I used to have an impression of yoga as being boring so I never give it a try before. That changed when I went on a hiking trip up Mount Qixing with my old classmate. It was a trip organized by her yoga teacher. During the trip, I was so inspired by her that I decided to study with this teacher, who was rumored to have an angelic personality and a devilish disciplinarian. And this teacher was none other than Vino, who later joined SPACE as a part of their teaching staff.
I felt very fortunate to have such a great teacher to guide me step-by-step at the very beginning. She often told us that life is yoga and yoga is connection and she would led by personal examples. Every time after I took her class, I would walk away filled with gratitude. Through the steady and solid practice, not only did my body felt more relaxed, my heart and mind felt more fulfilled and happy.
In the summer of 2010, following Vino, I joined SPACE, a yoga studio that offers a wonderful environment and an excellent teaching staff. Ashtanga is one of Vino’s favorite styles and classes, so when I came to SPACE, I started with Ashtanga Intro classes to slowly explore and build my practice. In Ashtanga, a beginner does not have to worry about if a pose is too advanced because you can always do a modified version. Vino has a particularly lively teaching style and students just love her. What I love most in her class is the practice of inner concentration of being present, which allows you to feel the focused energy from everyone, while sharing the synchronized breath. Wanting to let everyone truly understand the main points, the techniques and transition of each pose, Vino would often design classes with different themes so the students can avoid injury from just simply going through the motions.
The way Vino would lead her class was like a dance; the poses flowed gracefully from one to the next, light and yet precise. Along with the Ujjayi breath, the practice felt calm and unhurried. There was one time that I was coming down with a cold when I came to class and when I was practicing Down Dog, I suddenly felt my nose was stuffy and couldn’t breathe. It made me realized how uncomfortable it was to practice Ashtanga without the coordinated breath. There were also times that I ate little too much at lunch or dinner and when I practiced that evening I couldn’t fully engage my core. These experiences helped me to understand how important and practical the yoga knowledge that Vino has been teaching us. After awhile, a more disciplined and light diet, a simpler way of dressing and being health conscience naturally became a part of my life, all without any reluctance or force.
Even though Vino always told us when we are practicing yoga, it is not about competition or saving face. You simply need to do what the best you can do. However, out of pride and eagerness to advance, I still couldn’t help but wanting to rush my progress. After some time, I got frustrated since there were always someone else who was better and I wondered how much more effort and time than others did I have to invest to speed up the process. But the truth is, even if you practiced consistently and frequently, it still requires a period of time to see real progress. So Vino frequently encouraged us by explaining that yoga is like mountain climbing. Some people had already reached the peak, some people are only half way and some people just got started. You have no way of knowing how long the person next to you has been practicing. You can see her every week in the same class, but she may be practicing every day. Or maybe by heavenly grace some people are just naturally flexible. But, I have to say I am grateful for my stiff body because I can immediately feel the result from just a little bit of work; it was easy to feel the joy of progress even from a small improvement. I remember one time Vino talked about “Yogas Citta Vrtti Nirodhah” (Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuation of consciousness). When you see something you crave for, fluctuations arises in the mind. And once you have it, the mind goes back to the peaceful state before the craving. However, people have endless desires and there is no way that you always get what you want, so it causes a lot of suffering. But when you start practicing yoga and applying it in life, you can slowly learn how to get back to a simple, balanced and peaceful life.
In addition, I would like to thank a few other teachers. First is WaWa for her detailed explanation of each body part in poses and her insistence on getting the alignment correctly step-by-step to achieve the correct result because if you unconsciously move a part that you shouldn’t have even a tiny bit the effect is greatly different. Also, her sequencing is thoughtful and unique. Even though her classes are tough and difficult to get though, but I often felt fluid and at ease afterwards. I also like to thank Ann Huang. Her classes are profoundly touching. She is super passionate about Ashtanga and has these two warm and magical hands that each time after her adjustment, I would feel instantly aligned and my pose would felt deeper and better. When she demonstrated, her power and grace, along with her skillful use of abdominal lock would left me deeply impressed. Another teacher I like to thank is Jay, specifically for his encouragement and thoughtful attention. He has bery clear and subtle instructions and his pacing fits very well with the long and deep breath work. I’m thankful to Patia and Michelle as well for their gentleness in the restorative and yin yoga classes. Of course, there are many more excellent teachers I need to thank. It is because of all of you that I am able to advance my practice.