’m grateful to Ada for helping me open my heart to embrace myself and others. I also like to thank the SPACE staff for providing such a wonderful yogic environment.
Many people had asked me why I practice yoga. What is it for? What can you get out of it? These questions are difficult to answer in just a few words or sentences. To me, yoga is an attitude towards life. It not only allow us to feel content with our body and mind, it also allow the world to be a better place. May we all put in the effort so one day all beings can be happy and free.
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.